Fear and Loathing in Oakland – the Savage Journey of Pamela Price

Those Released Committing New Crimes

Recently, embattled Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced that her office’s Public Accountability Unit had decided to charge three police officers with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Mario Gonzalez on April 19, 2021.

Upon assuming office in January 2023, Price established the Public Accountability Unit and reopened cases involving police officers that her predecessor had investigated and declined prosecute – including the Mario Gonzalez case.

The three Alameda PD officers (one now works for another agency) attempted to arrest Gonzalez, who had been involved in a recent theft of alcohol and had been reported to be acting strangely in a nearby park and during the arrest he died.  An autopsy conducted by the Alameda Coroner’s Office determined that Gonzalez died from heart failure, “the toxic effects of methamphetamine,” and the stress of the arrest.  Then-District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, after a lengthy investigation, subsequently declined to prosecute the officers.

The result of a second autopsy, requested by attorneys representing Gonzalez’s son in their civil lawsuit against the Alameda Police Department, determined that the cause of death was caused in part by “restraint asphyxiation.”  The City of Alameda paid the family’s claim out of court for $11 million in December 2022, saying “the settlement shall not be construed as an admission by any party of liability or of any fact that might give rise to liability for any purpose.”

The timing of Price’s decision to charge the officers is interesting.  Despite having the Gonzalez case for fifteen months, Price decided to charge the officers just six hours before the expiration of the statute of limitations (which is three years in this type of case.)  Further, it comes just three days after the Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified on April 15 that the effort to recall her had submitted the required number of signature to place her recall on the ballot.

Price said during her press conference announcing the charges that she had nothing to do with the decision to prosecute the officers and will not manage the prosecution of this case.  “It was a decision that I made,” Price said. “It’s a technical matter and I’m not able to speak on it at this time.”

Foot dragging and ill timing appear to be Price’s modus operandi.  Last March, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Price’s office has failed for over a year to produce prosecution statistics requested through a public records request.   The Chronicle has used their “data team” to analyze the work of then San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin as well as current DA Brooke Jenkins.  The reporters wrote that, “we wanted to know whether she’s charging a larger or smaller share of violent crimes such as assaults and robberies that police bring to her office for review, or diverting more people to rehabilitative and treatment programs.”  Her lack of an answer may actually be an answer.

Last month news agencies all over the world reported on Oakland’s “crime triangle,” an area of high crime in the vicinity of Oakland Airport that caused the first closure of an In N Out hamburger restaurant in the chain’s history.  As a result, Governor Newsom ordered the California Highway Patrol to augment the beleaguered Oakland PD with an additional 120 officers. Additionally, Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a team of prosecutors to assist Price’s office with the prosecutions.

What do they know that we don’t about Price’s ability to manage the District Attorney’s Office and the case load in Oakland, one of California’s highest crime cities?

Price’s 16 month tenure has witnessed the resignations of her offices most experienced prosecutors and a nepotism scandal where she hired her boyfriend and paid him a six figure salary.  She is attempting to prosecute a former prosecutor (and one of her chief critics)  under a seldom used statute, and the case was taken away from her office and referred to the Attorney General’s Office by an Alameda County Judge.

Worst of all, crime in Oakland is spiking.  In 2023, there were 104 homicides, marking the 4th year in a row that homicides exceeded 100.  According to CBS News, robberies were up 37 percent, burglaries 27 percent, and vehicle thefts 45 percent.

It’s no wonder Price doesn’t want the data unit at the San Francisco Chronicle to know what her office is doing – or not doing.

Steve Smith is a senior fellow in urban studies at the Pacific Research Institute, and the author of the recent PRI study on California’s growing crime problem, “Paradise Lost.”



Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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