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Monitor: Oakland PD still regressing on reforms

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A federal court monitor said that the Oakland police department's decade-old reform effort continues to backslide.

Robert Warshaw said in a report released Thursday that the department for the second straight quarter is declining in terms of reforming, especially when it comes to investigating complaints against the department and reporting the misconduct of fellow officers.

Warshaw criticized the department's handling of complaints resulting from the department's handling of Occupy Oakland protests and faulted rank-and-file officers for refusing to help investigators identify their colleagues who may have abused demonstrators.

“The shift from stagnation to decline should be as unacceptable to all parties, as it is to us,” Warshaw said in his report. However, Warshaw did mention that the department was improving tracking potentially troubling behavior by officers.

In October, Police Chief Howard Jordan said he was seeking to fire two officers, demote a third and suspend 15 other officers because of their treatment of Occupy protesters.

Warshaw has been monitoring the reforms as part of a settlement stemming from a police brutality lawsuit in 2003 amid claims that several rogue officers, known as “The Riders,” beat or framed drug suspects in 2000.

The claims resulted in nearly $11 million in payments to 119 plaintiffs and attorneys.

The reforms were to have been completed five years ago, but Warsaw says the department is still not in full compliance with 11 of the 51 assigned tasks, two more than the last quarter. One of those unfinished tasks includes documenting of the use of force by officers.

Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said Thursday that Warshaw is acting like an “armchair quarterback” in his criticism of officers in relation to the occupy protests. Donelan added that it was unfair of Warshaw to expect officers to be keep tabs on each other under such dangerous circumstances.

“It's very nice to armchair quarterback a violent situation where officers were faced with a mob intent on injuring and hurting them, the citizens of Oakland and destroying this city's downtown,” Donelan said.

Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana said in a joint statement Thursday they “respectfully disagree” with some of Warshaw's findings as they await a federal judge's decision on a soon-to-be hired independent compliance director to ensure they complete the reforms.

“We plan to continue working through our concerns with his team in February, and we look forward to doing that work together,” the city officials said. “We hear and respect the frustration from those who simply want these reforms done, and we remain dedicated and energized as we continue to build our compliance efforts.

“Our disagreements do nothing to lessen our resolve, and we take that responsibility head-on.”

In his report, Warshaw said he was disturbed in which two officers pointed their guns at a sleeping toddler while investigating a misdemeanor case. He did not elaborate further.

But Oakland police late Thursday disputed the account and said in a written statement that in July, the officers were conducting a search warrant at the home of a known drug dealer.

“Officers moved through the interior of the residence and encountered a sleeping toddler; they immediately recognized that no threat existed, continued their search, and ultimately ensured that the child was united with a caregiver,” police said in a statement. “At no time did officers intentionally target the child or hold them at gunpoint.”

However, attorney John Burris, one of two lawyers overseeing the settlement and reforms, said Thursday that he anticipated another biting report from the federal court monitor.

“Not surprised but disappointed, the report confirms the need for compliance director,” Burris said. “Hopefully the Judge will make the appointment soon.”

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