Monitor’s Report Could Place Oakland Police in Jeopardy of Federal Receivership

NBC Bay Area has posted a draft of the latest report from the Independent Monitor for the Oakland Police Department (pdf).

The monitor issues quarterly assessments on OPD’s level of compliance with the 2003 Negotiated Settlement Agreement that grew out of the “Riders” police brutality scandal. Under the settlement, the city agreed to institute dozens of policing reforms, but it has yet to fully comply.

The current report has been highly anticipated for how the monitor, Robert Warshaw, would view the police department’s controversial response to the Occupy Oakland protests last year. Here’s an excerpt from the report regarding Occupy:

Members of the Monitoring Team were present in Oakland during the period from October 25, through 28, 2011; and from November 14, through 18, 2011. Additionally, our local Monitoring Team member was present throughout the October through December “Occupy”-related activity. During the relevant time periods, we met with police command staff and local officials, and made observations on the street. We also have reviewed – and continue to review – reports and videos from official and unofficial sources.

As we noted in our last report, we were, in some instances, satisfied with the performance of the Department; yet in others, we were thoroughly dismayed by what we observed. I cannot overstate our concern that although progress on NSA [the 2003 Negotiated Settlement Agreement] compliance has been slow, even those advancements may have been put in doubt in the face of these events.

We also note that the unusual circumstances posed by the events surrounding Occupy Oakland do not relieve the Department, in any way, of any of the requirements of NSA compliance. Instead, it is precisely in such times that the reforms articulated in the NSA are at their point of greatest significance, as they govern the behavior of the Department and its officers.

The report noted that as of Feb 15, 2012, there were 1,039 misconduct complaints related to Occupy Oakland, and that OPD’s Internal Affairs Division does not appear up to the task of addressing them all in a timely manner:

It does not appear that IAD will meet its rapidly approaching investigation deadlines (180 days following a complaint) required by both the NSA and Departmental policy. If these internal and external investigations are not completed by the required deadlines, it will threaten OPD’s compliance with Task 2, which relates to investigation timeliness. In future reporting periods – as cases are completed, approved by the Chief, and closed – we will review the Occupy-related complaints for investigation timeliness and quality.

The report also recounts several controversial use-of-force incidents, including the one in which ex-Marine Scott Olsen was injured by a beanbag projectile fired by a police officer. The document states:

The incidents noted above, and other uses of force and citizen complaints, are currently subject to internal and external investigations. As those investigations move forward, the Monitoring team will continue to assess the Occupy related activities against the requirements of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement.

(T)he City is to be commended for its self-assessment of its capacity to thoroughly review the actions of the Department and individual officers. But as there are strong likelihoods for future demonstrations, we hope the Department will take heed of the lessons it has learned from its organizational introspection and the assistance it has received from its external consultants.

Earlier this year, District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, who has overseen the settlement, said he was in “disbelief” at the slow pace of the reform measures and that the department was “woefully behind its peers around the state and nation.” He also said he might put the department under federal receivership if it did not finish implementing the required changes.

But the latest report by the monitor states, “we find that OPD remains in compliance with no more than 12 of the remaining 22 Tasks; the same number as reported in our last two reports.”

Update 5:36 p.m. From the Oakland Tribune:

Jim Chanin, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the Riders case, said he was planning to move forward with a receivership motion that would be heard by Henderson in December.

“The only way the motion wasn’t going to happen was if we saw some dramatic improvement in the monitor’s report, and this isn’t it,” he said.

The Bay Citizen also reported today that “[internal] use-of-force reports…reveal that police officers from Oakland and other Bay Area agencies repeatedly used weapons that were illegal under Oakland’s policy.”

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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