Nancy Skinner (left) received more than $11,000
from local police unions during a four-day period
last month, in her race against Sandre Swanson.
STATE SENATE | 9TH DISTRICT |
ELECTION 2016 |
In the months that followed a wide-ranging East Bay police misconduct scandal involving an under-aged sex worker, police unions in Oakland and Richmond showered state Senate candidate Nancy Skinner with campaign contributions.
The Richmond Police Officers Association contributed $6,900 to Skinner’s campaign this year for the Ninth District seat, including a $3,700 donation made Sept. 23, just weeks after the department was heavily criticized for sending the sex worker at the center of the police misconduct case to rehab in Florida.
The woman, known as Celeste Guap, was later arrested by Florida police for the alleged battery of a police officer while at the facility. Some East Bay activists labeled the transfer of Guap to Florida while she is witness in the misconduct cases, as suspicious and, at worst, a set-up by Richmond police.
In Oakland, where the scandal began and has led to criminal charges and the firing of several police officers, Skinner received $4,000 in campaign contributions from the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA), including $2,500 posted on Sept. 21.
The Sacramento-based Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), which represents the interests of more than 66,000 members of law enforcement in the state, contributed $8,500 to Skinner this year, including $5,000 on Sept. 23.
In an interview, Skinner said her history as a former member of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, shows her independence from special interest donors.“I frequently voted against things that PORAC or different police departments supported,” said Skinner. In the past, she has opposed the extension of sentencing guidelines, which she added, leads to prison overcrowding.
“I have no problem with our public safety officers bargaining and weighing-in with money for elections,” said Skinner. “Though, it’s not going to affect my positions on things like, requiring body cameras, the Copley ruling or any number of things…” The Copley case is a California Supreme Court ruling that further restricted the public right to police records.
Skinner added that she was not aware of the police unions’ contributions and had not been interviewed by its leadership for an endorsement. She, however, differentiates the alleged misconduct in Richmond surrounding Celeste Guap between the police department’s top brass and its police officers.
“It appears those decisions were really made by the Contra Costa district attorney and the chief of police in Richmond,” said Skinner. “So, when you look at these associations, that was not the rank-and-file. The (union) leadership is not in the top management at these police departments. Now, there are some people in the rank-and-file that are obviously bad apples, but they’re not the ones who made those decisions.”
Sandre Swanson, another Democratic candidate for the Ninth District Senate seat, said he also supports greater transparency when it comes to police records, but like Skinner, when it comes to officers, he supports the union’s rights to collective bargaining. “Once a decision is made in a case,” Swanson said, in reference to a police misconduct investigation, “that record should follow the officer and germane to them being able to service in some other police department.”
Swanson, though, has not received contributions from local police unions, despite his progressive pedigree, but others with a similar political ideology have received contributions from law enforcement.
Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta received $4,200 this election cycle from OPOA. In addition, Oakland City Council District 5 candidate Viola Gonzales received $1,400 from OPOA, along with thousands of dollars spent against her opponent, Councilmember Noel Gallo. Similar expenditures have been expended in recent weeks by the OPOA to oppose District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb.