Slow pace of Oakland police reforms puts department in the hot seat
By Cecily Burt – Oakland Tribune – Posted: 01/20/2012 10:06:42 AM PST
The latest review of Oakland Police reforms stemming from the Riders police corruption case shows no forward progress, and the attorneys representing people who sued the city nearly 10 years ago want the judge to “seriously” consider appointing a federal receiver to force the department into compliance.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson has grown increasingly frustrated by the police department’s failure to fully comply with all of the reforms included in a 2003 negotiated settlement agreement with the city of Oakland.
The agreement was part of an $11 million lawsuit filed by 119 plaintiffs who said that a rogue band of Oakland cops had planted drugs and other evidence on them.
After the last quarterly hearing in September, Henderson indicated that he might consider placing the department under court-ordered receivership if the department continues to falter in its commitment to the reforms.
According to the report filed with court by independent monitor Robert S. Warshaw, the Oakland Police Department has failed to reach full compliance with several tasks, including the use of the IPAS Inspection program. That program is designed to help identify problem officers and provide additional training and intervention.
“Supervision and the review of work by officers remains a concern,” Warshaw wrote in the report. “Too often, reports lack sufficient precision and detail. Inadequate documentation continues to be a limitation. The failure to quickly rectify data problems with the risk management system is an important issue.”
In addition to the tasks defined in the agreement, Warshaw’s team also included statistical information from a review of probation and parole searches. The team found that the data showed that race appeared to be a factor in initiating searches and that officers routinely asked the people they stopped whether they were on probation or parole.
The monitor also plans to review the department’s handling of Occupy Oakland events during the next quarterly report and indicated that it would “test the mettle” of the department and the reforms.
“We were in some instances satisfied with the performance of the department (during Occupy); yet in others, we were thoroughly dismayed by what we observed,” Warshaw wrote. “I cannot overstate our concern that although progress on compliance has been slow, even those advancements may have been put in doubt in the face of these events.”
James Chanin, an attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the Riders civil case, said Thursday evening the whole thing has gone on far too long and wasted far too much of the taxpayer’s money. He is also concerned about the statistical data that appears the department is targeting people of color for parole and probation searches, Chanin said.
He said he hoped the team of Interim Chief Howard Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana would turn things around, but they would have to really find a way to change the culture of the department.
“They have to think outside the box, do things that nobody has done before,” Chanin said. “They have to demand accountability, promote people who are doing a good job. There are no words that mean anything to me anymore. We need deeds. “They have every break they are ever going to get from me. It’s time for them to produce, and they haven’t done it as far as I’m concerned. If they can’t do it, somebody is going to have to do it for them,” he added.
The city’s response, released Thursday evening, acknowledged its shortcomings with the reforms and said it had made progress since the review period covered in the quarterly report. It asked the court to consider how far it has come since the settlement agreement was first implemented nine years ago.
For example, the city said, the department is strengthening communication with the monitor, reassigning or promoting command officers to enhance compliance and reform efforts and conducting integrity tests to ferret out employees who may be abusing sick or injury leave. The department has also launched 25 internal affairs investigations involving 29 command or supervisory staff.
“The city is aware that it is at a critical juncture in this case and that it must demonstrate renewed commitment to complete the NSA reforms,” the city’s attorneys wrote in their official response. “This is especially true at a time when the court and the monitor have expressed concern and frustration about the slow pace of the implementation of eight of the remaining tasks. … We believe that recent efforts advanced under Chief Jordan will demonstrate a higher level of compliance in April 2012.”
The next hearing is Jan. 26.