Oakland Police Chief’s Spam Filter May Cost Him His Job

Credit: California State University

Oakland, California’s police chief was already in hot water but now the email filter he demanded may very well cost him his job. The department has been under fire since October 2010, when at an Occupy Oakland rally they shot an Iraq War veteran in the head with a tear gas canister, gravely injuring him, and then threw a so-called “flash-bang” explosive into the crowd that was trying to help him. Several lawsuits were filed and the department has been under investigation. Next month hearings will be held to decide if the department should be placed under federal supervision.

Police chief, Howard Jordan couldn’t have cared less. He ignored every email sent to him about the case, including several critical ones sent by investigators, and said his email filter was to blame. He explained that after the Occupy Oakland rally he had demanded his IT department would set up a filter that would mark any email that contained phrases such as “police brutality” and “Occupy Oakland” as spam and immediately send it to the trash. He said he did this because he didn’t want to be bothered with emails from the public. Unbelievably, after admitting to the filter he said he was sorry important emails had gotten blocked but wasn’t sorry he had the filter set up.

It’s not clear why the folks who contacted him via email and got ignored didn’t try calling him or sending a letter through the postal system, but given the attitude this police chief has, chances are he would have ignored or evaded those too.

This is definitely a case when having an email filter can cause you more problems than it solves. They are great for blocking spam and helping you organize your inbox, but not such a good idea if you are trying to avoid doing your job or answering to others for NOT doing it.

Written by Sue Walsh


  1. Lisa S. · November 14, 2012

    “This is definitely a case when having an email filter can cause you more problems than it solves.”
    Rather, it is a case of when a spam filter is misused. He knew what he was asking for, though probably the filter could have been set to allow emails from his chiefs at least. The question about the phone calls is a very valid one – if you really need to get someone, you call them, or even visit them in person. Even without spam filters emails happen to get lost, so if you really want to establish a contact, you use other channels.

  2. Steven · November 15, 2012

    Hmmm… it sounds like there really was an intention to run away from the problem. It’s just too sad, though, as we need some strong law enforcement heads in the country. But am I the only one who thinks that the excuse is very lame, unless he really set the filters itself up? On the other hand, though, it’s really possible for filters to send to Junk Mail even legitimate letters! I’ve experienced that quite few times. Anyway, whichever is true, I hope that justice will prevail for both parties and that there will be better education on how to work with filters.

  3. D'Shawn · November 18, 2012

    Honestly, I have no one else to blame for his eventual firing than the guy himself. He can blame it on the filters, but who set up the parameters anyway? Besides, any professional cop who is under fire should always be vigilant about any cases and updates on such cases at all times—unless, like what the writer said, he is not interested at all. Well, it looks like this is the case. He doesn’t want to deal with it, so he makes sure he can pretend he wasn’t able to get any correspondence because the filter was overly working.

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