OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The union that represents Oakland police officers issued a statement on Thursday criticizing the Oakland Police Commission’s recommendation that five officers involved in the fatal shooting last year of a homeless man with mental issues be fired.
The Police Commission said the officers violated the Police Department’s use of force policy when they fired 12 shots at 32-year-old Joshua Pawlik in the 900 block of 40th Street at about 7 p.m. on March 11, 2018.
The Oakland Police Officers Association said the Police Commission’s recommendation that Sgt. Francisco Negrete and Officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Craig Tanaka and Josef Phillips be fired ignores the findings of five previous investigations that exonerated them.
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The officers’ union said the previous probes were conducted by the Police Commission’s own investigative arm, the Citizen Police Review Agency, the Oakland Police Department Internal Affairs Division, the Police Department’s Executive Force Review Board, the Chief of Police and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
The union said the five officers targeted for termination were “protecting the residents from an armed suspect (Pawlik).”
The union said the Police Commission’s findings against the officers are being released to the public but the city has so far refused to share those findings with the impacted officers.
Police Officers’ Association President Barry Donelan said in the statement, “This is outrageous. Five different reviews of this shooting exonerated the officers. These police officers responded to a citizen’s call for help concerning an armed suspect in their neighborhood.”
Donelan said, “The officers tried to defuse the situation but the armed suspect engaged our officers, putting their lives and the lives of our residents in danger. The Police Commission ignored these facts and a multitude of investigations to reach a predetermined and unjust outcome.”
Donelan alleged that the commission’s decision “is obviously born from a desperate politically-driven need to prosecute police officers regardless of the facts.”
“I can’t even tell you at this point what the basis for the terminations are because neither the officers, their lawyers or this union has had the opportunity to read the basis for the notices of termination,” Donelan told KPIX 5 Thursday afternoon.
“It’s been investigated by five different entities: police department, executive force review board, chief of police, Alameda County District Attorney and even the investigative arm of the police commission. The officers who went there have all been exonerated,” said Donelan.
Asked to comment on the commission’s recommendations, the Oakland Police Department released a statement from city spokeswoman Karen Boyd, who said, “The findings of the Police Commission’s Discipline Committee are the next step in the discipline process.”
Boyd said, “Under state law, the officers will be afforded their due process rights, including the opportunity to attend a Skelly hearing prior to final imposition of discipline. The City of Oakland supports the due process rights of all employees.”
A Skelly hearing ensures public sector employees are informed of the allegations against them and have an opportunity to refute the allegations or mitigate them.
Via text message, Police Commission President Regina Jackson said, “The discipline committee stands by the report.”
Oakland police have said a large number of officers were dispatched to the 900 block of 40th Street on March 11, 2018, after they received reports of an armed, unconscious man lying between two houses.
Police said Negrete, Berger, Hraiz and Tanaka shot Pawlik, who was found lying down unconscious with a gun between two houses, because he ignored repeated commands to take his hand off the gun and when he began to move he posed an immediate threat with the risk of death or serious bodily harm.
But Robert Warshaw, the department’s court-appointed federal monitor, said in a report that was made public in March that Pawlik’s movements, as seen on a video of the interaction, “do not coincide with the movements to which the officers claim they reacted.”
Warshaw wrote, “Mr. Pawlik roused to consciousness, and the video shows his actions to be consistent with someone who was waking up and attempting to orient himself. He was moving minimally.”
Warshaw wrote, “Mr. Pawlik’s slight movements did not constitute intent and a reasonable officer should not have concluded such.”
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris filed a wrongful death on behalf of Pawlik’s mother Kelly Pawlik in February, alleging that officers had no justification for shooting Joshua Pawlik multiple times because he didn’t point a gun at them or threaten them in any way.
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