Oakland to Disclose Information on Police Misconduct

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In a progress report submitted yesterday to a US federal court, Oakland city officials pledged to start making summary information describing police misconduct investigations and disciplinary proceedings available to the public.

The disclosures will be made in twice-a-year reports that summarize information on police discipline, including the total number of police misconduct cases accepted by OPD’s Internal Affairs Division, descriptions of alleged misconduct, and stats showing how cases were resolved — whether officers received discipline or were cleared of allegations.

The report will not include any details that could identify specific officers, however, because nearly all record related to officer misconduct are exempt from the California Public Records Act, and virtually no police agencies voluntarily disclose police personnel records.

Importantly, the report will include information about how many police discipline cases were taken to arbitration, and whether or not OPD’s efforts to impose discipline were upheld, reduced, or overturned in arbitration.

“The City does not claim to have the perfect police department, but we are nevertheless proud of the progress the City has made, including the steps it has taken to improve the disciplinary process for police officers,” wrote Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Attorney Barbara Parker, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, and Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent in the status report.

The status report is the result of a court order in the Delphine Allen v. City of Oakland case, a 16 year-old lawsuit filed by attorneys John Burris and James Chanin that resulted in a negotiated settlement agreement (NSA) requiring the city to implement numerous reforms to address a pattern and practice of civil rights violations committed by the police.

Last April a special court-appointed investigator, Edward Swanson, issued a report slamming Oakland’s system of police discipline. Swanson singled out the arbitration process as particularly troubling because many Oakland police officers accused of serious misconduct have been able to overturn discipline imposed by the department, despite strong evidence that they violated department policies. Swanson’s report also took issue with the lack of discipline imposed on commanding officers who are sometimes responsible for causing police misconduct because they order officers to carry out actions that are outside of department policy.

In March, Swanson issued a second report finding that the city had made substantial progress addressing the failures he identified last year.

The Oakland mayor’s office will be in charge of producing the public report on police officer misconduct investigations and discipline outcomes. The first report is scheduled to be published no later than June 15.

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