OAKLAND -- The city's police department is continuing to backslide on a decade-long reform program that has already put it at risk of a federal takeover, according to the court-appointed monitor overseeing the reforms.
The monitor, Robert Warshaw, wrote that Oakland police too often drew their guns without provocation and continued to come up short when investigating use-of-force complaints against the department.
Warshaw criticized the department's Internal Affairs investigations into Occupy Oakland protests and faulted the rank-and-file for refusing to help investigators identify officers who might have improperly cracked down on demonstrators.
Those failings contributed to the department regressing on reforms for the second consecutive three-month period.
"The shift from stagnation to decline should be as unacceptable to all parties, as it is to us," Warshaw, a former police chief and Clinton administration official, wrote in the 85-page report, filed late Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.
Oakland police were ordered to implement 51 reform tasks as part of a 2003 agreement that settled the Riders police brutality case. The reforms were to have been completed five years ago, but the department is not in full compliance with 11 tasks -- two more than during the same period last year.
The court-sanctioned reforms were designed to help the department better police itself and prevent a repeat of the Riders case, in which four officers were accused of beating up and framing drug suspects in West Oakland. Instead, the failed reform effort has wound up costing Oakland substantial control over its police force.
Last month, the city agreed to place responsibility for completing the reforms in the hands of a court-appointed compliance director. The director, who Henderson is expected to name later this month, will have the power to spend city funds to help push through the reforms and fire Chief Howard Jordan if the reform effort continues to falter.
Further stagnation also could result in Oakland becoming the first U.S. city to face a complete federal takeover of its police department.
After Warshaw's last critical report in October, Mayor Jean Quan said the city would be in full compliance or have a clear path to compliance by the end of last year. In a joint statement released Thursday, Quan, along with Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana, said they "respectfully disagree or hold concerns with some of the methodologies and findings of the monitor's report," but were working through it with Warshaw.
Oakland officials were preparing a court filing Thursday detailing their concerns, sources said.
City leaders have previously questioned Warshaw's contention that police are required not only to collect data from when officers stop suspects but also be able to adequately analyze the data to ensure that there is no racial profiling.
John Burris, one of two attorneys who represented the victims in the Riders case, called Warshaw's report "very discouraging," and said it showed the need for an assertive compliance director to set a new direction for the department. "There should not be steps backward after 10 years," he said.
Warshaw's report covered last July through September, a period when the department was closing out numerous complaints related to Occupy Oakland protests.
The department's regression stemmed in large measure from its handling of those complaints, too many of which were closed out after prescribed deadlines. In seven Occupy-related cases, internal affairs investigators sustained allegations against officers without addressing the potential culpability of the officer's supervisors, Warshaw wrote.
The investigations also were hampered by the refusal of officers to criticize the actions of their brethren during protests. The "officers consistently refused to say that they saw, knew, discussed or observed the actions of fellow officers who were often close by," Warshaw wrote.
Even supervisors when presented with videos "of clearly improper behavior were evasive and reluctant to comment," Warshaw wrote.
Sgt. Barry Donelan, who heads Oakland's police union, said it was unfair for Warshaw to expect officers to be keeping tabs on each other when "they were being attacked by a mob hellbent on destroying the city.
"He doesn't understand this is the most dangerous city in California," Donelan said. "It's nice to sit back from the comfort of your armchair and criticize officers."
Warshaw again faulted the willingness of officers to draw their weapons in the line of duty. He found that officers lacked justification for pulling out their guns 18 percent of the time. Of the 29 instances that were not justified, 87 percent of the suspects were African-American and 13 percent were Latinoï»¿.
In one case two officers pointed their firearms at a sleeping 19-month-old while investigating a misdemeanor, Warshaw wrote.
Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson responded to that statement late Thursay, saying that officers had a warrant to search the West Oakland home and that their weapons were drawn because the warrant contained probable cause to search for narcotics, firearms and ammunition. The officers reported having inadvertently pointed their guns in the child's direction. However, Watson said, they never intentionally targeted the child, who was asleep on a counch, and ultimately ensured that it was united with a caregiver.
While the department fell out of compliance on tasks relating to reporting officer misconduct and completing Internal Affairs investigations on time, Warshaw found that it did improve its system to track potentially troublesome behavior by officers.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.