OAKLAND -- Oakland's court-appointed police leader said Tuesday that he blocked a City Council-approved reform effort because it would have jeopardized efforts to grow Oakland's understaffed police department.
Thomas Frazier stunned council members and several police critics last month when he intervened to prevent the city from transferring the intake of internal-affairs complaints against police officers to the independent Citizens' Police Review Board. Frazier did, however, allow for the jobs to be civilianized within the police department, which will free up nine officers for patrol duty.
The council had approved transferring the intake jobs on the premise that residents would be more likely to bring forth complaints and have more faith in the ensuing investigations if their initial contacts were with civilians housed outside police headquarters.
However, rank-and-file officers opposed the plan mainly because they don't trust workers operating out of the civilian board to treat them fairly.
Frazier argued that if the rank-and-file lost confidence in the disciplinary system, the department would struggle to retain officers and attract transfers from other police agencies. "This would add to the substantial difficulties in growing the size of the department," he wrote.
A federal judge granted Frazier sweeping authority over Oakland's police department in March to complete long-overdue reforms stemming from the 1999 Riders scandal. Many of the reforms pertain to the department's ability to police itself and hold officers accountable.
In his fourth monthly progress report, Frazier praised police for both curtailing the rise in armed robberies last month and making progress with the court-mandated reforms. The department gained final approval for a revised crowd-control policy and made progress to end the backlog in processing DNA evidence from sexual assaults.
Frazier also wrote that his office provided assistance after the force endured its second officer suicide in less than three months.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.