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Judge orders one-year OPD ‘sustainability’ period beginning June

A federal judge filed an official order Thursday that gives the Oakland Police Department one year to prove they can finally function without federal oversight.

It was well over 20 years ago when a rookie cop blew the whistle on the infamous Riders, a group of four former night shift officers accused of terrorizing the community by beating suspects, planting drugs, making false arrests, falsifying reports and intimidating fellow officers who challenged their misconduct.

Three years after the scandal was exposed, alleged victims of the Riders filed a civil lawsuit that prompted the federal oversight as part of a Negotiated Settlement Agreement. The oversight was originally intended to last just five years, but it took OPD nearly two decades to achieve “substantial compliance” with court-ordered reforms.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick signaled last week that he would issue an order placing OPD under what amounts to a one-year probation period that, if successful, would lead to an end of federal oversight. Orrick signed the official order Thursday, in which he wrote:

“The Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) the parties executed on January 22, 2003, contemplated that federal court oversight would terminate after the defendants achieved substantial compliance with all the provisions of the NSA and maintained that compliance for a year. No one expected that it would take more than nineteen years to reach substantial compliance.”

However, the judge praised the work Chief of Police LeRonne L. Armstrong, who has led the department’s recent efforts to meet reform requirements. In order to be released from oversight conditions, OPD must maintain substantial compliance, without any new scandals, for a period of one year that begins June 1.

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