Oakland's chief of police blackholed all emails mentioning "Occupy," trashed official condemnations and sanctions unread

Oakland police chief told a court that he never saw emails from city officials and a federal court monitor who emailed him about police brutality and other illegal actions by his force in its response to Occupy Oakland. That's because, he says, he used a spam-filter to automatically spam-filter all messages containing phrases like "occupy," "police brutality," "press pass," and "excessive force." More from SFGate's Matthai Kuruvila.

The city investigation found that Jordan had city staff put in the filters on Oct. 27, 2011 - two days after a violent clash between police and protesters that made international news. He had been inundated with anonymous messages, he said in a declaration to the court.

But he forgot the e-mail filter was still in effect.

At least until Henderson gave his order and the city investigated. All messages to Jordan with the once-banned phrases now go to his inbox, as of Oct. 19. In addition, Jordan now has a special folder for messages from the court monitor, Warshaw.

"It was never my intention to ignore the monitor," Jordan said in his declaration.

Oakland chief filtered out Occupy e-mail (via JWZ)

(Image: Occupy Oakland October 11, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from quinn's photostream)


  1. No, it was only his intention to ignore everybody EXCEPT the monitor, on the subject of police brutality.  And that makes it okay.

    1. Clearly he needs to be spending more time training his inept officers. I’d personally rather not have people in charge of police forces spending their time replying to angry emails.

        1. I’m not even going to maintain any pretence that I even know what a court monitor is. But I’m going to imagine that it’s someone that stands at the back of american court rooms wearing a sash glaring at anyone that talks too loudly.

          What’s the news here though? An important email (I don’t think such a thing should exist, personally) got ignored due to his spam setup, or that he’s sensible enough to manage his emails so that he’s not spending his time replying to angry protesters all day? I think the actions of him and his force are disgusting, but I don’t see why that makes his email management habits an international news item.

          It’s mildly amusing (I guess), is that the point? Or are we supposed to be angry that he’s doing police work instead of customer service?

          1. Or we could expect that a large part of a Police Chief’s job is not fighting crime but being responsive to the citizens he is serving.
            If we were talking about a detective or beat cop I might agree with you.

          2. It’s mildly amusing (I guess), is that the point? Or are we supposed to be angry that he’s doing police work instead of customer service?-    
                 Is customer service not the point of police work?   To serve and protect?  How can he consider himself a police officer if he does not listen to the people he is charged with protecting?   If you think the job of a police officer is just to lock up people then I think we have discovered what is wrong here.

          3. Has it occurred to you that most Chiefs of Police don’t get hundreds of emails about police brutality?  And maybe if you did, then the emails aren’t the problem?

          4. It’s more like a walking, talking ankle monitor. Except that by dodging calls, the Chief took his off. 

          5. I look at it this way – the CEO of a consumer-goods company puts a spam filter on his in-box that black-holes any emails that contain “defective”, “dangerous”, or “not as advertised”.  What does this say about the level of quality he’s demanding for his products, and his attitude to his customers?  If the board finds this out, should they accept his explanation that it was only supposed to be a temporary response to that one embarassing incident from a few years back where thousands of customers got angry stoats mis-labeled as cafetieres, or should they just can him?

            He might not want to handle every one himself, but he should at least have had them forwarded to an assistant who reads them over and brings to his attention any serious ones.

            If I were the victim of a serious instance of police brutality, or caught some on camera, I would probably complain through the official channels (I’m a well-off straight white man, so I still half-believe in official channels).  If those got me no results, or even perhaps at the same time, I might also send an email notifying, say, the mayor, my city councillor, the chief of police, my MLA, my MP if he weren’t such a vile useless twit, and a few media outlets.

            Given my status as a well-off straight white man, some of those recipients might take the news seriously.  A city councillor might email the chief of police to make sure he had a heads-up (and expect that an email with his name in the from: field would be enough to make sure the CoP spent a few minutes considering it).

            If the media also took it seriously, or my shaky-cam footage went viral, and the CoP was caught flat-footed by the storm of bad publicity, despite the fact that I had given him the chance to be one of the first to find out, should city accept that as a valid excuse?

          6. Except the assistant wouldn’t have to write anything, just read them to see if any of them contain important (new) information that needs to be brought to his attention.

            And honestly it still wouldn’t be making the news if, as I understand it, he didn’t ALREADY have an issue with pretty much ignoring the court.

          7. Your CEO idea only works if the CEO isn’t turning a good enough profit, and how much his ignoring the customers is going to cost the company.  The board and CEO care first and foremost about the profit margin of the company and not that a cheap product they make cheaply broke for you.

            A flawed product that can hurt people is bad.  A crappy product that fails outside of warranty ..design feature.

          8. You’d think a city the size of Oakland would have a PR person he could just have forwarded them all to.

          9. I’m not even going to maintain any pretence that I even know what a court monitor is. But I’m going to imagine that it’s someone that stands at the back of american court rooms wearing a sash glaring at anyone that talks too loudly.

            Maybe you should educate yourself a little bit before you spout off, then. The OPD has been dragging its feet on making court-ordered reforms for the past 10 years and is now facing federal takeover, something that has never happened before in US history. Rather than the glorified hall monitor you’re imagining, the monitor is someone whose recommendation will be a major factor when the judge decides whether to put the Feds in charge.


            Having the Feds take over would have major repercussions for Oakland, starting with the financial impact:

            It’s not “customer service”. It’s “are you abiding by the terms of the Federal consent decree?”

          10. I’m not even going to maintain any pretence that I even know what a court monitor is.

            And yet, you will undoubtedly continue to comment on the issue.

  2. As a patriotic American, I can only conclude that this is a conspiracy by the tech nerds to make Our Troops look bad.

    (Incidentally, while it is well known that beating down hippies and ethnic undesirables is legal if you are in uniform, does anybody know whether the same immunity applies to serious white-collar crimes like ignoring time-sensitive work email?)

  3. la-la-la-la la-la-la la-la-la-la i’m not listening la-la-la-la la-la-la yes two sugars with that lalala-la la-la-la gently does it doesn’t work la-lala-la UR NOT SPEAKING LOUD ENOUGH I CANT HEAR YOU lalala-la-la la-la-la it’s like whack-a-mole out there lalala-di-da bee bop a doowop dobedo oh country road take me home do do do-do-do

    hey you people are USELESS – get me a napkin for my fingers

  4. Gee maybe that is why he never took action on the actions that were over the line, he was totally unaware of them having never seen the emails.

    1. Oh well that’s perfectly excusable then.  No harm done.After all, when it comes to government (or really any management job), it’s just the thought that counts.

      All the best leaders shield themselves from accountability for their prior actions then forget they were ignoring that accountability.  La la la.. Can’t expect our leaders to work under such pressure of responsibility, can we?

  5. Ignoring email from public critics is, frankly, unsurprising.  Ignoring email from the court-appointed monitor might have more serious consequences.  It presumably makes it more likely that the Oakland PD will be put under federal receivership, an option already under consideration, given their demonstrated incapacity to cooperate with the court.  I also have to wonder what sort of contempt statutes federal judges have at their disposal.

      1.  No armament is the best armament, that way the most they will do is beat, pepper spray, and concussion grenade you. All that looks bad. Show up with weapons and they will shoot you.

        What needs to happen is that the cops should understand that force is never appropriate when people are not breaking the law, and that when people are breaking the law, only the near minimum level of force required to life and property is justified.

        1. You’ve got good points, but what I meant was I keep expecting an armed resistance to develop.  They can’t shoot you if you’ve already killed them all.

          And I think you’re wrong about “the most they will do” since they seem quite willing to murder people.

  6. It’s not enough to be mad at the Chief. It’s not enough to demand his ouster and investigation. The city council itself needs to be hauled over the coals for tolerating this kind of rank incompetence and disdain for professionalism.

    1.  You mean the city council in which none of the incumbents are running for office in the election next week? We’re looking at a clean slate here in Oakland. I wonder why?

  7. I also sent this to Boing Boing. I work in antispam. I think Chief Jordan should be fired for this, because it is gross negligence. Basically, he intentionally chose to take all emails about some very important topics and send them to the spam folder, and ignore them. This is not what the spam folder is for. Sending things to the spam folder affects not just your own email, but also affects how messages are treated for everyone else who uses your same antispam system.

    I understand that he was getting flooded with anonymous emails about these subjects, but he chose the absolute worst possible way to handle this. He should have set up a filter to send these messages to another folder specifically created for them, and then he should have reviewed these messages once a day to make sure he wasn’t missing anything important. If he couldn’t be bothered to do this himself, it seems like he could get an intern or admin to do this for him.

    It is incredibly fucked up that the police chief was completely ignoring all emails that contained the phrases “Occupy Oakland” and “police brutality” for months. He deserves to be fired for this. If you set up your technology to intentionally ignore the people you serve who are trying to communicate with you about very important issues, you deserve to be fired.

  8. The police aren’t aware of any brutality. That’s why they require someone to inform them. Because they can’t discern between police work (beating, murdering, theft, and lying while testifying) and police corruption (reporting rogue officers, telling the truth, serving & protecting). 

  9. …many corporations are not worried about profit as their first priority. Some companies…they are worried about revenue…as all profit is derived from revenue…usually, any increase in revenues will filter (ha!) down to the bottom line…if managed properly…in this case, the CEO analogy doesn’t work as well…because decision making in a corporate sense can involve losing short term profits, while investing in long-term revenue building…or cutting off the long term decisions, only to focus in on the immediate, crisis world of “profit & loss”…these are all private strategies designed to deal with private monies invested in private business dealings…what the Chief did…
    …was to conjure up some junior -high-school excuse for not wanting to perform his duties in a professional manner…and he planned a serious preemptive fraud on the city, the court, and the citizens…fire his ass and charge him with fraud…


    RJ O’Guillory
    Webster Groves-The Life of an Insane Family

  10. Probably not what I would do. Listening is what leaders must be prepared to do. It’s one of the Seven Steps necessary to improve our nation’s police that I describe in my new book, “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” (Amazon). And my blog “improvingpolice” on WordPress where other current police improvement issues are discussed.

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