Report thumps Oakland police over shootings


A trigger-happy Oakland police force shoots people who aren’t threats — sometimes in the back — without fear of meaningful discipline, according to a new report penned by court-appointed police monitor Robert Warshaw.

Warshaw has produced a series of quarterly reports since April 2010. His latest report — specially ordered by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in May — examined how Oakland police investigate officer-involved shootings.

The report looked at nine recent incidents in which police force were used, including two fatal shootings. All specific details on the incidents were redacted.

Remaining public in the 17-page report, though, was that some use of force was “not clearly justified,” with “questionable” use of deadly physical force:

“In some cases, we do not believe the evidence supports the existence of an imminent threat at the time the trigger is pulled. Of particular concern are those cases in which a subject is shot in the back.”

Sloppy police work in reporting incidents and securing crime scenes was also noted to have resulted in missed details and loss of evidence. One poorly-secured crime scene had as many as 80 people tromping around:

“No explanation is provided for the large number of personnel allowed to enter the crime scenes of OPD officer-involved shootings. Our review noted ranges from a low of 44 to a high of 80.”

Numerous other issues were pointed out with internal processes, including a lack of impartiality on the part of some investigators, and a lack of investigation into conflicts between statements and physical evidence.

Oakland officials including Mayor Jean Quan refused to comment on the report to the Bay Area News Group, while police union president Barry Donelan criticized the report, telling BANG:

“Police are struggling everyday to protect the citizens of Oakland against criminals who are heavily armed and aren’t afraid to use their weapons.”

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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