In an order
issued today, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson demanded that the City of Oakland pay $100,000 to compensate the city's court-assigned police monitor — and to continue such payments until the court decides the monitor's work is completed.
Judge Henderson's order comes as a strong rebuke of the City Council's decision this past Tuesday night
, when it voted to not renew the police monitor's contract for another year. Instead, the council only extended the contracts for two months. Henderson called this "untenable."
The council also scheduled public safety committee hearings to review the monitor's contracts.
For almost fourteen years, the Oakland police have been under federal court oversight due to a misconduct scandal and lawsuit filed in 2000 known as the Riders case.
The court-appointed monitor's job is to ensure that the police department is implementing a list of reforms agreed to when the city settled the Riders' lawsuit.
Several councilmembers criticized the court-appointed monitor Robert Warshaw, calling his recent reports "cut and paste," and asking if taxpayer money is being wasted on his contract.
Henderson wrote in his order that the monitor is an officer of the court, and not subject to the council's decisions about whether or not to pay.
Furthermore, Henderson called the council's actions "suspicious," due to the fact that he recently announced he plans to retire later this year.
"the Court notes that the timing of the City’s defiance is somewhat suspicious, coming a week after the undersigned announced that he will be taking inactive status later this year. Defendants are reminded that the Court’s announcement does not diminish its authority, and Defendants remain obligated to achieve substantial, sustainable compliance as a prerequisite to ending court oversight."
"No one said we're terminating the contract," said Councilmember Desley Brooks today.
Brooks was the one who made the motion to delay renewing the monitor's contracts. She said the council's move has been misinterpreted by the media and court.
"I have a lot of respect of Judge Henderson," she said. "It was never my intent to circumvent him."
Instead, Brooks said the council is trying to become more involved in oversight of the police department, and the monitor's work. But she said that no one has read the current contract with the monitor, and there isn't currently any "vehicle" for the councilmembers to stay informed and help the court and the monitor carry out oversight of OPD.
"Instead, all the information we get is filtered through others," she said.