Police Monitor Warshaw: OPD Reform Still “Stagnant”

May 3, 2013

Posted in Police-Public Safety

By Post Staff

The Oakland Police Department’s performance has improved slightly, though its progress in achieving federal court-ordered

reforms is still stagnating, according to the latest report from the federal monitor who is evaluating the city’s police services.

“We have noted in our past reports our serious dismay with the department’s stagnation in its progress toward effective, just and constitutional policing,” wrote Monitor Robert Warshaw in his 13th quarterly report on the OPD, which was released Monday.

In the report, Warshaw blamed city and police officials for blocking required changes for more than 10 years.

Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw

While noting that there had been “a slight improvement in the department’s overall compliance picture,“ he said, “The department and the city have stifled and sidetracked this effort for far too long.“

But Warshaw said he was hopeful that the city was entering “a new chapter” with the appointment of Compliance Director Thomas Frazier who will  “hold to great account those in the city and department who have the responsibility to institute these reforms.”

One of the issues that the report focused on was the failure of police officers to report misbehavior or rimes committed by their colleagues.

Examining police actions during Occupy Oakland demonstrations, the report said, “Many officers consistently avoided commenting about the misbehavior – and sometimes, felonious actions – of their fellow officers; and while officers apparently remembered seeing participants in the demonstrations and riots clearly, they often could not say which officers were next to them even when they viewed videos of the incidents.

“We found instances where supervisors, even when viewing videos of clearly improper behavior, were evasive and reluctant to comment.”

In another case, according to the report, an officer was next to another who “used excessive force hitting a citizen in the head and elsewhere on the body with his baton.”

“In spite of the fact that the two were shown on a video that appeared on YouTube, the assisting officer denied seeing the baton strikes by the arresting officer.”

In addition,  “We believe that is a serous violation” for officers to fail to activate their personal video recorders when they are in use-of-force situation, the report said.

Another key issue has been the failure to report the reason for making a stop on OPD’s field-based reporting system, which undermines the ability to monitor racial profiling, the report said.

Responding to Warshaw’s report, city officials released a joint statement.

We are pleased to be making progress toward full compliance, though we know more work lies ahead. We are in close collaboration with the Compliance Director to accelerate these efforts, and together we will achieve our mutual goals of reform and strengthened relationships between our police and our community, ” according to the statement by Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna

Santana, and police Chief Howard Jordan.

The federal oversight was the result of a 2003 lawsuit settlement in what has become known as the Riders case.  In the settlement, the city agreed to implement 51 police reforms in a variety of areas, including improved investigation of citizen complaints, better training of officers and increased field supervision.

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson has repeatedly said he is frustrated by the city’s slow progress slow in making reforms over the past decade.

Last year, civil rights attorneys John Burris and James Chanin, who represent the plaintiffs in the original case, asked Henderson to order a takeover of the police department and have a federal receiver appointed.

The city reached an agreement with the court in December to hire an independent, court-appointed compliance director to be in charge of completing all the reforms.

Frazier, who was appointed to that position, reports to the judge and has the power to fire police Chief Howard Jordan and order city leaders to spend money.