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Oakland Police fails to shield officers whistle blowing about wrongdoing

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POSTED July 21, 2013 10:23 p.m.

OAKLAND  (AP) — A court-appointed monitor said the Oakland Police Department is failing to protect officers who report internal wrongdoing, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the monitor’s 97-page quarterly report submitted to a federal judge last week says the department is not meeting the standards of whistle-blower protection that it agreed to as part of a legal settlement.

Oakland Police Sgt. Charles O’Connor is on medical leave after he said he experienced retaliation for reporting that his partner had beaten a drunken and handcuffed prisoner. O’Connor said someone hung a towel with tobacco spit on it outside his locker door and left crumpled papers about department regulations about retaliation around his desk.

Monitor Robert Washaw called the incident “the most serious” episode in recent years of internal retaliation within the department. Police experts say failing to protect whistle-blowers fosters a code of silence that leads to the toleration of misconduct.

The Oakland Police Department agreed to dramatic reforms after settling a lawsuit alleging widespread police abuse and misconduct for $10.5 million a decade ago.

As part of the legal settlement, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointed Warshaw as monitor and ordered him to submit a quarterly report to the court on the department’s progress in meeting terms of the agreement.

The report Warshaw submitted Thursday called the internal investigation of O’Connor’s complaints “weak” for failing to use all available tools, including processing evidence for DNA and fingerprints.

The Oakland Police said the report “reflects our recent strides toward compliance” in a written statement.

“We are dedicated to creating an environment in which officers feel secure in reporting internal misconduct and believe in a zero-tolerance stance in regards to retaliation cases,” the department said.

Trent Thompson, the officer O’Conner reported beating the prisoner, has been fired. Thompson’s attorney Michael Rains said his client is trying to win his job back through arbitration.

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