Letters for the Week of August 7 

Readers sound off on eucalyptus trees, our Best Of issue, and Beauty's Bagel Shop.

"Oakland City Staff Under Fire," News, 7/24

Santana Responds

I am writing to express my deep concern about the biased, inaccurate, and misleading reporting in the article by Ali Winston. On several occasions my office has sent Mr. Winston factual information regarding the city's efforts to civilianize intake of complaints about police officer conduct that have been omitted by the Express in your reporting on this matter.

The article wrongly accuses me of "stalling civilianization" and being "slow to implement reforms," yet it offers no evidence to prove these claims and ignores factual information provided on two separate occasions that clearly demonstrate the opposite. As we have pointed out to Mr. Winston, the city council did originally approve funding for civilianization of the intake process two years ago, but due to significant budget reductions, they voted to postpone funding and implementation until January 2013, just six months ago.

The article also implies that I am mistaken for consulting the Court-appointed Compliance Director on this matter: "Both Quan and Santana have maintained that they need the compliance director's approval to proceed with civilianizing complaint intake, despite the council's decision to approve the changes two years ago."

I am not "maintaining" that we need the compliance director's approval; the requirement is clearly spelled out in a federal court order issued on December 12, 2012. Several months ago we provided you with a copy of the full court order, which contains several key provisions regarding the role of the compliance director: "The City 'will not implement any of the types of changes or actions identified in the January 24, 2012 order without the Compliance Director's direction or approval.' The referenced January 24, 2012 order states that: 'the Chief must regularly consult with the Monitor on all major decisions that may impact compliance with the NSA [Negotiated Settlement Agreement], including but not limited to: changes to policies, the manual of rules, or standard operating procedures; personnel decisions ...; tactical initiatives that may have a direct or indirect impact on the NSA.' 

"The Compliance Director will have the power to review, investigate, and take corrective action regarding OPD policies, procedures, and practices that are related to the objectives of the NSA and AMOU, even if such policies, procedures, or practices do not fall squarely within any specific NSA task.

"The Compliance Director will have the authority to direct specific actions by the City or OPD to attain or improve compliance levels, or remedy compliance errors, regarding all portions of the NSA and AMOU, including but not limited to ... OPD programs or initiatives related to NSA tasks or objectives. The Compliance Director will have the authority to direct the City Administrator as it pertains to outstanding tasks and other issues related to compliance and the overall NSA and AMOU objectives."

Civilianization of the complaint intake process involves policies, personnel decisions, and operations related to the NSA tasks and objectives, and it clearly requires the Compliance Director's approvals in keeping with the Court order.

Funding for this effort became available in January of this year, and the Compliance Director was appointed in March. The City consulted with him about this matter immediately upon his arrival in Oakland, and he has indicated his support of the civilianization effort now underway.

At the City Council's Public Safety Committee meeting on June 25, 2013, I read an email from the Compliance Director stating that he does not oppose civilianization of IA intake, but he sees that moving it to the Citizens' Police Review Board (CPRB) is divorced from the police department. He states: "Beyond that I think that there is a substantial problem having said intake be under the jurisdiction of the CPRB. If the civilians who are doing the intake are not to report to a sworn member of the police department, then perhaps it could report to the OIG."

Based on this input, as reported to the Public Safety Committee over the past two months, we have proceeded with civilianizing internal affairs (IA) intake and have deferred the transfer of intake until a work plan can be completed that addresses concerns regarding training, sustaining NSA compliance and other operational issues. The committee has accepted this information and implementation approach.

As we have pointed out on several occasions, civilianization of complaint intake is a lengthy process that requires a number of administrative steps that began well in advance of the compliance director's arrival. These include writing new job descriptions, meeting and conferring with the police officers' union as well as the civilian union, obtaining Civil Service Board approval of the new civilian classifications, obtaining council approval, establishing a salary range, and beginning the recruitment process to hire the new employees. As recently reported to the Public Safety Committee, the administration is on track to complete this process in November.

Equally important, our work has focused on making the CPRB and IA intake processes more congruent so that each are served with the same systems and processes, which will ensure fair, thorough, and complete investigations. Both the IA and CPRB have embraced this effort. We have recently offered to share our work plan with the committee later this year to show how serious and eager we are to improve our intake and IA processes. Our efforts to go above and beyond the initial direction demonstrate our sincere commitment to ensure due process for complainants and employees, and highlight the fallacy of your accusations.

The administration's progress on each of these key steps demonstrates a clear commitment to completing this important reform. The article offers no facts or evidence to support the claim that I am "stalling" or "slowing" the process, and I find it troubling that this paper continues with these assertions in the presence of countervailing facts.

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