Federal oversight controversy in wake of recent firing of Oakland police chief

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – 17-years worth of federal oversight of the Oakland Police Department stemming from a police misconduct lawsuit is now being called into question.  

This comes in the wake of the recent firing of former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

While the dust is yet to settle on what happens next with the former chief, those who have a stake in the outcome tell KRON4, they would like to see the police reform effort eventually reach a conclusion.

“I keep getting the same report that we are out of compliance for 17 years and over 22 million dollars that as a resident I am paying for. We need to move on,” Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo said.

“The problem with it, of course, is that we have backsliding. Which then raises the question about sustainability. We’re in compliance this month. We’re not in compliance next month,” civil rights attorney John Burris said. 

Civil rights attorney John Burris is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff who filed the infamous riders Oakland police misconduct lawsuit back in 2000. 

Three years later, a negotiated settlement agreement was reached that required the Oakland Police Department to accomplish 52-reform tasks.

It has been a long road but city officials say at the time of Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s hiring OPD was 2-tasks away from full compliance. 

However, since then, according to this February 25, 2020, joint case management statement:

“OPD is currently out of full compliance with 8 tasks”… “It is clear that OPD has regressed on multiple fronts across several NSA tasks in the past year” … “Unfortunately the Department has been unable to reverse this downward trend”… “On a range of fronts, there have been letdowns. The City owns this”

One of the eight tasks involves OPD Internal Affairs Division completing investigations in a mutually agreed time frame.

“The agreement was it was going to be 180 days. So the department has not lived up to the agreement that they have made,” Burris said.

Burris explains the importance of OPD being in compliance with this task.

“Unless there is some exception there is no reason why that these internal affairs complaints should not be done in 180-days and the reason why that’s important because it is good for the public to know. You file a complaint with internal affairs and you never hear from them again or you may hear 2-years from now. Well, that doesn’t establish confidence in the department when they say they are looking out for your affairs that they really are doing so,” Burris said. 

“I think that certainly, every police department needs to improve in some areas,” Gallo said. 

But at what cost says Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo. 

Since the inception of the negotiated settlement agreement, the City of Oakland has spent over $27-million for external oversight at OPD.

“But we need that money that we are investing in another report, another strategy, keeping the monitor employed and I need to invest those dollars in the City of Oakland for not only public safety but making sure our streets are clean,” Gallo said.

Questioning the federal monitor’s integrity is now apart of this process but Burris says it shouldn’t be.

“You’ve got to remember that it is not just up to the monitor, the court has to evaluate if he is doing what he is supposed to do. It is not the police department and the police chief who has the final say whether the monitor is working properly. The court has that,” Burris said.

I spoke with the representative for Anne Kirkpatrick to find out if the former chief had any data to illustrate that the department was in fact in compliance with the 8-reform tasks detailed in this joint management statement.

KRON4 is still waiting for his reply.

Kirkpatrick had this to say earlier this week:

Anne Kirkpatrick: I find it very interesting that monitor would say to me in a one on one meeting with him we are making progress that we are in the red zone and my response to him is it going to be in writing in your report he says I can’t make any promises. 
Pam Moore: Why do you think the federal monitor would do that?
Anne Kirkpatrick: I think there could be incentives if you get into compliance you no longer need a federal monitor do you? When you are making the money you are making I think it is something that it is a pattern that needs to be looked at”
Pam Moore: Did you have a problem accepting the police commission and the monitor overseeing your work?
Anne Kirkpatrick: No. I want clear that even though this police commission terminated me I believe in citizen oversight I have not stepped away from that principle one iota in today’s law enforcement we should have civilian oversight. I also support federal oversight in certain situations but you can abuse it.

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