“[The] OCA has generally done a poor job of representing the City’s interest. For years, the OCA handled disciplinary arbitrations haphazardly, often waiting until the last minute to prepare for hearings or to assign cases to outside counsel, and showing little regard for the importance of police arbitration to the integrity of the entire police discipline process. While there have been notable improvements in the OCA’s handling of arbitrations in recent months, there is little evidence the OCA was taking action to address its poor record in arbitrations before the Court ordered this investigation.”
“In several cases, arbitrators have concluded that the Department focused its discipline on lower-level officers to the exclusion of their peers and superiors. In these cases, the arbitrators found the Department appeared more intent on demonstrating that it took some action in response to misconduct than on seeking to identify how widespread the misconduct actually was or how high up in the Department it reached.”“The principal finding of our investigation is that the City has not shown a sense of urgency or concern about its handling of police discipline cases,” concluded Swanson.
“Of 19 cases where discipline wasn’t upheld, arbitrators threw out the disciplines entirely in 11 cases. In four of the remaining eight cases, the arbitrators reduced the discipline to a counseling memorandum or written reprimand. Thus, 15 of the 26 cases that went to arbitration in the past five years saw the discipline of suspension, demotion, or termination reduced to written reprimands or no discipline at all.”
We are wholeheartedly committed to continuing to work with the Court to achieve our mutual goal of Constitutional policing, and that includes a disciplinary process that is fair, effective and holds officers accountable for violations.Update: 5:54
We recognize police discipline has been a difficult issue for the City over the years. We agree with many of the investigator’s recommendations, a number of which we implemented or addressed prior to the Court’s investigation, and appreciate the investigator’s acknowledgment of some of the work that we have done to address issues in the police discipline process.
Before the Court ordered its investigation, I conducted my own internal review of my Office’s handling of police arbitration cases when issues came to my attention including the timing of assignments of attorneys to police arbitrations.
As City Attorney I am responsible for the performance of the OCA, good or bad, and as we reported to the Court, I have taken steps to address the concerns that we identified regarding the handling of certain police arbitrations. These include reinstituting the Labor & Employment Unit, which has direct oversight of police arbitration cases; establishing a policy requiring retention of outside counsel well in advance of hearing dates; assigning additional in-house personnel budgeted by the Council this year to handle arbitration cases; formalizing an assessment process for each arbitration case after decisions are issued; and using additional personnel to closely track and coordinate police arbitration cases with the urgency they deserve
In response to the Report of the Court‐Appointed Investigator in Delphine Allen v. City of Oakland, which was released Thursday, April 16, 2015: we have reviewed the report and appreciate the seriousness of the shortcomings in the police disciplinary process that it has identified. We take police accountability very seriously. We agree with many of the recommendations for change made in the report and have implemented or are implementing several at this time. Some of the recommendations will require the approval of the Compliance Director before we can move forward. Our working relationship with the City Attorney’s Office has improved significantly in recent months and we believe the closer partnership will result in better arbitration results.See related PDF