Oakland, CA – The Oakland Police Department’s (OPD) new use-of-force reporting policy requirements have created such a paperwork burden that officers have been unable to respond to hundreds of 911 calls.
Under the new policy, which went into effect on Feb. 15, OPD officers are required to review bodycam footage and write up a report for any instance in which they used any level of force during that same shift, the East Bay Times reported.
As a result, officers have been holed up writing reports for an average of two hours each shift, while high-priority calls for shootings, assaults, robberies, and other 911 calls continue to roll in.
“If you had your house broken into and you needed a police officer to show up, it’s not uncommon now for someone to wait two, three days for a police officer to show up,” OPD Lieutenant Bryan Hubbard told the East Bay Times. “At the end of the day, the citizens are the ones who are truly suffering.”
The response times for other top-priority calls had been just over two minutes prior to the use-of-force reporting requirements.
Under the new policy, the response time exceeded five minutes.
Last week, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth told the City Council that the situation had become so dire that she has been “losing sleep,” the East Bay Times reported.
On Feb. 27, the citizen’s police commission finally consented to the OPD’s pleas to suspend the policy.
As a result of the unanimous vote, officers will be allowed to report low-level uses of force over the radio and in supplemental reports.
According to police records, a vast majority of the incidents that had been keeping officers bogged down in hours of paperwork were situations in which they used even minimal force in order “to overcome resistance of a person during and arrest or detention,” the East Bay Times reported.
In one such instance, six officers were stuck in the office writing reports after they restrained a mentally unstable citizen who was in need of medical help.
On another occasion, several officers who helped hold down a heart attack victim so that he could be rushed to a hospital also had to stay in the office to complete use-of-force reports.
OPD officers can now report those use-of-force incidents over the radio and in supplemental reports, freeing them up to handle emergency calls, The East Bay Times reported.
Oakland Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson claimed that no one realized the potential problems the new use-of-force reporting policy would cause.
“The officers were very frustrated,” Jackson told the East Bay Times. “I don’t think anybody anticipated this.”
The policy was implemented at the recommendation of a federal court oversight monitor, Robert Warshaw.
The federal monitoring began 17 years ago in the wake of incidents of abuse and racial profiling by a group of OPD officers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The federal court’s oversight was originally slated to last just five years, but OPD must also complete over 50 “tasks” and multiple subtasks in order for the oversight to conclude.
Jim Chanin, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case that led to the federal monitoring, said that pulling so many officers off of the street in order for them to complete reports every time they touch a citizen was an “honest mistake,” the East Bay Times reported.
“Sometimes you put out ideas with the best of intentions and then in practice they compromise public safety,” Chanin said. “It’s clearly not acceptable. I think it was an honest mistake.”
On Monday, former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick called for Warshaw to be fired, KRON reported.
“The reason the Oakland Police Department remains ‘out of compliance’ with the federal monitoring is not its officers or its policies and procedures,” former Chief Kirkpatrick declared. “Rather, it is because Warshaw, the monitor himself, who earns a million dollars a year from Oakland taxpayers, has no incentive to see those reforms succeed.”
The now-former police chief was fired by the civilian police oversight board without cause on Feb. 20, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
During her three years in office, the now-former chief consistently garnered positive feedback from city leaders, Oakland officers, and the police union.
“When I was hired, I was given a mandate to reduce crime, stabilize the department, shift culture [and] have police accountability,” former Chief Kirkpatrick said. “I have met those mandates. And I’ve exceeded them.”
Under the 60-year-old police chief’s watch, overall crime decreased each year with the exception of 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“The last three years of my tenure were the three lowest consecutive years of the lowest crime rate in 20 years,” she told KTVU.
So far this year, the city’s homicide rate is at a 64-year low, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Chanin – an outspoken police critic – was quick to compliment the former chief, and praised the 62 percent reduction in stops involving African Americans that occurred during her tenure.
“I think, obviously, they were trying to get ‘just cause’… and they couldn’t get it,” the now-former chief said of the Oakland Police Commission’s closed-session meetings. “So, I guess that’s why I got fired without cause.”
Former Chief Kirkpatrick said she is “outraged” by how the commission handled her ouster, and that she also plans to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation Warshaw’s oversight of the OPD.
The former police chief said she is disappointed that she wasn’t able to push the department out of the era of federal oversight, but reiterated that Warshaw has little reason to bring the monitoring to an end for the lucrative federal contract.
“It’s a million-dollar contract. Where is the incentive to find you in compliance?” former Chief Kirkpatrick asked KTVU. “When we look at the watchdog system you need to look at everybody because it has ties to government money that are being spent. I think someone needs to come in and look at the entire situation.”
“I am truly, deeply concerned about these 17 years of federal oversight,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Something is wrong.”