Oakland Gives Up Control Over Police Department

Judge Henderson’s Compliance Director Could Fire Chief Jordan

Police Chief Howard Jordan.

By Post Staff The City of Oakland has agreed to surrender much of its control over the Oakland Police Department, giving a federally appointed “Compliance Director” broad authority including the right to the fire or demote the police chief and other OPD commanders, under a proposed agreement between the city and lawyers representing victims of police abuse. The proposed settlement was reached Wednesday and filed Thursday in federal court and requires federal Judge Thelton Henderson’s approval. Henderson has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 13. Under the settlement, the compliance director would report directly to Judge Henderson. Civil rights attorneys Jim Chanin and John Burris would have the opportunity to recommend candidates for the job. Prior to the agreement, Chanin and Burris had asked Henderson to place the police force into receivership, saying a broken police culture had derailed court-ordered reforms, endangering resi dents, particularly minorities, and leading to costly police abuse settlements. The compliance director would to be paid by the city. The agreement would not affect the Oakland Police Officers Association’s labor agreement. The compliance director would have the ability to make individual expenditures of city money of up to $250,000 to ensure compliance with the federal reforms. The compliance director will focus on several specific areas of police misconduct, including racial profiling, pointing weapons at minority suspects without due cause, and officer-involved violence, including shootings. The settlement gives the city at least until June 1, 2013 to make substantial progress, and if it fails to do so, then Henderson can order OPD into federal receivership. According to newly appointed Deputy Mayor Sandré Swanson, the agreement, unlike receivership, allows the city to help craft police reforms. “The mayor worked hard to reach an agreement short of receivership,” Swanson said. “It gives the city for the first crack at solving the problem. If the solutions we come up with are not adequate, someone can come in and make adjustments.” Police Chief Howard Jordan said the agreement was the best the city could expect. “It’s a best-case scenario for us based on the alternatives,” said Jordan. “We had always been opposed to a receiver. If you look at the duties and responsibilities, the compliance director will be charged with actually finding solutions and working with all stakeholders to get us into compliance.” However, civil right attorney Chanin said he sees little difference between a compliance director and a receiver. “I see this as a receiver with a different name,” he said. Chanin and Burris had represented over 100 people who sued the city in 2000 after four officers called the Riders were accused of beating residents and planting evidence. The settlement in that case led to federal oversight requiring the city to institute dozens of police reforms, some of which have yet to be implemented. Mayor Jean Quan sees the agreement as a positive step. “We’re very grateful to the judge for his opportunity,” she said. “This will help us move on faster. It’s been months and months in making and a lot of hard work.” Rocky Lucia, an attorney for the police association, said the settlement is positive because it allows police officers to be involved “It formalizes the requirement that we get a seat at the table,” he said
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