Oakland Police Avoid Federal Takeover

By: Brian Shields - Wed, 05 Dec 2012 23:22:44 -0800

OAKLAND (BCN) -- Civil rights lawyers who had sought a federal takeover of the  Oakland Police Department reached a settlement with the city Wednesday that calls  for a compliance director, not a receiver, to oversee the department,  according to one of the lawyers.

      Attorney John Burris said the agreement "is an historic move on  our part that is close to having a receiver run the department without having  to go through the motions that would have been necessary to have a receiver."

      City and police officials couldn't immediately be reached for  comment.

      Burris said the settlement must be approved by U.S. District Court  Judge Thelton Henderson at a hearing on Dec. 13.

      Henderson has been overseeing the Police Department's compliance  with a Jan. 22, 2003 settlement of a lawsuit filed by 119 Oakland citizens  who alleged that four officers known as the "Riders" beat them, made false  arrests and planted evidence on them in 2000.

      The settlement included payments of $10.5 million to the  plaintiffs and their attorneys, Burris and James Chanin, and calls for the  department to make reforms such as increased field supervision, better  training and improved investigation of citizen complaints.

      Burris and Chanin had been seeking a federal takeover of the  department because they believe it has moved too slowly in complying with the  settlement agreement.

      Burris said the settlement came after several weeks  of negotiations between the two sides.

      He said a compliance director could be in place within a month if  Henderson approves the settlement and the two sides agree on a director.

      Burris said a compliance director would report directly to the  court and have the same status as a court-appointed monitor who already has  been overseeing the terms of the 2003 agreement.

      The director would be full-time, would be independent of the city  and would have the power to demote or fire the city's police chief, Burris  said.

      He said the director would consult with city officials and the police chief but they wouldn't be able to veto the director's decisions.

      Burris said the director would oversee compliance in reaching  benchmarks in areas such as racial profiling, racially-biased policing, the  "unjust" pointing of firearms at minorities by officers, reducing citizen  complaints and improving policies in use of force and high-speed chases.

      Burris said, "We hope this will move the Police Department in a  positive direction."

(Copyright 2012, Bay City News, All rights reserved.)
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