Chief Howard Jordan
Attorney Walter Riley
The Oakland Police Officers Association is criticizing police and city leadership, as federal Judge Thelton Henderson set a hearing date to decide whether to hand control of the police force to federal authorities.
In papers filed with Henderson this month, lawyers for the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) said the department’s leadership was useless, even dangerous.
But in a rebuttal to police statements, local civil rights attorney Walter Riley said, “My first impression of the (OPOA) document is that the police association is being disingenuous.”
“I hold the individual police officers responsible for their conduct, as well as the police department leadership and the City of Oakland leadership. The individuals cannot escape responsibility for their conduct.”
Henderson is scheduled to hold a Dec. 13 hearing that could determine the future of the department.
Since 2003, the department has been required to institute 51 reforms as part of a civil settlement after four officers, who called themselves the Riders, were accused of beating and framing suspects in West Oakland.
John Burris and James Chanin, attorneys for more than 100 of the victims, recently filed a motion asking Henderson to appoint a receiver to take over the department for failing to implement nine of the reforms.
In the 25-page document, lawyers for the OPOA said the department’s leaders were ineffective and accused commanders of leading the public on as they failed to install the court-mandated reforms.
The document portrays officers as caught between city officials who are eager to adopt aggressive policing strategies and the commanders who fail to properly train them on how to carry out those plans.
In 2000, then-Mayor Jerry Brown and Chief Richard Word adopted a “zero-tolerance” drug- and crime-fighting plan called “Project SANE.”
According to union attorneys, the initiative pushed young, under-trained officers to conduct raids and make mass arrests. Yet when allegations of misconduct by four officers led to the Riders scandal, “Those who were uniquely responsible for the ‘leadership decision’ engaged in ‘political cover’ and were nowhere to be found,” the OPOA said.
Fast forward to the Occupy Oakland protests, when history repeated itself, according to the OPOA, who viewed Chief Howard Jordan’s announcement last month that 44 officers would be disciplined for Occupy-related incidents as the latest case of passing the buck.
But according to attorney Riley in an interview with the Post, the police association is changing its tune to fit the situation.
“These very same officers testify every day in criminal trials, and they tell the court they are highly trained, that they are carrying out the department’s policies and procedures perfectly. Judges believe the officers, and defendants are convicted.”
“It inconceivable that in a civil matter these same officers can turn around and argue that they are poorly trained and do not know how to implement departmental policy,” said Riley, who added that he and the Justice 4 Alan Blueford coalition are currently in the process of studying the OPOA document and Judge Henderson’s latest statements.