Judge Orders Negotiations Over Oakland Police Department’s Future

Judge Thelton Henderson

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson has ordered the City of Oakland to begin settlement negotiations with attorneys who are seeking an outside receiver with powers to fire top police department commanders. Henderson said there were several areas of mutual agreement, including the need for additional court intervention in the Oakland Police Department, giving both sides until Nov. 29 to file a joint statement outlining their areas of agreement. Henderson has scheduled a Dec. 13 hearing on a receivership motion brought by the attorneys who represented plaintiffs in the decade-old Riders police corruption case. The Riders case ended in a settlement that required the police department to accept federal monitoring and institute many reforms, which were supposed to have been completed four years ago. But some have not been fully implemented. A major issue is whether a federal receiver would have the power to discipline and fire Chief Howard Jordan and his command staff. The city has refused to surrender that authority. But attorneys for the plaintiffs say the city has failed to hold the department’s top officers responsible for the Riders case and subsequent scandals. “I cannot have our clients or our future clients subjected to the kind of mass harassment that goes on at OPD because the command staff is not doing its job,” attorney Jim Chanin said. Chanin added that he only would reconsider the receivership proposal if city leaders take verifiable steps to make police department commanders fully accountable. “I need something close to a guarantee that these kinds of systemic problems won’t continue,” he said. Mayor Jean Quan said in a prepared statement that the city is hoping that negotiations will result in “timely compliance with the remaining reform tasks to achieve constitutional policing and a healthy, strong relationship between police and the people of Oakland.”
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