OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and civil rights attorney John Burris on Tuesday both welcomed the appointment of police expert Thomas Frazier to oversee long-overdue court-ordered reforms of the Oakland Police Department.
Quan said the city already has “a good working relationship” with Frazier, who formerly headed the Baltimore Police Department and was a deputy chief in San Jose, because Oakland officials hired him to conduct an independent assessment of their department in the wake of criticism about how it responded to Occupy Oakland protests in the fall of 2011.
Frazier, who has headed a Baltimore-based police consulting firm since 2001, said in a critical report last year that the Oakland Police Department was poorly prepared and used outdated crowd control tactics in handling the protests.
Quan said the department has already implemented many improvements suggested by Frazier, including training all officers on how to handle mass demonstrations.
Burris, one of two attorneys who represented 119 plaintiffs who filed suit alleging that Oakland police systematically beat and framed them in 2000, said he thinks Frazier “will hit the ground running without a learning curve” because he’s already familiar with the department and has a long history in police work.
“He has the experience we’re looking for and hopefully he’ll be effective,” Burris said.
He said Frazier’s experience includes overseeing reforms of the police departments in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Detroit.
Frazier’s appointment as compliance director overseeing the Oakland Police Department was announced by U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson late Monday.
Henderson has been closely monitoring 65 reforms mandated by the city’s $10.5 million settlement in 2003 of the lawsuit filed by Burris and co-counsel James Chanin.
The department has been slow in implementing those reforms and Burris and Chanin requested that a federal receiver oversee the department but an agreement was reached last December that calls for it to be monitored by a compliance director who has unprecedented power but not as much power as a receiver would have had.
As compliance director, Frazier will oversee the department’s compliance efforts and have the authority to demote or fire police Chief Howard Jordan as well as deputy and assistant chiefs. Frazier, who will start his new job next week, also will have the power to spend up to $250,000 on any project without city approval.
However, Quan noted that if she and City Administrator Deanna Santana disagree with possible proposals by Frazier to demote or fire Jordan and other top police officials they could ask Henderson to overrule Frazier.
Quan said the Oakland Police Department now has less than 10 reforms to complete and she’s “optimistic” that most of them can be completed in a year.
Burris was more cautious, saying he thinks it will take about two years for the department to completely comply with the court settlement.
Burris said among the most important reforms to be completed are ending racial profiling, using excessive force and engaging in what he described as “the illegal pointing of firearms at people.”
Henderson ordered the city of Oakland to deposit $270,000 into the court’s registry to pay Frazier that amount annually.
Henderson said Frazier should be paid more than Jordan but less than Santana.
The city said in a court filing on Monday that Jordan is paid $257,973 a year and Santana receives $282,000.
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