On December 17, 2000, a citizen filed a §1983 class action lawsuit against the City of Oakland and its police department in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging a group of rogue police officers within the OPD known as “the Riders" violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by kidnapping, beating and planting drugs on the plaintiff.
On March 26, 2001 the District Court (Judge Charles A. Legge) ordered that several other civil rights cases pending against the OPD be consolidated with this case under the consolidated case number C00-4599 TEH (JL). These cases were sometimes referred to as the “Riders” cases and involved some 119 plaintiffs. Following consolidation, plaintiffs’ complaint was amended three times.
The case was eventually transferred to District Judge Thelton E. Henderson. The parties engaged in protracted settlement negotiations and participated in numerous court ordered settlement conferences before Magistrate Judge James Larson. A settlement was reached in early 2003, after about eighteen months of negotiations.
On March 14, 2003, the District Court (Judge Thelton E. Henderson) approved the settlement agreement and dismissal of the claims by the plaintiffs/putative class members. The settlement called for payment of $10.9 million to plaintiffs and the implementation of numerous reforms to OPD polices and procedures over a five year monitoring period. Reforms were to be made in the following core areas:
- Internal Affairs Investigations
- Field Supervision
- Management Oversight
- Use of Force Reporting
- Personnel Information Management System (PIMS)
- Auditing and Review Systems
On March 24, 2003 the District Court granted a motion for limited intervention by the Oakland Police Officers' Association.
On August 20, 2003 the District Court appointed Rachel Burgess, Kelli Evans, Charles Gruber, and Christy Lopez to serve as the Independent Monitoring Team [IMT] to oversee the reform implementation process.
Meanwhile, in other proceedings, state criminal charges were brought against four OPD officers for alleged crimes stemming from the Riders scandal. After a nine month criminal trial, three OPD officers were acquitted of most charges, with the jury deadlocked on other charges. The alleged ringleader of the Riders fled to escape prosecution.
On June 26, 2008, the parties stipulated that the Court's jurisdiction could be extended until April 21, 2010. The Settlement agreement expired by its own terms on January 22, 2010. On January 27, 2010, the Court issued an order that resulted from a Memorandum of Understanding that incorporated the terms of the 2003 Settlement Agreement between the parties, and allowing monitoring to continue until January 2012. An additional independent monitoring team was also appointed to issue quarterly reports regarding OPD's compliance.
On June 23, 2011, the parties entered into an Amended Memorandum of Understanding (AMOU), extending the terms of the agreement until January 22, 2014, with a proviso requiring narrowing and continuation of the AMOU if compliance had not been achieved by January 2014.
On September 15, 2011, in a Joint Status Conference, the parties acknowledged that progress toward achieving the 'Tasks' for compliance had ground to a halt. The Independent Monitor attributed the lack of progress to a failure of the City of Oakland to take the litigation seriously. Similarly, on January 19, 2012, in a Joint Status Conference, compliance was 'not in sight' and had 'stagnated.' The Independent Monitor's Eighth Quarterly Report (under the 2011 AMOU) reported that little progress had been made in the two years since his appointment. The plaintiffs requested a briefing schedule for a motion to put the Oakland Police Department into receivership.
On January 24, 2012, as an alternative to considering receivership, the Court conferred additional authority on the Monitor, requiring the chief of police to consult with the Monitor on all major decisions that would impact the Settlement Agreement. The Monitor was instructed to report to the Mayor and City Administrators any time the Chief took actions against his advice. If the City did not reverse the Chief of Police's decision, then the Court would hold a hearing to determine if the Monitor's recommendation should be implemented.
On February 22, 2012, the Court formally announced its consideration of the possibility of Receivership, and scheduled briefing. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for December 13, 2012.
In the meantime, the Independent Monitor filed his Ninth Quarterly Report on April 30, 2012, noting several particular problems with the conduct of OPD police officers during the Occupy Oakland protests. The Monitoring team was concerned about outsourcing police misconduct investigations, because it indicated that the breadth of complaints was beyond internal affairs' capacity, demonstrated a lack of confidence in unbiased investigation by internal affairs, and jeopardized compliance under sections of the original Negotiated Settlement Agreement.
The parties finished briefing the receivership issue. As described by Judge Henderson in an order on the matter, "Nearly ten years after the parties agreed to a consent decree that was to have been completed in five years but that remains incomplete, the Court was scheduled to hear Plaintiffs’ motion to appoint a receiver. After reviewing Defendants’ opposition to Plaintiffs’ motion, it became clear that Defendants did not dispute many of the issues raised by Plaintiffs, including Plaintiffs’ conclusion that Defendants would be unable to achieve compliance without further intervention by this Court. The Court ordered the parties to meet and confer to attempt to reach agreement on how this case should proceed and, following the parties’ request, referred this case to a magistrate judge for settlement." The settlement discussions concluded December 5, 2012, with an agreement for additional oversight by a Compliance Director, appointed by and answerable to the Court, who would have "directive authority" over Oakland PD, relevant to the existing consent decrees. The monitor was to stay in place, as well. While not quite a receivership, the Compliance Director was assigned very extensive authority, including to direct individual expenditures of up to $250,000, and to discipline, demote, or remove the Chief of Police, Assistant Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs (subject to appeal to the Court).
The Court approved this settlement on December 12, 2012.
In March 2013—pursuant to its order of December 12, 2012—the Court appointed Thomas C. Frazier as Compliance Director. Mr. Frazier first issued a Remedial Action Plan that May, addressing in particular (1) supervisors' failure to intervene in or report unacceptable behavior, (2) the lack of impartiality in investigations of officer misconduct, (3) executive leadership's inaction repudiating the previous two deficiencies, as well as (4) its neglect in proactively addressing them. Mr. Frazier, at May's end, next issued a Benchmark Plan, thoroughly detailing the priorities, goals, and timeframe for compliance. Finally, Mr. Frazier issued sixth monthly progress reports—July-December 2013—in the last of which he identified “[n]otable progress across a broad range of complex issues and projects continues at an acceptable pace.”
In February 2014, the Court entered an order consolidating the roles of Compliance Director and Monitor, terminating the appointment of Thomas Frazier (effective March 10, 2014) and giving compliance authority -- which it described as " broad, essentially receiver-like powers in areas related to the negotiated reforms, including procurement authority for individual expenditures not exceeding $250,000 and the power to discipline, demote, or remove the Chief of Police" -- to the Monitor. The Court explained that the bifurcation of the two roles had proven "unnecessarily duplicative," and "less efficient and more expensive than the Court contemplated." The existing monitor, Retired Chief Bob Warshaw, took on the new role. - 12/14/2012
David Postel - 02/10/2014