News

August 1, 2011 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Reporters Without Borders asks the Oakland Police Department to apologize for its behavior during the Chauncey Bailey investigation


With the upcoming 4th anniversary commemorating the death of Chauncey Bailey, the first American journalist killed on U.S. soil in 30 years, and after examining the release of more than 1,000 pages of sworn statements from Oakland Police Department top commanders released by KTVU on July 10th, Reporters Without Borders is asking the Oakland Police Department to apologize for its opacity throughout the investigation and acknowledge that it harmed freedom of information and the public interest in this case. SELECTIVE CENSORSHIP Two years ago, Oakland Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan imposed a gag order on Sgt. Derwin Longmire, the lead detective in the Chauncey Bailey assassination, along with the rest of the department. This move prohibited them from discussing the case until it was over, and reporters were barred from interviewing Longmire and others about the case of their murdered colleague. Sgt Longmire accepted the chance to speak to KTVU in an interview released on July 10th, 2011. As it was leaked to the press at the time, the department looked into allegations that Sgt. Longmire had become far too close to the Your Black Muslim Bakery – the criminal business Bailey was investigating and headed by accused assassination mastermind Yusef Bey IV - and didn’t tell his boss or colleagues what he was doing. The documents however, contain sworn testimony from Longmire’s immediate supervisor saying he had ordered Sgt. Longmire to take those actions and that the district attorney also knew - and approved – of them. Additionally, Deputy Chief Jeff Israel, also in the sworn testimony, attested to the quality and approval of Sgt. Longmire’s work: - Attorney: "At some point, did you attempt to determine if the DA’s office or at least members of the DA’s office involved in the investigation were satisfied with the work that Sergeant Longmire was doing?"
- Deputy Chief Israel: "Yes."
- Attorney: “And what did you find out?”
- Deputy Chief Israel: “Not only did they both say they did not have any concerns, but they also said they thought he was exemplary, probably the best interviewer that we have, as far as criminal investigations and interviewing”
- Attorney: “Do you recall at some point asking anyone if they believed Sergeant Longmire was trying to protect Yusef Bey IV from being implicated in the murder?”
- Deputy Chief Israel: “There were several people I asked. Most of it was a result of people coming to me and telling me, you know, that there’s a perception that maybe he shouldn’t be on the case. I’d close the door and say ‘Okay, tell me about that. I’m willing to listen.’ At the end of the conversation, I would ask, ‘Do you think Sergeant Longmire would compromise the case?’ Every single person would say ‘Absolutely not.’“
“The documents make it obvious that the police manipulated the information toward the media and designated Sgt Longmire as a scapegoat for their misbehavior. The Oakland Police Department should apologize to him and the American citizens for not being transparent, covering up the case, forbidding reporters to access the truth and deluding them during the whole investigation”, declared Jean-Francois Julliard, Reporters Without Borders’ General Secretary. According to the documents, Sgt. Longmire warned the police command staff that the bakery was a “criminal enterprise”, as early as 2002 -- five years before Bailey was shot in cold blood on a downtown Oakland street. But no serious, sustained action was taken on those repeated warnings until it was too late for Chauncey Bailey. Citing orders from the top brass to undertake “community policing” and keeping tabs on the bakery, Sgt. Longmire explained why he had such contact with Bey and his associates. Although those same bosses imposed a gag order on Sgt. Longmire, preventing him or others from telling the other side of the story, news outlets acquired confidential police information from his critics at the time, reporting that Sgt Longmire had been found guilty of misconduct and had been fired. From the sworn statement of Capt. Joyner:
Capt. Joyner: “The gag order was an equivalent of asking me to put my hands down and allowing people to continually punch me in the face without being able to even defend myself.” When complaints about the leaks were brought to the command staff, Assistant Chief Jordan called for still another internal investigation -- this time a probe into who was leaking information to the news media. The sworn statements indicate the internal affairs department checked phone logs, Web traffic and other actions taken by many Oakland police officers, trying assign the blame for the leaks. The only person immune to the scrutiny was the then-Chief Wayne Tucker. The documents show this internal investigation into the leaks did not result in any findings. GOING AFTER REPORTERS TO HIDE THE TRUTH While Sgt. Longmire and the rest of the department were under a gag order and an investigation into leaks was underway, the documents show that then-Chief Wayne Tucker and Assistant Chief Howard Jordan chose to speak to the press on several occasions. Assistant Chief Jordan was on a 60 Minutes story about the murder of Chauncey Bailey and Chief Tucker called a meeting with the Chauncey Bailey Project to talk about the fact that a massive police raid on the Your Black Muslim Bakery had been scheduled for Aug. 1, 2007. But then-Chief Wayne Tucker postponed the raid two days, to Aug. 3, so a member of his command staff could extend a backpacking trip an extra day. Bailey was gunned down the morning of Aug. 2. This turn in the sworn testimony indicates Tucker didn’t want to be in the news. Before this meeting, then-Chief Tucker engineered and ordered a cover-up with his top commanders about the date switch. From the sworn testimony of Oakland Police Captain Ersie Joyner, who was head of homicide when Bailey was assassinated : - Capt. Joyner: “Chief Tucker was adamant that we had only one date set and there was never two dates.”
- Attorney: “And to your knowledge, did Chief Tucker know that there were two dates, August 1st and then August 3rd?
- Capt. Joyner: “Yes.”
- Attorney: “Was there anyone else in that meeting with Chief Tucker and Chief Jordan and others who believed that the department had knowledge of the two dates, August 1st and August 3rd?”
- Capt. Joyner: “Yes.”
- Attorney: “After that press conference, did you talk to Chief Tucker about what you perceived to be a dishonest statement?”
- Capt. Joyner: “Yes.”
Capt. Joyner also states in his sworn testimony that after the press meeting, when it was obvious the Chauncey Bailey Project had documentation proving then-Chief Tucker wrong, Tucker called two news organizations in the Project and tried to quash the story, saying his was “calling in a favor.” Both news organizations ran the story regardless. “The fact that reporters ran the story is not an indicator of the freedom they enjoyed but rather of the risks they took. Other reporters are still harassed today when reporting on corruption in the Country and we deeply regret that nothing is done to allow them to work in safer conditions”, said Julliard further. A Bay Area news outlet that published some of these statements in July 2011 called former Chief Wayne Tucker and asked him for a comment. He used a series of profanities and hung up. Assistant Chief Howard Jordan also refused to comment, saying through a spokeswoman he would not speak about an active lawsuit. The police department’s taxpayer-paid attorney also sent an email stating the story should be squelched. “It is intolerable that Police top commanders are not sanctioned for harming freedom of information. We ask Oakland Police Department to take its responsibility to guarantee that reporters will be able to perform their job normally”, concluded Julliard. For more information, please consult - The sworn statements - The timeline of the Chauncey Bailey case - The situation for freedom of the press in the United States