OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A federal judge has issued an unusual order admonishing Oakland city officials and reminding them that a recently appointed compliance director has broad authority to oversee police reforms.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco wrote in an order of clarification issued Wednesday, “The city shall immediately cease its misguided efforts to constrict the court’s efforts.”
Police expert Thomas Frazier, a former Baltimore police chief, was appointed by Henderson last month to oversee Oakland police reforms mandated by the settlement of a 13-year-old civil rights lawsuit.
Frazier was given broad powers to set an action plan for carrying out reforms and even to fire or demote the Oakland police chief and deputy and assistant chiefs if he deems such steps necessary.
Henderson wrote in his two-page order that it has become apparent that the city “is attempting to limit unilaterally the scope of the compliance director’s authority.”
“The court issues this order—which should be unnecessary—to clarify its orders mean what they say,” the judge wrote.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna J. Santana, police Chief Howard Jordan and Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker issued a joint statement in reaction to the judge’s order, saying there have been areas of disagreement but they hoped to resolve them when the compliance director provides his proposed work plan and budget on April 23.
“We remain fully committed to working collaboratively with the compliance director, as court has ordered, and fully understand his authority,” the statement said. “The City proposed the compliance director position to work more closely with the court in accelerating our work to complete these reforms.”
At the time of Frazier’s appointment, Quan said the city had a good working relationship with him and that she was optimistic that most of the reforms would be completed within a year.
The reforms were mandated in the 2003 settlement of a lawsuit in which 119 Oakland citizens alleged in 2000 that four rogue officers known as the “Riders” beat them, made false arrests and planted phony evidence.
Henderson and lawyers for the citizens have repeatedly expressed frustration at the slow pace of carrying out the reforms, which originally had a completion deadline of 2008.
The appointment of an outside compliance director was a compromise measure, one step down from a more drastic measure of creating a federal receivership to take over the department entirely.
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