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Mayor’s Email That Caused Furor Was Asking About Alleged Racial Discrimination By A Police Officer

The Mayor's inquiry into allegations of racial bias on the part of a police officer sparked a backlash. (Action Alameda News)

The Mayor’s inquiry into allegations of racial bias on the part of a police officer sparked a backlash. (Action Alameda News)

Mayor Trish Spencer’s action that prompted a sharp rebuke from the Alameda Police Officers Association early last month looks to be a request to the chief of police to discuss a resident’s allegation of racial discrimination on the part of a responding officer.

Through public records requests, Action Alameda News has obtained the original e-mail, and subsequent exchange among city officials. The exchange is reproduced below. (Detailed contact information for Parminder Dhingra, has been redacted from the file by Action Alameda News.)

Mr. Dhingra’s dispute with a neighbor over the disturbance of some decorative rocks beside their driveway occurred on March 31st of this year; the police were called.

According to Dhingra’s e-mail, which he sent to Mayor Spencer, Police Chief Paul Rolleri, and Councilmember Jim Oddie, in his capacity as chief of staff todistrict director for Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the responding officer, accused him, Dhingra, of driving over his neighbor’s decorative rocks.

In his March 31st e-mail, Dhingra wrote, “I politely told officer Hansen that I didn’t do it. However, he kept saying ‘you have to put the rocks back where they belong.’ I refused to do so as I did not touch the rocks or do anything that I was being accused of!”

Further, “Officer Hansen kept favoring my neighbor because he is Caucasian and Officer Hansen was also Caucasian. I mentioned to Officer Hansen that he racist and was threatened by Officer Hansen that he would handcuff me if I didn’t moves rocks from the street. Again, it was not my fault!”

Even now, six months later, Dhingra still believes that, although he did not use racial slurs, the responding officer favored his neighbor, motivated by racial discrimination.

Mayor Spencer forwarded the e-mail to chief Rolleri on April 1st, writing, “I’d like to discuss this asap. I telephoned Mr. Dhingra and would like to meet with him this afternoon.”

Rolleri responded, “I have assigned a lieutenant to look into this matter, which will involve contacting the officer and reviewing any documentation of the incident. At this point, given that Mr.Dhingra just emailed me at midnight, it would be premature to have a discussion about the incident. None of us know anything beyond what was included in his email, and I am certain there is more to the story. I respectfully ask for your patience while we gather further information. I will share whatever I learn with the City Manager.”

Spencer followed-up to that with, “Thank you for your response. I look forward to an update as soon as possible.”

Per Rolleri, Lt. Wayland Gee followed-up on Dhingra’s request for an investigation.

By e-mail and by telephone this week Dhingra told Action Alameda News that he requested the officer’s bodycam video of their exchange and the request was denied. According to Dhingra, the investigating officer dissuaded him from pursuing a complaint about alleged discrimination. “He [Gee] said if you want to pursue it will be lengthy process and nothing will come out from that,” Dhingra wrote.

Dhingra said that during the exchange, the officer was telling him he was having some problem with his family – his son was present – which Dhingra denied, and denies to this day. By e-mail, Dhingra explained that the investigator told him that the responding officer would have to “to go on some kind of training to handle things better. ”

Asked about the matter, police chief Rolleri told Action Alameda News, “Lt. Wayland Gee interviewed Mr. Dhingra back in April in response to his email. Lt. Gee did look into the allegations, which included a review of Ofc. Hansen’s body worn camera footage taken during his contact with Dhingra. Lt. Gee advised Dhingra that his review did not indicate Ofc. Hansen had said or done anything to substantiate a claim of racial discrimination or any other policy violation. Dhingra was upset because the other party in the dispute was white, so he felt Ofc. Hansen (who is also white) took the other parties side solely for that reason.

“After that discussion and a second conversation a day or two later, Dhingra said he wanted an apology from Ofc. Hansen. Lt. Gee declined that request, but did not dissuade Dhingra from filing a formal complaint. If Mr. Dhingra wishes to file a formal complaint, he can still do so. Our complaint forms are available online, or he can pick up the forms the police department. Once he completes the form, I will refer the matter to our Inspectional Services (IA) Sergeant.”

This week, Dhingra, who is originally from India, wrote to Action Alameda News, “I didn’t commit any crime and [the] officer was telling me front of my family that he will handcuff me and he was making comments about my family. He doesn’t want to believe me because I am Asian. He was keep saying I don’t believe you even i showed him all the proof. That’s why I am feeling he was racism because he just listened to my neighbor because the officer and my neighbor both are white.”

The Alameda Police Department provides through its website a citizens complaint brochure and a complaint form.

April 1 2016 Emails by Action Alameda News on Scribd

1 comment to Mayor’s Email That Caused Furor Was Asking About Alleged Racial Discrimination By A Police Officer

  • Wow. Thanks for the article. The positive thing is this incident is likely to increase discussion on race relations in Alameda. The police have a tough job, and I do not know the demographic of the police force, but it would have been neat to see the body camera footage. I am unsure how that would work? But I guess it would allow the Alameda community the opportunity to see this incident in more detail. Best blessings to both parties. I hope healing occurs soon, and I hope the officer and the citizen can have a sandwich or coffee or tea soon. It seems to me as a mediated discussion, may also allow for increase reverence for each other, and lesson learned for the Alameda community.