OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Recently fired Oakland police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and City Councilman Noel Gallo are both calling for a change in the 17-year-long federal oversight of the city’s Police Department.
In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick, who is overseeing reforms to the department that were mandated in a police misconduct case settlement in 2003, Gallo, who heads the council’s Public Safety Committee, called for a meeting to end federal oversight of the department.
Kirkpatrick, who was fired without cause on Feb. 20 after three years on the job, wrote in an op-ed published in the East Bay Times that that the U.S. Department of Justice should intercede, remove longtime police monitor Robert Warshaw and allow the Police Department to complete its reforms on its own.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said on Feb. 20 that the trust between the Police Commission and Kirkpatrick was “irrevocably broken” and keeping Kirkpatrick in her job would prevent the city from moving forward.
Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson said one reason the commission wanted Kirkpatrick to be dismissed is that the Police Department has still failed to comply with reforms that were ordered in the federal court settlement 17 years ago.
Interim Assistant Police Chief Darren Allison is acting chief of police until a permanent chief is selected.
Gallo wrote in his letter to Orrick that the 17 years of federal oversight “is the longest agreement of its kind including federal consent decrees in the history of the United States!”
Over those 17 years, “Oakland has expended $28 million overall to satisfy the court’s requirements,” Gallo wrote.
“Each year the tasks have been changing, creating a lack of consistency for the operation of the Police Department and I believe has contributed to one of the reasons that Oakland has had ten police chiefs since 2003,” he wrote.
Gallo wrote, “If it takes 17 years to get out of a federal consent decree or reform a police agency and waste taxpayers millions of dollars there is something definitely wrong with the oversight!”
He wrote that at the very least, a change of the monitoring team and compliance director should be considered so “fresh eyes” are brought to the agreement.
Gallo told Orrick he’s requesting a meeting “to clearly define a firm deadline and set of tasks that must be resolved this year to end federal oversight.”
In her opinion piece, Kirkpatrick wrote, “Like the nine chiefs before me, my efforts and that of the women and men of the department were thwarted by the very person whose job it is to oversee them: Robert Warshaw, the appointed monitor.”
Kirkpatrick said the reason the Police Department remains out of compliance with the federal monitoring is not its officers or its policies and procedures.
She alleged, “Rather, it is because Warshaw, the monitor himself, who earns a million dollars a year from Oakland taxpayers, has no incentive to see those reforms succeed.”
Kirkpatrick wrote, “The ever-changing mountain of bureaucracy he has instituted takes police officers off the streets and keeps them behind desks filling out forms and looking at hours of video, putting public safety at risk.”
The former chief wrote, “After 17 years, 500 new police officers, 10 police chiefs, four mayors and two federal judges, it’s clear where the roadblock to reform lies. The time has come for the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee the overseer and allow the Oakland Police Department to complete its reforms.”
Kirkpatrick alleged that Warshaw’s dual roles as both the author of compliance programs and the monitor of their progress “created an inherent conflict of interest.”
She said she believes in reform, transparency, outside review and accountability that requires federal oversight.
But she wrote, “That is not the case in Oakland. The Oakland Police Department is a shining example of what real, effective police reform looks like. If we were benchmarked with other police departments the public would see just how amazing the men and women of the Oakland Police Department really are.”
Kirkpatrick concluded, “Neither the department, nor the people it serves, should continue to suffer under this broken and dangerous system.”