Oakland police criticized for Occupy response
Progress on reforms has stalled at the Oakland Police Department, according to a federal monitor who also said the agency failed to properly prepare
By Paul Elias
SAN FRANCISCO — Progress on reforms has stalled at the Oakland Police Department, according to a federal monitor who also said the agency failed to properly prepare for last year's Occupy protests.
The quarterly report released Monday criticized the department's reaction to the protests as an "overwhelming military-type response."
Former U.S. Marine Scott Olsen was critically injured Oct. 25 when he was hit in the head with a beanbag round fired by an Oakland SWAT team member, the report noted.
"We have viewed many official and unofficial video clips of the Occupy Oakland-related incidents," the report said. "These recordings lead us to ask additional questions as the level of force that was used by OPD officers, and whether that use of force was in compliance with the department's use of force policies."
The findings could bring the department one step closer to a federal court takeover.
The report was issued a day before Oakland police briefly scuffled with May Day protesters and arrested at least three while using tear gas.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ordered the progress reports on reforms as part of an agreement reached with the department in a 2003 lawsuit involving brutality and other claims that included nearly $11 million in payments to 119 plaintiffs and attorneys.
Henderson has said he's running out of patience with the pace of reforms and has set a December hearing to consider federal receivership. The department agreed to 51 specific reforms that include improved internal investigations, more field supervision and improved handling of citizen complaints.
Many of the goals, however, remain unmet.
"For the current reporting period, there has been an outright stagnation in the overall compliance picture," court monitor Robert Warshaw wrote about the last three months of 2011.
The monitor did praise newly appointed Chief Howard Jordan's apparent willingness to work on complying with the terms of the settlement.
"During the chief's tenure, progress has been made with regard to looking at innovative ways to bring about change," the monitor wrote. "While these advances do not immediately lend themselves to compliance findings, they do help to chart the course for future progress in the reform effort."
Jordan was appointed in October.
City officials and the department pointed to the positive comments as a sign that reforms will be put back on track.
"OPD has turned the corner," Jordan said, "and our new, more collaborative relationship with the monitor and plaintiffs' attorneys will soon bear results in compliance findings."
Copyright 2012 Associated Press