OAKLAND -- Unable to complete dozens of Occupy Oakland-related internal affairs investigations within the time constraints set by a court order, Oakland is budgeting $750,000 to outsource those cases, as well as some future ones, to law firms and private investigators.
The added expenditure, included in Mayor Quan's amended budget proposal, is roughly equal to the annual cost of four police officers. The department also has transferred at least two officers into internal affairs to tackle the investigation backlog.
State law mandates that internal affairs investigations be completed within one year, but Oakland is required to complete its investigations in half that time under the terms of a 2003 agreement that settled the Riders police misconduct case.
The department failed to meet the deadline for complaints filed in connection with the first two major Occupy protests last year. In response, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson has ordered the city to prepare a detailed plan with deadlines for when the investigations will be completed and threatened fines if the deadlines aren't met.
To satisfy Henderson, the city has proposed contracting with up to 10 firms to handle 38 of the most complex Occupy-related complaints stemming from the Oct. 25 and Nov. 2 protests.
The Oct. 25 clashes, which included an Oakland officer shooting and injuring Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen with a beanbag, generated more internal affairs complaints than any incident in city history, according to a report last month from City Administrator Deanna Santana.
The department's effort to complete the cases was hindered by the fact that several officers in internal affairs, including the unit's former leader, were working the Oct. 25 protests. Additionally, a new state law forced the police department to release several retired officers who had been helping with the internal affairs investigations.
Santana told council members on Tuesday that the loss of those retirees could force Oakland to continue outsourcing additional internal affairs complaints.
The police department has three officers working full-time -- and authorized to work overtime -- on the Occupy Oakland-related complaints, according to Santana's report. The department last month also proposed temporarily transferring five additional officers to internal affairs should there be delays in outsourcing the complaints.
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente criticized the cost of outsourcing the investigations and the overall cost of complying with the settlement agreement.
"It's just a systemic problem when we are spending all this money and we don't have investigators who investigate crimes in Oakland," he said.
Jim Chanin, an attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the Riders case, noted that other cities such as San Francisco didn't get nearly as many Occupy-related complaints as Oakland.
"The solution was not to get the number of complaints they got," he said. "You reap what you sow and, the taxpayers are paying the price for their failure to follow their own rules including their crowd control policy."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.