Monitor: Oakland police still have issues

The Oakland Police Department is now at its highest rate of compliance in the 12-year history of attempting to achieve reforms that were mandated in the settlement of a police misconduct suit, a federal monitor said Friday.

But Robert Warshaw, who has been monitoring the Oakland Police Department since January 2010 and assumed the additional responsibility of being its compliance director in March 2014, said in a report filed in federal court:

“While significant progress has been made, there are some core issues that have not yet been fully realized.”

Warshaw reports to U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, who approved a 2003 settlement which requires Oakland police to implement 51 reforms in a variety of areas, including improved investigation of citizen complaints, better training of officers and increased field supervision.

Warshaw, a retired Rochester, N.Y., police chief, said the Oakland Police Department achieved full compliance with more than half of the 51 reforms several years ago but he’s continuing to monitor 22 tasks. The department is now in compliance with 19 of those 22 tasks, he said.

Warshaw said two of the remaining tasks are connected to an investigation ordered by Henderson into why outside arbitrators often reverse or lessen punishment to officers who have been disciplined for alleged wrongdoing.┬áThe other remaining task involves how officers make stops of suspects and document those encounters to make sure there aren’t racial disparities in the stops.

The settlement resolved a lawsuit filed by 119 Oakland citizens who alleged that four officers known as the “Riders” beat them, made false arrests and planted evidence on them in 2000. Three of the officers stood trial on criminal charges against them but they weren’t convicted. The fourth officer fled before he could be prosecuted.

The department’s slow pace of complying with the settlement prompted Henderson to appoint a compliance director in 2013 to oversee the reforms on a regular basis. The compliance director has the power to fire the police chief and promote or demote his command staff.

The first director was Thomas Frazier, but last year Henderson combined the compliance director and monitor positions, removing Frazier and adding the compliance director job to Warshaw’s duties.

In his report today, Warshaw praised the Oakland Police Department for facilitating numerous protests and marches in the past few months, saying:

“For the most part, these events have been peaceful.”

Noting that the department has been criticized for its crowd control procedures in the past, Warshaw said:

“Overall, I have been encouraged by the Police Department’s response to these activities.”

He said in the last three months of 2014 the department facilitated 31 protests and marches totaling about 10,000 protesters. He said several of the protests involved acts of violence against police officers, looting and destruction of public property and Oakland police reported a total of 22 uses of force, one deployment of chemical munitions and nine complaints.

Warshaw said:

“These numbers show that the department is taking a more thoughtful and cautious approach to crowd control.”