The Oakland Police Department is
staring down the barrel of a possible federal takeover, a potential action that
could have a huge financial impact on the city.
If the city fails to come into compliance with a Negotiated Settlement Agreement or reach a deal with the plaintiffs of the Rider case, Oakland could spend an ever-growing amount related to its police force. In addition, the lack of local control would be a devastating blow to community policing.
Oakland will likely foot the bill for any federal receivership. Already the department is paying millions to the federal monitors charged with overseeing the negotiated settlement agreement with plaintiffs in the case.
According to Oakland Police Sergeant Christopher Bolton, the city has spent more than $5 million on federal monitors charged with making sure the department is in compliance with the NSA.
Overall, the department's payout for claims and lawsuits has cost Oakland a lot of money. The city attorney's office said that in a four-year fiscal period, $18.3 million were spent on police payouts. The last fiscal year, 2010-11, was the worst at $7.7 million.
"This NSA has been very expensive for the city," Jim Chanin, an attorney with the plaintiffs said. "And if receivership happens, it's going to be even worse. Receivership will dwarf those payments."
Dec. 13 is the day when the city may find out if federal controls will tighten on its police department. Ninth Circuit Judge Thelton Henderson is overseeing reform measures spelled out in a 2003 agreement that settled the Riders police misconduct case.
Chanin said that he doesn't want the entire department to be taken over. Instead, diversions like OPD's Internal Affairs would go into receivership.
"We have no intention at all of asking that the entire police department be run by someone else," he said.
However the way it does shape up, the implications will impact community policing in Oakland.
"Think about how this money could be used to build a better relationship with the community," Nwamaka Agbo, campaign director for the Ella Baker Center said. "That's what is so disheartening."
Jeffrey Daniel Cash, a member of the Community Police Advisory Board, said that receivership could also tangle the already frayed relationship police have with the community.
"It could further disconnect OPD from the community and community control," he said.
Cash said that CPAB has not publicly held any discussions on the matter. OPD also has not approached the volunteer board about the receivership issue.
Also read: Federal receivership: The great unknown