Why Can’t The Oakland Police Department Comply With The Negotiated Settlement Agreement? Part III

Earlier this month, we started reviewing the last two years’ monitor reports and assessing the areas where the City has repeatedly been unable to comply. We blogged about these compliance problems here and here. Today we look at five more problem tasks.

Task 34. Vehicle Stops, Field Investigations, and Detentions

This is a documentation task, and the requirement is straightforward: for every vehicle stop, field investigation or detention, the officer must file a “stop report” that says why the stop was made:

1. OPD shall require members to complete a basic report on every vehicle stop, field investigation and every detention. This report shall include, at a minimum:

a. Time, date and location;

b. Identification of the initiating member or employee commencing after the first year of data collection;

c. Reason for stop;

d. Apparent race or ethnicity, and gender of individual(s) stopped;

e. Outcome of stop (arrest, no arrest);

f. Whether a search was conducted, and outcome of search;

g. Offense categories (felony, misdemeanor or infraction).

2. This data shall be entered into a database that can be summarized, searched, queried and reported by personnel authorized by OPD.

3. The development of this policy shall not pre-empt any other pending or future policies and or policy development, including but not limited to “Promoting Cooperative Strategies to Prevent Racial Profiling.”

So every time an officer stops anyone for any reason, he or she has to make a report saying why. Oakland citizens who have watched this process on ride-alongs report that the process can take as long as twenty minutes, often far longer than the stop. This requirement is designed to prevent racial profiling, and it’s impossible to argue with this goal.

For the third quarter of last year (the same quarter covered by the Monitor’s most recent report), the OPD Office of Inspector General audited the department’s performance on this task, and concluded the OPD was in compliance.  But the Monitor thought otherwise. The OPD is using an electronic form which includes a field for “Reason for Stop,” and presents choices from which the officer selectes one. Said the Monitor: “none of the options available for officers to select under “5) reason for the stop” clearly elicit or help to articulate an identifiable basis and/or authority for the stop.”

Tasks 40 and 41. Personnel Assessment System

The Personal Assessment System (“PAS”) is a risk management database system that includes all the statistics about the officers: how many arrests, how many sick days, how many complaints whether or not substantiated, etc. It tracks, and flags for investigation officers with excess complaints or excess uses of force, as well as excessive absences and many other potential indicators of problem officers.

This program, or something like it, is absolutely essential for a modern police department, and we do not question its importance. But it is a sophisticated technology requirement, in a city whose approach to technology is thirty or more years out of date.

In the third quarter of this year, the OPD was, remarkably, unable to report how many arrests its officers had made. It is difficult to determine from the report why this is. The monitor states only that it was “because of a problem of multiple counting of arrests when data from Alameda County are used in conjunction with the police data management system.” Because many of the key PAS ratios depend on the number of arrests, there was no way the department could be in compliance with this task.  And the monitor expresses skepticism about when compliance will occur:

Our concerns are amplified by the fact that the issue involves arrest data, which is the most commonly used productivity measure in policing. We are dismayed that at this point in the history of the NSA – and in the development of the risk management system in particular – we can neither report that the Department is meeting NSA data-related requirements, nor do we have confidence in the Department’s ability to correct this problem in a timely manner.

Task 45. Consistency of Discipline Policy

Here are the NSA requirement:

On or before October 6, 2003, OPD shall revise and update its disciplinary policy to ensure that discipline is imposed in a fair and consistent manner.

1. The policy shall describe the circumstances in which disciplinary action is appropriate and those in which Division-level corrective action is appropriate.

2. The policy shall establish a centralized system for documenting and tracking all forms of discipline and corrective action, whether imposed centrally or at the Division level.

3. All internal investigations, which result in a sustained finding, shall be submitted to the Discipline Officer for a disciplinary recommendation. The Discipline Officer shall convene a meeting with the Deputy Chief or designee in the affected chain-of-command for a confidential discussion of the misconduct, including the mitigating and aggravating factors and the member/employee’s overall performance.

4. The COP may direct the Discipline Officer to prepare a Discipline Recommendation without convening a Discipline Conference.

As can be seen, the requirement is procedural. Until recently, the monitor would quite correctly find noncompliance because discipline data was not properly being entered into the data base.

The data entry problem has now been fixed, but the City is out of compliance anyway – apparently because the monitor disagrees with some discipline decisions. The compliance level requirement is 95%. When the monitor reviewed 50 cases from the third quarter of 2011, he found three cases where he disagreed with IAD. That means only there were only 47 (or 94%) of the reviewed cases, so the department was deemed out of compliance.

Conclusion

As MOBN! began to dig deeply into the recent reports, our initial reaction (stated in our previous posts) was that the City would never come into compliance, and receivership was inevitable. We’re not longer so sure about that.  In our next two posts, we will examine two more matters We will look at how Oakland might achieve full compliance and avoid receivership. And we’ll look at the Los Angeles experience and see what Oakland might learn.

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13 responses to “Why Can’t The Oakland Police Department Comply With The Negotiated Settlement Agreement? Part III

  1. Don’t quite get what you are trying to do here. Why critique the NSA so very late in the game, just a month before the hearings begin on receivership? What is your policy position on OPD? That it does not need significant reform? Why would an organization badly in need of reform not benefit from some thoughtful change? You make the case that some of the Monitor’s criticisms seem petty, so why have you not queried the Monitor directly regarding this?

    Again, what is your goal here? What is your vision for improved public safety in Oakland? Or do you think things are fine as they are and the most important thing for us is to avoid receivership or any further outside influence? I think this would be the POV of the Mayor and the Council.

  2. I came into this artical late, thiugh have to say that MOBN! Is one of the first community groups I’ve encountered in my 20 years here that isn’t espousing a particular slant per Oakland and then using shrill verbiage insisting we all agree. Common sense and quiet deliveration are so hard to find in this city.

    Most Oaklanders including myself know little about the settlement except that it relates to 4 rogue cops who badly misused their authority.

    I’m curious who is the architect of the settlement requirements and if these have been tested and are feasible. Paperwork and be bureaucratic “reform” should never be an obstacle to public safety. We are already short staffed. Other police forces don’t have this problem. Good leadership permitted to lead good people never fails. Get rid of the bad eggs, unions be damned and get all the other cooks out of the kitchen.

    In between the NRA and OO is a huge population of “uninformed us.”
    So keep reporting and education MOBN.

  3. Forgive my typos….I have large hands and a small iPhone and I was on BART, standing up no less.

  4. Kevin, it’s worse than that. It’s possible that the NSA monitoring was based on a witch hunt for the wrong systemic problems at OPD. The city possibly (i dont know those details) might have gotten out of a bigger initial monetary settlement because of the awful litigation risks caused by two of the alleged rogue cops splitting for Mexico.

    One of the cops who stayed, was acquitted and even won a lawsuit against the city for wrongful termination.

    No doubt there were and are systemic problems at OPD. But 8 years later and close to 10Mill dollars paid to monitors, millions of dollars paid to cops to fill out cya reports, and no evidence that the monitors found and helped cure any systemic problem.

    The politicians figured it kept everybody happy: the Judge, the defense attorneys, OPD, and the monitors.

    Oakland pols see cops as a necessary evil instead of a crucial tool of public safety. Fine with most of them to waste millions on ineffective monitoring, excessively high benefits, and very high wages. The attitude of the pols is just to cut the number of cops to adjust for mismanagement and the NSA.

    You’d have thought the Judge would have opened his eyes a few years before OO to ask what’s taking so long in a small city’s police department to comply.

    Len Raphael, Temescal
    RecallQuan.com

  5. charlton holland

    Where does one get a copy of the settlement agreement, and the subsequent compliance reports. I suppose if I could just have the name and action number of the federal lawsuit that would do it.

  6. Pingback: Why Has Los Angeles Succeeded With It’s Consent Judgment While Oakland Hasn’t? | OakTalk

  7. Pingback: Oakland and Plaintiffs Settle Receivership Issue in Riders Case | OakTalk

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