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Lawyers Seek Federal Supervision Of Oakland Police

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An Oakland Police Cruiser.

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Two attorneys who’ve been battling the Oakland Police Department for more than a decade filed a motion Thursday seeking federal supervision of some of the Oakland Police Department’s daily operations.

James Chanin said he and co-counsel John Burris filed the motion with U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco because of their frustration at what they believe is the department’s slow pace in making reforms required by the settlement of a major police misconduct case nine years ago.

Chanin said, “I never thought it would come to this but we’ve been through three mayors, four police chiefs and two monitoring groups” but the mandated reforms have still not been accomplished.

Henderson, who said at a hearing last year that Oakland is “a city that has still not complied with the reforms that were proposed by its own experts nearly a decade ago,” will hold a hearing on the motion on Dec. 13.

That hearing will be the next in a long series of hearings stemming from an agreement on Jan. 22, 2003, that settled 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.

Three of the four so-called “Riders” officers were tried in two lengthy criminal trials in 2002-03 and 2004-05, but all of the charges were eventually dismissed after the trials ended in a combination of acquittals on some counts and jury deadlocks on others.

The fourth officer is believed to have fled the country to avoid prosecution.

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

Chanin said the motion doesn’t seek federal supervision of some of the day-to-day operations of the Oakland Police Department, such as regular crime-fighting activities and the number of officers who are deployed.

But he said it does seek the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee areas in which he said the department hasn’t complied with the court settlement, such as internal affairs investigations, racial profiling and the use of force.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she’s “confident” that the city’s Police Department can still avoid having any federal supervision, although she admitted “it’s a very difficult situation.”

Quan said Chanin and Burris previously had considered asking for federal supervision of all of the department’s operations and she thinks the fact that they are now only seeking partial supervision is “an acknowledgement that we’ve made progress” in complying with the terms of the court settlement.

But Chanin said, “I don’t see any silver lining to this at all” and as an Oakland resident for 33 years he believes the request for federal supervision is “depressing.”

He said outside experts who have studied the Oakland Police Department’s operations have concluded that they are “outside the standards of law enforcement agencies across the country.”

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan admitted Thursday that his department “fell short in certain areas” in complying with the court settlement but he said “we’re working on it and pushing in the right direction.”

Jordan said, “Full compliance hasn’t been easy.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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