Thursday, January 7, 2010

Batts Demotes Two Commanders of Botched Raid

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts has demoted two commanders of the botched March 21 raid that left two cops dead. According to the Trib, Batts stripped Captain Rick Orozco and Lieutenant Chris Mufarreh of two ranks yesterday in the wake of a scathing independent report on their handling of the raid. The Chron reported that Mufarreh pushed for the ill-advised raid before a full contingent of the department’s SWAT team was in place, before an ambulance was on scene, and before attempting other measures to apprehend Lovelle Mixon, a parolee who had just killed two other officers. As for Orozco, he and then Deputy Police Chief Dave Kozicki, who recently took an early retirement just before the release of the hard-hitting report, quickly approved the raid even before setting up a command post.

Attorney Michael Rains, who represents Orozco and Mufarreh, called the discipline of the commanders “outrageous.” But the independent report makes it clear that Mufarreh and Orozco acted rashly and put officers in harm’s way unnecessarily. According to the Chron, Mufarreh didn’t believe that Mixon was holed up in the East Oakland apartment that cops had surrounded, despite receiving tips from two witnesses, and yet wanted to raid it anyway. And then when Kozicki questioned whether they needed a search warrant, officers told him they didn’t need one because it was “a fresh pursuit.” The independent report noted that if commanders believed Mixon wasn’t in the apartment, then it was illegal for them to raid it without a warrant.

As for Chief Batts, he deserves much credit for publicly releasing the independent report and acting on its findings. His actions should go a long way toward changing the dysfunctional character of a department that historically has protected its own at all costs. His plan to train officers to think before acting rashly and not putting themselves in positions in which they have to shoot someone or be shot also should help the department curb its long and troubled history of officer-involved shootings.

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