In our previous post, we gave a brief history of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). Here, we’ll look at the costs and what can be done to get the Oakland Police Department out from under oversight.
How much does the NSA cost Oakland?
In 2015, Rashidah Grinage, from the Coalition for Police Accountability, filed a Public Records Act request with the City of Oakland, asking for all data on the cost of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement. Paula Hawthorn, who serves on the board of Make Oakland Better Now! and is a member of the Coalition, analyzed that data, and found that from 2003 until the time of the request, the total spent had been about $30,000,000.
But there were also ongoing costs. For the year 2014 alone, the costs were:
- $940,000 paid to Police Performance Solutions (Chief Warshaw’s company) for Monitoring Services.
- $263,000 paid to Warshaw Associates Inc for Compliance Director Services.
- $172,000 paid to DLA Piper, representing the City of Oakland.
- $88,000 paid to Elite Performance Assessment Consultants, for Audit Services. (On their website, they list as among their expertise the auditing of police department policies to see if they conform to consent decrees.)
- $68,000 to James B Chanin Esq. by Court Order. (Jim Chanin is one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. There is no notation as to what this is for.)
- $21,000 for Monitor Office Space
- $2,500 to Stanford University for Subject Matter Expert. (This was the beginning of the Eberhardt study, and those costs have gone up each subsequent year.)
So, for 2014 alone, the cost was about $1,550,000. This amount will only have gone up in the intervening years.
Why is it taking so long?
There are three possible reasons that it is taking so long.
1) Chief Warshaw’s group makes at least a million dollars a year from this contract, and that money will stop if they find that OPD is in compliance, so they have no incentive to find the OPD in compliance, which leads to moving the goalposts, adding requirements for compliance that were never in the original NSA.
One example: Before 2016, OPD retained Stanford’s Jennifer Eberhardt and her group to make recommendations to mitigate racial disparities and improve police-community relations. This engagement was something the department did because it wanted to improve; it was not required by the NSA. In the groups’ 2016 “Strategies for Change,” the Eberhardt group made 50 recommendations, all of which are positive and none of which are immediately accomplishable. Chief Warshaw’s group has demanded that all 50 recommendations be completed, and even though they are not included in the NSA, will treat OPD as out of compliance until completion occurs.
We can expect that if OPD undertakes any other systematic improvements, whether or not included in the NSA, that Chief Warshaw will report OPD to be out of compliance until those improvements are completed. .
2) It is obvious, given the wide powers Chief Warshaw was given in 2012, that he could have ordered that, for instance, officers flagged by the PAS system be reassigned, etc. But he has not. Why not? His reports continue to harp on issues he has the power to change. For example, in the latest report, he says the specifications for the changes to PRIME, the Personnel Assessment System, are “too vague,” yet he has the power to direct that better specifications be done.
3) At the latest case management conference, Chief Anne Kirkpatrick observed that Judge Orrick had told OPD officers the NSA was “not about checking boxes, but about changing hearts.”
But in many ways the NSA was about checking boxes. The original agreement was very clear about specific, measureable goals. Now that it is about “changing hearts,” how do we measure and account for change? How long does this type of “transformation” take for any agency or group of people? Has any department “changed hearts” under court supervision? We suspect not.
To complete the NSA tasks and get out from oversight, we may need personnel to change — Judge Orrick could fire Warshaw and hire a replacement who sets goals that are measurable and achievable — or we may need the process to change.
The quarterly progress reports put out by OPD’s Office of the Inspector General should serve as a model for what we should expect from the NSA Monitor’s/Compliance Director’s reports going forward.
In a section titled Internal Affairs: Process for Handling Citizens’ Complaints Alleging Racial and/or Identity Profiling (page 31) there are clear statements of the problem and a recommended solution.
When asked what police department in the U.S. can be used as a model for the OPD — what police department is, in fact, free of racial bias, has a good computerized personnel assessment system (with embedded video from the personal recording devices), and has a good process for disciplining officers flagged by the computerized personnel assessment system — Chief Warshaw said that there are none. He stated that the goal for OPD is to be the best in the nation.
Stanford’s Jennifer Eberhardt, when asked for an example of a city that had implemented even 10 of her 50 recommendations — or a city that had implemented 10 recommendations and saw a drop in profiling statistics —could give no example.
This is a difficult task. Maybe our $1.5 million a year is well spent, trying to get the fairest, most equitable and most community-oriented police department in the nation. Or maybe it could be better spent toward the same goal, if we had a better monitor or a better process.