Real-Life ‘Training Day’: Inside the Corruption Scandal That Brought Down the Oakland PD

Nobody really knows how Ghost Town got its name, but the moniker fits. Walled off from most of Oakland by freeways on its northern and eastern borders and warehouses to the west, Ghost Town—known formally as the Hoover-Foster neighborhood — has been haunted since the mid-twentieth century by the combined forces of racism, deindustrialization, and chronic unemployment. It was always a working-class community, but for most of its existence, Ghost Town residents could find decent-paying jobs on the East Bay’s burgeoning industrial waterfront. That changed starting in the 1950s as factories closed, and Oakland’s economy descended into a multi- decade decline.

White residents left the neighborhood, and much of the rest of Oakland, for the prosperity of expanding suburbs. At one point, a high proportion of houses and storefronts in Ghost Town were vacant and boarded up. Huey Newton, cofounder of the Black Panther Party (BPP), referred to West Oakland in his autobiography as a “ghost town but with actual inhabitants.” Newton’s sour comment stuck in the minds of locals, who started using the epithet themselves. If there was any doubt about whether the area should be called a ghost town, it was settled by the 1980s.

The federal “War on Drugs,” launched the previous decade by President Richard Nixon, transformed Ghost Town into a battlefield between rival dealers, and between dealers and cops. For the Oakland police, Ghost Town was hostile territory — a place to drive through cautiously while on patrol, meandering back and forth between West Street and San Pablo Avenue on long, numbered streets crowded with parked, semi-operable cars. In the 1990s Ghost Town truly felt abandoned. Darkness enveloped entire blocks of dilapidated bungalows, run-down apartment buildings, and weathered Victorians illuminated only by the neon glow of corner liquor stores. The sounds of gunfire and sirens were common. Murders were frequent. By this point, the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s were spent, no longer a counterforce offering hope and some measure of order to the mostly Black residents of Oakland’s flatlands. The social decay of racism and poverty could not be held at bay.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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