Interim Alameda City Manager Liz Warmerdam
made the initial call for plainclothes cops to 
monitor the Jan. 5 council meeting.

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | As renters and landlords filed through the large foyer leading into Alameda’s Kofman Auditorium on January 5 to watch the Alameda City Council’s latest attempt to address the growing problem of rising rents and evictions on the island, Monty Heying’s job was to help renters sign up to speak in front of the council. But Heying, a member of the Alameda Renters Coalition, grew suspicious of three men watching the signup table. “I kept noticing them and was wondering what they were doing,” Heying said in a recent interview. “Then, I noticed a commotion and saw handcuffs fall to the ground that made this clattering sound.”

Once inside the auditorium, Heying alerted other members of the coalition’s leadership about the three men, whom he initially suspected were private security guards, possibly hired by Alameda landlords. Heying then led one renters coalition member to the lobby and pointed out the three men. One of the three men saw the exchange and later approached Heying. “Did you tell him we’re security?” Heying recalled the man saying. “You shouldn’t have done that. We’re here to make sure everything is peaceful.”

Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri
said officers were not undercover.

The exchange was anything but cordial, Heying said. “It was clear he wasn’t trying to be friendly,” Heying said of the man. “He was trying to be intimidating.”

It turns out that the three men were not security guards, nor were they renters fearful of 25-percent rent hikes, or landlords opposing rent control measures in Alameda; rather, the men were plainclothes Alameda cops, who were assigned by city officials to monitor renters.

Although it’s not uncommon for uniformed police officers to attend council meetings, the decision to assign undercover cops to keep tabs on renters at the Alameda meeting was unusual. Moreover, the move was not the result of any specific threat, but was in response to concerns raised by unnamed residents about safety at the meeting, Interim City Manager Liz Warmerdam stated in an email to Heying and another member of the renters coalition. “My goal was to ensure everyone’s safety without increasing the tension in the room,” she wrote. “The vast majority of those present had no idea our [plainclothes] officers were there. That was my goal.” Warmerdam did not respond to a request for an interview for this story…