Motion seeks to have feds take over Oakland police
Lawyers in settlement of corruption scandal say high-ranking officials have thwarted reforms
By Terry Collins
SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers overseeing the terms of a settlement stemming from a decade-old Oakland police corruption scandal filed a motion Thursday requesting that the federal government take over the embattled department.
Attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin filed the motion in U.S. District Court in San Francisco asking Judge Thelton Henderson for a federal receiver to oversee the department. They argued Oakland city officials and the police have chronically failed to meet reforms they agreed to after a 2003 lawsuit claimed brutality and other allegations.
The settlement initially called for the reforms to be completed within five years. But the lawyers said high-ranking city officials have thwarted those efforts.
"Despite empty promises by three City Administrators, four Police Chiefs, and the City's inside and outside counsel ... compliance with important reforms has failed," the motion said.
The lawsuit stemmed from a from a scandal in which several rogue officers were charged with beating or framing drug suspects in 2000 along with other claims that resulted in nearly $11 million in payments to 119 plaintiffs and attorneys.
In January, a frustrated Henderson said he "remains in disbelief" that the police department has failed to adopt the reforms and threatened federal takeover of the agency.
"This department finds itself woefully behind its peers around the state and nation," the judge wrote in a scathing report.
Henderson increased the oversight authority of a court-appointed monitor. Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan now must consult with the monitor before making important department decisions such as promoting and disciplining officers and changing policing policy and tactics.
Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan said Thursday they both believe the department is making progress with the reforms. They said the city is in compliance with 85 percent of the 52 mandated changes.
"We're all working to move in the same direction, which is full compliance," Jordan said in a statement. "It's not been easy. It's been challenging. But no one here (is) ducking from the responsibilities we have.
"We all want the same thing. Judge Henderson wants the same thing, and I want the same thing: constitutional policing in Oakland."
But the lawyers contend Oakland's time is up as the city already has been allowed two extensions and two independent monitoring teams, and has spent "thousands, if not millions of dollars" on consultants to help get in compliance.
"We are fed up with the lack of consistent progress by the city," Burris said. "It is time for a change."
Oakland's deadline to respond to the motion is Nov. 8. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Dec. 13.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press