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Oakland Police Union Clashes with Leadership as Feds Consider Takeover

Published: November 24, 2012
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Source: All Gov.

Federal authorities are poised to take control of the Oakland Police Department more than a decade after a rogue group of officers called the Rough Riders exposed widespread deficiencies in the agency and attracted national attention by planting evidence, using excessive force and falsifying police reports.

Oakland officials are scheduled to make their case to maintain control at a December 13 hearing in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, but as department brass, the rank-and-file, city hall politicians and vested interests jockey for position in what could be the brave new world of federal receivership, one group, in the words of San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, is “practically begging for a takeover.”

The Oakland Police Officers' Association filed a scathing critique of management and the agency, in general, with Judge Henderson, arguing that department leaders mislead the public about reform efforts, direct internal affairs officers to conduct “dishonest” investigations of cops and fail to properly train officers in the aggressive policing strategies forced upon them by city officials, according to the Chronicle.

The city has been operating under a Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) and federal oversight since settling the Rough Riders civil suit in 2003, which required the police department to institute 51 reforms.

Judge Henderson appointed a monitor for the department in January, moving it one step closer to being put in receivership. In August, the monitor called the department’s efforts at reform “almost stagnant.”

Although reform has been slow in coming, scandalous behavior has continued apace. A new $18 million radio communications system has been plagued with problems since its launch in July 2011. And last week, the Oakland City Council approved a settlement that awards $4.6 million to 39 men who were publicly strip-searched by police from 2002 to 2009.

Rocky Lucia, whose law firm represents the union and wrote its report for the judge, said it wasn’t their intention to encourage a takeover. They just wanted to make sure that some issues, which may not be addressed at the hearing by city attorneys, are part of the discussion.

“We never made the argument we want a federal receiver―that's up to the learned judge to make the call―but we were honest,” union President Barry Donelan told the Chronicle.  

-Ken Broder

To Learn More:

Oakland Police Union Welcomes a Takeover (by Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle)

Oakland Police Union Sides against Brass (by Justin Berton, San Francisco Chronicle)

Oakland Pays $4.6 Million for Public Strip Searches but Keeps Policy on the Books (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Oakland Police and Fire Communications System Is Failing (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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