OAKLAND -- A federal judge has given Oakland officials less than a week to submit a plan for completing police internal affairs investigations stemming from last year's Occupy protests, or risk weekly fines.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson issued the order Tuesday, one day after a federal monitor released a report critical of the department's handling of the Occupy protests and its struggles to fully implement reforms measures spelled out in a 2003 agreement that settled the Riders police misconduct case.
That agreement requires Oakland to complete internal affairs investigations within 180 days -- half the time required under state law.
City leaders have said police lack the manpower to investigate the multitude of cases stemming from the Occupy Oakland protests on Oct. 25 and Nov. 2, and they sought council approval to contract out several investigations outside consultant The Frazier Group.
But on Tuesday, city leaders withdrew the proposed contract, saying it would be cheaper and easier to contract directly with a private investigation firm to which Frazier had already planned to subcontract out the work. The decision not to contract with Frazier came just days before the firm is expected to release a potentially damning report, commissioned by the city in December, on the police department's handling of the Occupy protests.
Henderson has threatened to place a federal receiver in control of the department if the city's new leadership team doesn't make quick strides toward compliance. He warned Tuesday that officers guilty of misconduct could go unpunished if the city failed to complete the Occupy investigations before the statue of limitations expires.
"Such failures," he wrote, "would be further indication that despite the changed leadership at the city of Oakland and its police department, defendants might still lack the will, capacity or both to complete the reforms to which they so long ago agreed."
The handling of internal affairs complaints has been a long-standing issue for the police department, Henderson wrote. He noted that seven years ago the previous independent monitor learned that 775 complaints had not been assigned case numbers and 26 major cases languished "in a so-called tickler file."
Henderson gave the city until May 7 to submit to the independent monitor its plan for completing the investigations. He also ordered the city to provide the monitor information about the consultant it chooses for the investigations.
The city must get implement the plan with the monitor's approval by May 14.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.