An investigation precipitated by the controversial reinstatement last year of an Oakland police officer disciplined at an Occupy Oakland protest in 2011, found the city attorney’s office typically handled arbitration hearings “haphazardly” and waited until the last minute to prepare for hearings or even assign cases.
The investigation lead by San Francisco attorney Edward Swanson released Thursday criticized the city for allowing undisciplined police officers to remain on the force while also lowering the morale of those who ascribed to higher standards of law enforcement.
“For years, Oakland’s police discipline process has failed to deliver fair, consistent, and effective discipline,” said the report. “Time and again, when the Oakland Police Department has attempted to impose significant discipline, its decisions have been reversed or gutted at the arbitration stage, causing the public to question whether the city handles disciplinary cases appropriately. The result is that many, both inside and outside of the department, have little faith in the integrity of the process.”
Oakland city attorney’s office, though, has improved its effectiveness in handling recent arbitration hearings, said the report, but “there is little evidence the [Oakland City Attorney] was taking action to address its poor record in arbitration before the court ordered this investigation.”
A lack of accountability, not only at the police department, but at City Hall, has exacerbated problems with police discipline, the report concluded. “The problems with police discipline are not just an OPD problem; they are a City of Oakland problem…But the Oakland City administration–the Mayor, the City Administrator, and the City Council–has not held anyone to account for these failures,” the report continued, “The city administration has done nothing to demand or enforce an effective discipline system. Simply put, it should not have taken a court order to focus the city’s attention on these problems.”
The report, however, found no evidence that Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker selected outside counsel for the cases based on campaign contributions, as alleged last year. Oakland’s city attorney, unlike most Bay Area city, is a publicly-elected. Parker is up for re-election in 2016. In December, the investigation was momentarily stalled, when Parker, citing attorney-client privilege, initially balked at turning over records to the investigator. Her office later relented.