Watch what you say: Plainclothes Alameda cops monitored renters during council meeting

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…


4 thoughts on “Watch what you say: Plainclothes Alameda cops monitored renters during council meeting

  1. It's unexcusable and Stalinesque: a) to have plain clothes cops eavesdropping on citizens at a meeting signing up speakers; b) that one of these plainclothes thugs then engages in suppression of free speech “You shouldn't have done that.” And if you watch the video of November 4, it was Bob Haun that attacked the guy that in turn pulled Haun to the ground in self-defense. Haun initiated the fight by assaulting the citizen. I don't think any jury would vote unanimously to convict the guy that pulled Haun to the ground. Anybody know the disposition of those cases? The wrongly arrested guy defending himself against Haun's assault should sue the City. The City is clearly officially against renters, and are using the cops as an intimidation force. How disgusting! There needs to be another ballot initiative: No more Gestapos at council meetings! Their eavesdropping shows that they were there not only as guards, but to listen-in on what ARC was saying, and report back about what was said. The City is officially against an adequate rent ordinance; the POS of an ordinance that takes effect April 1 does nothing to assure stability for families. By appeasing landlords while trying to con tenants into thinking they were doing something, the Council has provoked this ballot initiative, which will probably pass. We need the DOJ to come in and investigate this suppressive activity of dispatching secret police, one of which openly intimidated a citizen from exercising First Amendment rights. Let's lodge a formal state- and federal- DOJ complaint against the City and APD for these atrocious First Amendment violations.


  2. The fiasco at city hall was not caused by renters — it was caused by poor planning and management. There is no excuse for having undercover police at a public meeting. It is chilling and only shows how little judgement our public officials have. I am not saying that we should not have police at a council meeting; however, if the purpose of the police is to keep the peace, then they need to be visible to act as a deterrent to possible crime. City hall is a mess. The worst leadership and management I have ever seen. Some on the council are better than others, but as a group, they are dysfunctional and top management is ineffective and detached from the community.


  3. By MW:

    Both Trish Spencer and Alameda's Police Chief should be fired for incompetence and for wasting city money. In other words if they are going to use city money and city employees, in this case city police officers, to spy on the general public and the citizens of the city of Alameda, then they should do it the “right” way, discretely, with competence and “class,” and with sufficient secrecy that it cannot be legally proven, and preferably not even detected.

    In other words if the secret spying had been done “properly” and competently, the plainclothes officers would have never been detected, and then if anyone had accused the city of secretly spying on the protesters. Trish Spencer and the other high ranking city officials could have denied it, and including by self righteously ranting and raving and insisting that the accusations of secret spying were outrageous, and then also sued for defamation the people who said that the city of Alameda had secretly spied on the general public.

    In fact this situation seems to be part of an overall “lowering” of “standards” in the modern day USA, since it seems while on the one hand a higher and higher percentage of government agencies are largely made up of spies, weasels, scoundrels, parasites, phonies, professional pathological liars, fifth columnists, scumbags, and bloodsucking leeches, however on the other hand the quality of those spies, weasels, parasites, phonies professional pathological liars, fifth columnists, scumbags, and blood sucking leeches is way down, AND WHICH MEANS OUR TAX DOLLARS ARE SUPPORTING AND PAYING FOR EXTREME INEFFICIENCY.

    Therefore, I think I will open a school to train scumbags to be as efficient as possible, and therefore whenever a govt agency needs to hire a parasite to sell the public downriver, it will be able to do so efficiently and without hiring and paying ten people to do a basic and simple job that only one person should be able to easily do.


  4. Presumably city staffers, and landlords, are concerned about their safety after tenant activists sent staffer Bob Haun to the hospital on November 4th.

    If APD put more uniformed officers at council meetings, activists would complain that it was open intimidation.

    If APD puts plainclothes officers at council meetings, activists complain about covert intimidation.

    The problem is that the activists are believing their own hyperbole – that the police are there to suppress speech. But the Jan 4th meeting went to 4am in part because everybody who wanted to speak got the opportunity to do so.

    (After which, Tavares complained about a lack of transparency at council meetings.)


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