OAKLAND -- A federal judge threatened to sanction city officials Wednesday if they continued obstructing the man he brought in to reform Oakland's police department.
In a two-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderon wrote that court-appointed Compliance Director Thomas Frazier has broad powers and that "the city shall immediately cease its misguided efforts to constrict the court's orders."
Any city officials or personnel, without exception, who continue to impede Frazier will have to convince the court "why sanctions should not be imposed against them," Henderson wrote.
Frazier, a former Baltimore police commissioner, was named the department's compliance director last month. The office comes with unprecedented powers. Frazier has authority to spend city funds, demote commanders and seek the ouster of Chief Howard Jordan as part of his charge to make the police department finally complete a decade-old reform effort stemming from the Riders police brutality scandal.
But City Hall is trying to limit Frazier's authority circuitously, according to Henderson.
"The court issues this order -- which should be unnecessary -- to clarify that its orders mean what they say," he wrote.
He also warned the city to stop using legal or contractual arguments when dealing with Frazier and Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw.
Otherwise, the judge may require the city to pick up the tab for attorneys appointed by the court to assist the two men, who have no formal training in the law.
Oakland officials agreed to accept a powerful court-appointed compliance director to avoid a complete federal takeover of the police department.
"The city has a successful and recent track record working with Mr. Frazier and achieving desired results," Mayor Jean Quan said when his appointment was announced in March.
She appointed his firm to investigate the city's response to Occupy Oakland. But after his appointment by Henderson, the relationship between Frazier and City Hall quickly soured over a benefits pay dispute.