OAKLAND -- Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is in hot water with Oakland police over accusations that she compared officers accused of misconduct to abusive priests that get shuffled from parish to parish with no repercussion.
Sgt. Jake Bassett, said he overheard Kaplan make the comparison inside council chambers after last Tuesday's council meeting while speaking with supporters of Alan Blueford, the Oakland teen shot and killed by Officer Miguel Masso in May.
Citizens were asking Kaplan why Oakland had hired Masso given published reports that he had a violent history at a different department, Bassett said. "That's when Councilmember Kaplan said, 'they move officers around as if from parish to parish like Catholic priests.'"
But Kaplan, noting that the it was a loud and raucous scene inside the council chambers, said Bassett was mistaken. "That (statement) was from someone else in the crowd," she said.
The alleged priest comparison has made the rounds at police headquarters, further weakening morale at the understaffed department, police union President Barry Donelan said.
"What are the officers supposed to think when this is the remark from an elected official," he said. "To compare officers to (pedophile priests) is outrageous. It's extremely offensive to all those who wear the blue uniform."
The incident occurred one day before Kaplan was scheduled to attend the union's endorsement meeting. Both sides also have
Bassett, a nine-year OPD veteran and union vice president, said he confronted Kaplan about the statement and that she never denied making it.
"She said that maybe I misinterpreted what she said," Bassett said. "She said she wasn't speaking about that particular officer, but problem officers in general."
Kaplan said the officers were unhappy that she appeared to be agreeing with Blueford's supporters and that it appeared she was prejudging the officer.
"I said we absolutely need a fair and independent investigation," she said. "We don't have all the details of what happened in the case."
Kaplan, who represents the entire city on the council, is locked in a tough re-election fight with Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente.
The race isn't an easy call for the police union, which has had issues with both candidates. Kaplan angered officers in 2010 when she and Mayor Jean Quan found themselves blocking police during a protest over the slaying of Oscar Grant. Kaplan has said the incident was a misunderstanding and that she was part of a contingent seeking to prevent property damage.
De La Fuente upset police five years ago when he and his family accused officers of trumping up rape charges against his son to embarrass him during his last mayoral bid.
The union announced endorsements Tuesday for every Oakland race, except the Kaplan-De La Fuente battle.
As for Kaplan's chances to snag the endorsement, Donelan said, "I think this made it even more challenging than it was already."
Candidates receiving the union endorsement were Jane Brunner for City Attorney, Amy Lemley for Council District 1, Sean Sullivan for District 3, Noel Gallo for District 5 and incumbent Larry Reid for District 7.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-435-8035.