Henry Lee, 05/18/13
The only two Oakland police supervisors disciplined for their decisions on the day four officers were shot and killed in 2009 were unjustly demoted and will have their ranks restored, an arbitrator has ruled.
Capt. Rick Orozco was demoted two ranks to sergeant and Lt. Chris Mufarreh to officer after they were faulted by the department for an ill-conceived SWAT raid on an apartment building on 74th Avenue in East Oakland in which Sgts. Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai were killed.
The two SWAT veterans were shot dead by parolee Lovelle Mixon on March 21, 2009, about two hours after Mixon had gunned down motorcycle officers Sgt. Mark Dunakin and John Hege during a traffic stop at 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.
Mixon was killed in the ensuing gunbattle with police.
In a 124-page ruling released Thursday, arbitrator Paul Greenberg agreed with the department that Orozco and Mufarreh had made some mistakes.
But Greenberg said their demotion was “unfair and unbalanced” and “has the appearance of the department needing to hold someone individually accountable for the tragic deaths of Sgts. Romans and Sakai, but not considering the possibility that senior-level management decisions also contributed to the chain of events.”
He ordered the department to restore both men’s ranks and ruled that the two must receive full back pay, benefits and seniority.
Officer Johnna Watson, Oakland police spokeswoman, said the department would comply with the ruling.
Attorney Michael Rains, who represents Orozco and Mufarreh, said Friday that the ruling underscores his belief that police higher-ups have routinely “pointed the finger downward” and that there was a “lack of ethical and responsible leadership at the very highest level.”
On the day of the killings, Mufarreh was among the first mid-level officers to arrive in the aftermath of the slayings of Dunakin and Hege.
An investigative report by outside law enforcement experts found that in the absence of any command leadership in the hunt for the suspected killer, Mufarreh “self-assigned” himself the job. He ordered up the “ad hoc” SWAT raid on the building where tipsters said Mixon had fled, the report said.