‘Anemic’ response to Oakland police Instagram scandal draws scrutiny

OAKLAND — Just when it was hoping to finally shed federal oversight, the Oakland Police Department has been slammed with a report highly critical of its belated response to the revelation that several officers posted racist and misogynist comments in an Instagram account.

The investigative report, filed last month in federal court by litigation firm Clarence Dyer & Cohen, LLP, comes just weeks after U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick made it clear that if he’s going to lift the two-decades-long oversight, the police department must show through its handling of the social media scandal that it has eliminated systemic racism within its ranks.

“OPD’s anemic response to the (Instagram) page bespeaks the need for a culture shift aided by robust anti-discrimination and social media policies,” the investigators wrote in the report.

Positive steps taken by the police department in recent years toward compliance with a negotiated settlement agreement (NSA) with federal monitors “have been temporarily overshadowed by evidence that some officers remain wedded to hurtful biases and a retrograde vision of policing,” the report said.

How the report will factor into Orrick’s decision in early January remains to be seen, but it’s already given some City Council members and watchdogs reason to doubt that much has changed in the police department.

“I do feel concerned that we are not taking this seriously enough in the department and administration,” Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said at a city council committee meeting on Tuesday. “It’s not just that people posted these hateful things online. … It reveals a core problem that we have not addressed.”

Orrick said in a hearing earlier this year the police department’s handling of the Instagram scandal will influences whether he deems to lift the federal oversight.

The negotiated settlement agreement stems from a lawsuit filed against the city two decades ago alleging that a group of Oakland police officers known as “The Riders” beat Black residents, planted drugs on them and falsified records. The agreement requires the department to report its progress in achieving 52 reform measures to an outside monitor and a federal judge.

The plaintiffs’ civil rights attorneys, John Burris and Jim Chanin, last month urged Orrick to end the oversight after saying the police department appeared to have made big strides in reforming itself.

But this week, Burris said the new findings have given them pause.

“The revelations were pretty stunning. Unfortunately, it caused us to rethink our positions, or at least think that more work has to be done before we could move into recommending that the NSA be terminated,” Burris said. “Part of the whole case was about changing the culture of the department — making it more inviting, with less disparities. This whole Instagram thing is sort of a dagger into that thinking of the culture.”

The city revealed some findings of the Clarence Dyer & Cohen investigation in September when it announced that seven current Oakland police officers had been disciplined over the Instagram account or for violating department online policies in other ways. Two …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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