OAKLAND -- The city's court-appointed police leader criticized department brass Thursday for being unprepared to stop the vandalism that erupted downtown last month shortly after the Trayvon Martin verdict was announced.
A weak intelligence gathering system left police with little advance warning "of the easily anticipated events that occurred," former Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier wrote in his monthly report on Oakland's progress in satisfying court-ordered reforms.
The intelligence failure occurred, Frazier added, even though police had been warned that protests would be likely if George Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin's death and were asked to provide their plans for dealing with protests. Fixing the department's intelligence system will now become a top priority that must be addressed before federal oversight of the department is lifted, Frazier wrote.
Interim Chief Sean Whent has said police were unaware that the verdict could come on a Saturday evening and that there were not enough officers downtown to safely arrest protesters that turned violent.
Vandals smashed the windows of numerous businesses, tagged other buildings and set garbage bins ablaze. After two more nights of vandalism, police began assigning more officers to handle protests, none of which has since turned violent.
Frazier was granted far-reaching power over Oakland's police department earlier this year to force through decade-old reforms stemming from the Riders police brutality scandal. Although the reform plan focuses primarily on the department's ability to police its officers, Frazier has expanded his focus to include subjects well beyond the unmet reforms.
Frazier also wrote that he had brokered a deal with the police union to hire retired officers to do background checks on police cadet candidates.
The city is desperate to add more police, but its first two academies in five years have had alarmingly high rates of attrition.
Of the 57 recruits that entered last year's academy, only 36 are with the force, six of whom, as of last week, still were not ready to work on their own.
This year's academy class has already shrunk from 51 to 40 recruits.
Frazier wrote that the attrition is due to a shortage of money and human resources staff to conduct high-quality background investigations.
Police otherwise continued to make impressive progress toward satisfying the reform plan, Frazier wrote. He also wrote that friction with city administrators he noted in his prior report had not been a problem last month.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.