Henderson Warns City to Stop Obstructing Compliance Officer; Council Will Look at Why Police Complaint Board Has Stalled

Judge Thelton Henderson

By Post Staff Oakland residents will have a chance for a public discussion at next week’s City Council meeting of why City Administrator Deanna Santana has failed so far to begin directing complaints against police to a Citizens’ Police Review Board, which the council had voted was supposed to begin almost four months ago. Meanwhile, federal Judge Thelton Henderson issued an order Wednesday, threatening to take action if city officials continued to obstruct the man he appointed to reform Oakland’s police department. “The city shall immediately cease its misguided efforts to constrict the court’s orders,” Henderson wrote. City officials or staff who try to impede Compliance Director Thomas Frazier will have to convince the court “why sanctions should not be imposed against them.” Henderson wrote. “The court issues this order – which should be unnecessary – to clarify that its orders mean what they say,” he wrote. He warned the city to stop using legal or contractual arguments when dealing with Frazier and Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw. Otherwise, the judge may require the city to pay for attorneys appointed by the court to assist the two men, who are not lawyers. Responding to  Henderson, Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, police Chief Howard Jordan and City Attorney Barbara Parker issued a statement Thursday. “We remain fully committed to working collaboratively with the compliance director, as the court has ordered, and fully understand his authority. While there are areas of disagreement, we hope to resolve them when the compliance director provides his proposed work plan and budget on April 23,” the joint statement said. According to local supporters of the Citizens’ Police Review Board (CPRB), the new agency is a crucial step in making the Oakland Police Department more accountable to local residents. When the plan is finally implemented, the review board will handle all intakes of new complaints. As part of the change, 10 to 15 highly trained officers who do intake for the department’s Internal Affairs Division could be reassigned to patrol and investigative duties, meaning that money could be saved on hiring sheriffs and Highway Patrol officers to beef up police on the streets. Rashidah Grinage, executive director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), is asking why the city has not yet implemented the transfer of complaints to the CPRB. “We are four months over the deadline,” she said “If we had not pushed to get this on the agenda, there is no telling how long it would have taken.” Grinage is urging council members to direct City Administrator Santana to carry out the decision. In a report to the council, Santana has cited a number of reasons for failure to implement the CPRB so far. Issues include lack of funding, insufficient staff in the City Administrator’s office, the need to meet and confer with the Oakland Police Officers Association and to create job classifications and recruit staff for the CPRB. “ We are hoping City Council members will direct staff to have a date certain when all complaints will be shifted over to the CPRB,” she said. “I want to flip the script,” Grinage said.  “ I would call staff not carrying out council decisions to be interfering with the City Council.”
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