OAKLAND (AP) — Oakland city officials have asked a judge not to let its embattled police department be the first in the nation to be taken over by the federal government.
Citing that it is close to finally meeting court-mandated reforms stemming from a decade-old police corruption scandal, city attorneys made its case in a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
In a 30-page filing, Oakland's attorneys said that the city is aware the matter is at a "critical juncture" and that a federal receiver overseeing the department with the authority to fire Chief Howard Jordan and his command staff would have serious and drastic consequences for the city.
Oakland's attorneys also asked Judge Thelton Henderson to allow the city to appoint an onsite compliance director and a new assistant chief of constitutional policing to ensure that the department fully implements the reforms.
"The appointment of a receiver is neither legally nor factually appropriate at this time and could be detrimental to the goal of compliance," the attorneys said. "A receiver is not likely to provide a quick and efficient remedy here, where it could take months or even years for the receiver to understand the dynamics and complexities of the department, and even longer to bring about significant change."
The move comes after John Burris and Jim Chanin, two lawyers overseeing a settlement that include the reforms, asked Henderson for a federal receiver to oversee the department, last month. They argued Oakland city officials and the police have chronically failed to meet reforms
The settlement initially called for the reforms to be completed within five years. But the lawyers said high-ranking city officials have thwarted those efforts.
On Friday, Burris said he and Chanin have not changed their stance.
"It is our view that it is the failure of the leadership in the department to implement the reforms as such," Burris said. "The response by the city does not give the compliance officer the full authority to hire and fire command staff. Without that, this is not a sufficient enough of a change for us."
The reforms are part of an agreement reached with the department stemming from a 2003 lawsuit. Several rogue officers were charged with beating or framing drug suspects in 2000 along with other claims that resulted in nearly $11 million in payments to 119 plaintiffs and attorneys.
In January, a frustrated Henderson said he "remains in disbelief" that the police department has failed to adopt the reforms and threatened federal takeover of the agency.
"This department finds itself woefully behind its peers around the state and nation," the judge wrote in a scathing report.
Henderson increased the oversight authority of a court-appointed monitor. Jordan, Oakland's police chief, now must consult with the monitor before making important department decisions such as promoting and disciplining officers and changing policing policy and tactics.
Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan have reiterated that the department is making progress with the reforms as the city attorneys say the city has only 10 of 51 tasks left to complete.
But Burris and Chanin contend Oakland's time is up as the city already has been allowed two extensions and two independent monitoring teams, and has spent hundreds of thousands on consultants to help get in compliance.
A hearing on the motions is scheduled for Dec. 13.