The police department’s three deputy chiefs and 10 captains are no longer part of the Oakland Police Officers Association, after the City Council voted to reject an appeal of the city’s decision to remove them from the powerful union.
However, hours before the council meeting Tuesday night, attorneys for the OPOA sent Council President Ignacio De La Fuente a letter apparently withdrawing the appeal, saying it would not be in the interests of the entire membership to pursue it further.
But after hearing the advice of Chief Assistant City Attorney Barbara Parker, the council disregarded the letter because it did not explicitly say the union was withdrawing the appeal.
De La Fuente cast the only dissenting vote, saying there wasno need to deny an appeal that had been withdrawn. Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland) was absent.
All members of the new police management union have asked the OPOA and the law firm of Rains, Lucia and Wilkinson to represent them in negotiations for a new contract separate from the one covering lieutenants, sergeants and officers.
City officials said it made no sense for the deputy chiefs, as members of the police union, to be part of the city’s team working on a new deal.
In his letter to the council, union attorney Rocky Lucia said there was no evidence to support the city’s claim of a conflict of interest, and “to suggest that command staff members would compromise their responsibilities as managers is to certainly call into question their professionalism, integrity and character.”
In September, an Alameda County Superior Court judge blocked the city from removing the deputy chiefs from the union, saying they had not properly followed the law for such a move.
In October, the city adopted new regulations and started the process again while appealing the judge’s decision, according to Jonathan Holtzman, an attorney for the city who has been leading the tense negotiations for a new contract with the police union. The appeal is now moot, he added.
Holtzman said he was happy to have the issue resolved, which was one of many issues on the table during the contract negotiations.
Although the union’s contract expired in July, its terms and conditions remain in effect. The deal has been harshly criticized for being overly generous to officers and giving the union too much sway over assignments and shift schedules.