Oakland Police and The NSA: What Does The Most Recent Monitor’s Report Really Mean?

Local newspaper coverage of the Monitor’s Ninth Report on Oakland’s ongoing efforts to comply with the Negotiated Settlement Agreement contain multiple reports that compliance “has stagnated,” that the Oakland Police Department is that much closer to receivership, and that compliance efforts are moving backward.  Indeed, some of the Monitor’s language supports this reporting.

But not surprisingly, things are not all that simple.  In some ways they are much worse than reported, in others they aren’t nearly as bad.  Part of the problem results directly from ongoing City and OPD malfunctions.  Part of it is caused by overreach by the monitor and problems unrelated to the NSA.

But when all is said and done, it looks as though we are getting close either to receivership or to some other level of Federal Court supervision that is unprecedented in modern American history.  The Court has set a hearing on the receivership question for this December.  Oakland and its citizens may be facing the biggest challenge ever:  figuring out how to operate in a new, more costly and tougher environment while getting themselves past the NSA and making the City a safer place.

We’ve looked carefully at the latest report, and undertaken a detailed analysis (see tables after the jump).  But, put simply, there seems to be a combination of the following factors:  (1) a major problem with OPD’s Personnel Assessment System, barely touched on in the report but posing serious, long-term compliance problems;  (2) a collapse of the City’s review of complaints arising out of Occupy Oakland police actions;  (3) multiple violations of Oakland’s crowd control policy, which are cause for serious concern but are not violations of the NSA;  (4) at least two instances where the monitor declared the OPD to be out of compliance in the fourth quarter of 2011 while admitting there was no supporting evidence;  and (5) continued mission creep, in cases where OPD follows the letter of the NSA, but the monitors find non-compliance because they disagree with judgment calls made by the department in individual cases.

The citizens of Oakland are entitled to Constitutional policing.  They are entitled to a reformed police department and an end to the millions of dollars paid out in police misconduct suits.  City leadership needs to ensure that  the promises made more than nine years ago are kept, that the City brings itself into compliance, and that Oakland moves beyond the NSA.  But the citizens of Oakland are also entitled to live in a safe community.  And so far, no party in the Allen case (the Federal case in which the NSA was issued) is representing the citizens of Oakland and speaking for their right to be safe.

For those who would like more details,  we have a task-by-task discussion, and a chart comparing the 8th and 9th reports, after the jump.