One week away from a hearing in front of Federal Judge Thelton Henderson (shown below), the City of Oakland and the plaintiffs in the infamous 'Riders Case' (Allen vs Oakland) reached a tentative agreement. The plaintiffs in the case -- after almost ten years of inadequate compliance with the original settlement agreement -- had put forth a motion two months ago to force the Oakland Police Department into Federal Receivership, something that had no precedent in all of the history of this country.
The original demand was for a 'Federal Receiver' whereas the settlement calls for the appointment of a 'Compliance Officer.' This Compliance Officer will have the power to fire the toplevel command officers in the Police Department and to take actions against Oakland Police practices such as racial profiling, unconstitutional stops, and their out-of-control use of force and drawing of weapons. Jim Chanin, a noted civil rights attorney who has been suing the Oakland Police for decades and is one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, opined
Jim Chanin, who helped craft the settlement... said he sees little difference in the titles. He said it was important to city officials that the compliance director not be referred to as a receiver but called it a matter of semantics, saying, "I see this as a receiver with a different name."What will happen in practice remains to be seen. Will the City of Oakland and its police department do everything they can to oppose their latest overseer (as has been their wont with the Federal Monitors previously overseeing the department) or will they at least attempt to cooperate? The threat of a complete takeover still looms, but they've bought themsleves at least six more months:
If the judge finds the city is not making adequate progress on the reforms ((in six months)), he may impose "any appropriate remedy," including receivership.
Of particular importance to the citizens of Oakland is what the Compliance Officer will do -- if anything -- about the actions of rank and file police officers.
The compliance director also is to focus on several specific areas of police misconduct, including racial profiling, pointing weapons at minority suspects without due cause, and officer-involved violence, including shootings.If -- big if -- the Compliance Director can actually make signficant inroads in these areas, Oakland may become a better place and in the long run possibly less crime-ridden. The new agreement gives this person the authority -- and authorization to spend money without city approval -- to give it a serious try.
However, two serious questions come to mind:
a) Will he or she have the will? After all, no one in ten years has been able to bring the Oakland Police to heel. In fact previous monitors have resigned in frustration.
b) Is it even possible to achieve significant progress on this without the authority to fire a large proportion of Oakland's rank and file police officers? (The new agreement leaves in place OPD's union contract, and does not give the Compliance Officer the authority to discipline or fire individual officers below the rank of Captain). Some of them are thugs to begin with and the rest have been "trained" since they came on the force to believe they have the right to violate the constitution at will, treat every male of color in the city as the enemy, and beat protesters at will.
The beating and near-murder of Kayvan Sabeghi is but one example of how Oakland's Police conduct themselves, as a new article on the incident by Ali Winston in the East Bay Express illustrates:
...on the night of November 2, 2011... the 33-year-old Army veteran was attacked and severely beaten by an Oakland Police officer identified in April by the Express as Frank Uu. Sabeghi suffered a serious rupture of his splenic vein while being held at North County jail, but was not hospitalized until eighteen hours later...To think that this culture will change because of a "Compliance Officer" in a corner office creating orders on pieces of paper while officers like this continue to stalk the streets may be, shall we say, naive. The agreement does not give the Compliance Officer the power to fire cops
Sabeghi filed a civil rights suit against Uu and two other Oakland cops, Marcell Patterson... and Sergeant Patrick Gonzales, alleging excessive force...
Sabeghi was tackled by Uu, Patterson, and other unnamed officers and then detained. While in North County Jail, Sabeghi was denied medical treatment by sheriff's deputies despite complaining of internal bleeding and severe pain, according to the suit. When Sabeghi began to vomit from the pain, "jail and medical personnel ridiculed plaintiff, accusing him of being a heroin addict," the suit states.
Sergeant Gonzales... has been involved in four shootings during his career, including the fatal incidents involving Gary King Jr. and Lovelle Mixon.
As one Kossack put it upon moving to Oakland not long ago
"I just moved to Oakland a few months ago, and have been absolutely astounded at how riven from any normal reality the police here are. It's like they inhabity an entirely separate consciousness, or are on some horrible distorting drugs. They prowl the streets and highways, armed and dangerous, far more interested in dominance displays than "serve and protect." They are unaccountable, and they know it. Anyone could become their victim. Insane."Welcome to the insanity, Mr., Mrs., or Ms. whomever you are that will become Oakland's new "Compliance Officer."
For some background on the Oakland Police and events leading up to this check out my diary from two months ago Are The Oakland Police Going Down At Last? At Long Last?.