Thomas Frazier Appointed to Revive Police Reforms

Thomas C. Frazier

Thomas C. Frazier, former police commissioner from Baltimore and deputy police chief of San Jose, has been appointed by a federal court judge to oversee long-stalled reforms in the Oakland Police Department.
Frazier will have unprecedented powers to fire or demote the police chief and commanders and spend money without city approval. He will report to Federal Judge Thelton Henderson, not anyone in the city administration.
Henderson, who hired Frazier, ordered the city to pay him $270,000 per year, more than what Police Chief Howard Jordan earns.
Frazier is scheduled to start work March 11. He will have 30 days to submit a plan for completing the reforms and will begin issuing monthly status reports in May.
His list of reforms will include unjustified use of force, racial profiling and the failure of commanders to adequately oversee officers and track officers who exhibit potentially risky behavior.
In negotiations overseen by the court, the city and lawyers representing plaintiffs who had sued the city agreed in December on the appointment of the compliance officer, who does not the have the full control of a court-appointed receiver.
Frazier has overseen similar situations in Los Angeles and Detroit. As head of a police consulting group, he wrote a critical report last year about the Oakland police’s handling of Occupy Oakland.
Police made major mistakes in handling Occupy Oakland protesters and made errors that were caused by institutional deficiencies in the department, according to Frazier’s report.
The report described OPD as a department in which, “Many assigned investigators and supervisors lack the technical proficiency and, in many cases, the experience to conduct comprehensive, aggressive and unbiased investigations.”
Because he already has knowledge of Oakland, Frazier should be able to get up to speed quickly said local attorney John Burris.
“The report he issued last year really confirmed that he was unafraid to make tough calls about a police department,” said Burris, whose firm has been involved in the court-ordered reforms since the beginning.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana and Jordan said, “We believe we can work well in collaboration with Mr. Frazier to accelerate our efforts to reach full compliance with the outstanding reform tasks.
“Everyone involved in this case is working toward the same goals: enhanced constitutional policing and strengthened relationships between our police and our communities.”
Frazier has served as the chief of police in Baltimore and 27 years in the San Jose police department. Since 2001, he has headed The Frazier Group, LLC, a police consulting firm.
The Baltimore police department was embroiled in charges of racial bias against Black officers while Frazier headed the department.
Federal investigators found that the department disciplined Black officers more harshly than white officers, creating a pattern of race discrimination, according to the Associated Press. Black officers were more likely to have disciplinary proceedings brought against them, to be found guilty and to be more harshly disciplined than white officers,
A two-year investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found officers who complained of discrimination were targeted by the department’s internal watchdog: the Internal Investigation Department.
The Baltimore Community Relations Commission in 1997 gave Frazier high marks for his attempts to address the racial disparities.
According to the Baltimore Sun, he established an Equal Employment Opportunity unit to handle complaints of discrimination within the force. The unit was to be housed outside police headquarters, so officers making complaints would not fear retaliation.
He also expanded the cultural sensitivity training required of all officers and placed a member of the Vanguard organization for Black officers on police disciplinary trial boards.
However, there were continued allegations by one of the force’s highest-ranking African-American officers that the police chief was prejudiced, the newspaper reported.