From: East Bay Times
By: George Kelly
OAKLAND — Five Oakland police officers fired last year by the city police commission over their role in the fatal 2018 shooting of Joshua Pawlik have been reinstated, pending a new disciplinary hearing.
In a statement Wednesday, attorneys representing the officers said the commission’s discipline committee violated the Brown Act open-meeting law during the process that led to the dismissal of officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Josef Phillips and Craig Tanaka and Sgt. Francisco Negrete, who were involved in the shooting.
“Not surprisingly, the mad dash to fire the officers turned out to be completely illegal. Ironically, the group continuously parroting the word transparency violated the Brown Act, California’s venerable open meeting law. We look forward to finally getting an opportunity to reveal to the Commission and the public the myriad errors in this decision,” Rains Lucia Stern case attorney Harry Stern said.
Rains Lucia Stern founding partner Mike Rains also commented, saying that “by upholding the terminations based on these facts and this record, the credibility of this recently convened committee has evaporated,” Rains said. “These compounding series of mistakes clearly show both their misunderstanding of basic due process rights and the hasty manner in which the firings were handled.”
Oakland Police Officers Association President Barry Donelan also weighed in.
“Chaos continues at Oakland’s Police Commission where we learned today they don’t even know how to lawfully notice their own meetings,” Donelan said Wednesday evening. “It would be amusing, except their actions impact the lives and families of working people.”
Earlier this month, hearing officer Michael Gennaco had recommended that the officers be terminated over their role in the March 11, 2018, shooting of Pawlik.
The officers still have the right to have an outside arbitrator review the case. Attorneys have filed a suit claiming the city and police commission had no authority to fire them.
Four officers shot Pawlik dead during a morning standoff in North Oakland, where the 31-year-old was armed and asleep in a small space between two homes. Officers were trying to wake Pawlik up, yelling and positioned behind a Bearcat armored vehicle, when Pawlik began moving, a video the department released showed.
The Pawlik family’s attorney disputed the officers’ interpretation that Pawlik was about to raise the pistol on the ground next to him at the time he was shot. Pawlik’s family agreed this week to settle a civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland for $1.4 million.
According to an e-mail from Alameda-based law firm Garcia Hernández Sawhney partner Nitasha Sawhney on behalf of the commission, the discipline committee plans to hold a Brown Act-compliant hearing Thursday afternoon via the Zoom online-videoconferencing platform.
“If the Discipline Committee reverses or reduces the discipline for any of the officers, the officer will be reinstated and receive backpay for the period they were taken off of pay,” Sawhney said in part.
“If the Committee moves forward with a decision to dismiss, the officers will be paid for the period between when they were taken off paid leave through May 1.”
Oakland police declined to comment Wednesday night, deferring to the city attorney’s office.