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Oakland mayor shares concerns over police reform pace

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Oakland PoliceChristopher Paulin/Flickr
Two Oakland police officers entered separate not guilty pleas Friday, related to a string of sexual misconduct allegations. (Christopher Paulin/Flickr)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said on Thursday that a federal judge is justified in criticizing her city’s Police Department’s slow pace of complying with all of the reforms mandated by the 2003 settlement of a police misconduct case.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick, who is overseeing those reforms, expressed concerns about several Police Department shortcomings at a hearing in San Francisco Wednesday.

Schaaf said:

“I share the judge’s frustration that we haven’t made more progress.”

But Schaaf said the Police Department has improved in many areas, as there haven’t been any officer-involved shootings in Oakland in more than a year and there has been a 43 percent reduction in discretionary stops of African Americans.

Schaaf said Orrick was troubled by a recent internal audit by the Police Department’s inspector general that found officers failed to report use of force against a suspect in more than a third of the incidents that were studied in 2018 and every one of the unreported incidents involved a racial minority, either black or Latino.

The mayor said she agrees with Orrick that officers’ failure to report the use-of-force incidents is unacceptable.

However, the internal audit found that the unreported uses of force were legal because they occurred in serious incidents that resulted in the arrest of suspects.

Schaaf said that although Orrick criticized the Police Department for not moving quicker to comply with the 51 reforms that were mandated in the 2003 settlement he also “recognized that Oakland is making progress, especially in fighting racial bias.”

Schaaf said the Police Department is training officers to be aware of explicit and unconscious biases that could impact their interactions with people from various ethnic backgrounds.

The mayor said she hopes the department comes into complete compliance with the mandated reforms as quickly as possible but she said it’s more important for it to focus on “being the best and most progressive police department.”

Schaaf said:

“That process will never end and should never end.”

She added that coming into full compliance will be the outcome of that effort.

Schaaf also said that despite the Police Department’s shortcomings she continues to have full confidence in Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who took over that post on Feb. 27, 2017.

The mayor said it’s important to have stability in the police chief’s job because before Kirkpatrick assumed that post she worked with six police chiefs and five interim chiefs in her 20 years at City Hall.

Schaaf said:

“It’s been a revolving door.”

The 2003 settlement resolved a civil rights lawsuit filed against the city in 2000 by 119 citizens who claimed that four officers known as “The Riders” beat them, planted evidence on them and made false arrests. However, three officers who stood trial on criminal charges stemming from the citizens’ allegations weren’t convicted of any charges in two highly-publicized trials in 2003 and 2005.

The fourth officer who was charged in the case fled the area and never stood trial.

Delphine Allen, 40, the lead plaintiff in the civil rights suit, pleaded no contest last year to felony assault with intent to commit a sex crime with a 17-year-old girl at a motel and was sentenced to two years in state prison.

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