A View from Oakland

Ms. Denise Harvey, a longtime resident and citizen of Oakland, Calif., wrote a heartfelt letter to Bonnie Hayes, our Director of Retail Operations, March 28, about the killings of Oakland Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Daniel Sakai, and Officer John Hege. With her permission, we would like to share it with all of you.

Thank you, Ms. Harvey, for your moving and insightful words.

Hello Bonnie,

I am writing to you because I am deeply saddened by the recent murders of our Oakland police officers. Oakland has many problems and crime is a huge part. There is a twisted mindset that looks upon those sworn to protect and serve as the enemy, instead of fellow human beings trying to ensure the safety of our city. I’m a 54 year-old Black woman who can recall past inequities and injustices but still, I do not understand it.

When I moved to Oakland in 1987, I came to a city beleaguered by drugs, crime, and violence. Hard-working citizens were overrun by people who cared nothing for those trying to live in peace. My grandmother moved from the home she shared with my grandfather for more than 60 years because one too many young men she watched grow to manhood staggered onto her porch to die. This recent tragedy makes it even harder for those who live and work in Oakland.

How do you recruit good people for a police force that is under-funded, under siege, and at odds with the communities they are sworn to protect? Crimes are unsolvable because those affected by them are afraid to step forward. Quality of life crimes are low priorities because heinous crimes overwhelm the force charged with investigating and solving them. Some citizens enable this twisted mindset by parroting the same tired rhetoric of the 60’s and 70’s when the people they refer to would not be willing or qualified to accept a job if it was gift wrapped and handed to them.

In this dark hour, with families devastated by the violent loss of husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles, I wanted to tell you that I appreciate the work done by those who raise their hands and swear to uphold and protect the citizens of their towns and cities. I’m not so starry-eyed as to believe that all are perfect or well-suited to the task at hand. Nevertheless, I believe that most who swear to protect and serve do so because they want to make things better for the citizens within their purview.

I wanted to share my feelings with you because I am rocked to the core by this insane occurrence. I am looking at the badge I purchased in honor of the election of President Obama and weep at the words inserted in the case. “A matter of honor.” Four men lost their lives because of a matter of honor. I weep for their families. I weep for our city. I weep for the citizens who fail to understand the magnitude of this loss. It’s just so sad and senseless, Bonnie. It’s just so sad.

But when I leave for work each morning, I will wave to the officer in the patrol car, and note if he’s cute. I will shout out appreciation when a citizen gets nailed for parking where they shouldn’t and thereby impeding traffic. But without fail, I will say a silent prayer that the officer I see in the black and white car returns to his or her family, safe and unharmed.

For those around you, please let them know. All Black residents of Oakland do not condone the actions of the sociopath that took the lives of our police officers. Please let them know that there are people in Oakland who care about their well-being and the difficult job they face everyday.

Take care,

Denise Harvey