OAKLAND -- More than a year after Oakland surrendered unprecedented control over its police department because of its failure to satisfy a decade-old reform mandate, a federal monitor reported Tuesday that police are still struggling to complete reforms.
The monitor, Robert Warshaw, found that the department had regressed in reviewing the use of force by officers and was failing to make satisfactory progress on several other tasks.
"The decline in compliance is a disappointment," Warshaw wrote in his quarterly report released Tuesday.
The sudden regression after several positive reports calls into question when Oakland will emerge from federal police oversight. The oversight regime is slated to cost the city more than $1.7 million this year in salaries and newly mandated training and technology initiatives for the department.
Despite the overall findings for the period covering July through September of last year, Warshaw wrote that he has recently seen a new resolve to address issues with the review boards. He also commended Mayor Jean Quan and interim Chief Sean Whent for being "at the forefront" of the reform effort.
Through a spokesman, Whent said he recently met with Warshaw to go over the use-of-force review process and that the department is "committed to making swift progress on these improvements as a team."
Oakland agreed to the court-sanctioned reform effort in 2003 following the Riders police brutality scandal in which four officers were accused of beating up and framing drug suspects in West Oakland.
The reform tasks -- whittled down over time from 51 to 22 -- were designed to help the department improve accountability and prevent discriminatory policing.
The department's failure to complete the reforms resulted in a federal judge appointing an overseer last year with sweeping power to finish the job. Tuesday's report marks the first time the department has backslid on reforms since the overseer, former Baltimore Police Chief Thomas Frazier, started work last March.
Warshaw, a former police chief in Rochester, N.Y., found that the police department was in full compliance of 14 of the 22 remaining reform tasks. That is one less than last quarter, but three more than a year ago.
The recent regression centered on the department's Force Review Board. Warshaw found multiple deficiencies in the board's review of a case in which an officer used a Taser on a handcuffed suspect. He also reiterated his concern that a separate review board that investigates more serious incidents continues to be marked by "informality and lack of structure."
Warshaw remains concerned about officers failing to use lapel cameras that can help resolve citizen allegations of improper use of force. In his review of 28 cases, Warshaw found 11 instances in which an officer equipped with the camera should have activated it. Additionally, three officers with disciplinary histories went for extended periods of time without the cameras because the cameras were broken and awaiting repairs.
The monitor also continued to express concern about the lack of training for police evidence technicians. Only seven of the 12 technicians had received adequate training over the prior 19 months, Warshaw found.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435