The Alameda County Superior Court issued an order reinstating the decision of a City of Oakland official finding that the Oakland Police Commission’s firing of five Oakland Police Officers was improper, and that the City violated the Police Officers’ rights by not accepting that decision as “final.” The Police Commission alleged that the officers had acted in violation of Department policies when they mortally wounded a noncompliant suspect who had pointed a firearm at them.
Lead Attorney Mike Rains offered his thoughts about the case and this decision: “These officers were expected by the City to follow the law when called upon to make a split-second decision to use force—and they did exactly what was expected of them. The City’s repudiation of the well-reasoned and amply supported decision made by the person it paid and entrusted to perform that duty, coupled with its deceitful attempt to avoid the consequences of the decision, demonstrates the hypocrisy of a municipal government which expects its employees to follow the law, but manages its own affairs with a total disregard of the law.”
The officers appealed their terminations pursuant to City rules. The City’s grievance procedure required them to meet with the City’s Employee Relations Officer before going to a lengthy and expensive arbitration. The City’s Employee Relations Officer retained an experienced and respected lawyer to serve as her Designee, and render a decision about whether the terminations were lawful. The lawyer independently reviewed thousands of pages of reports, documents, and video evidence, and found that the officers used reasonable and lawful force and did not engage in any misconduct. The lawyer’s decision was the seventh finding that the officers used reasonable and lawful force. Prior to that determination, the Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division, Internal Affairs Division, Executive Force Review Board and Chief of Police, the District Attorney, and the Police Commission’s own investigative agency – ALL concluded that the officers used reasonable and lawful force.
Instead of complying with the lawyer’s decision as required by City rules, however, the City directed him to manipulate and alter his determinations, then refused to reinstate the officers. The City’s manipulations included directing the lawyer to replace the word “decision” with “recommendation,” and leave a “draft” watermark on each page of his report, and refrain from signing it, allowing the City to claim that it never received a “final” decision, despite having paid $160,000 in taxpayer money for the lawyer’s review and decision. The court rightfully found that the City, in fact, received a final decision, but “improperly manipulated” it in violation of City rules and State law. (Click to see court order.)
“The Court’s decision is a victory not only for the officers, but for all City employees who expect the City to follow the law and its own written procedures when it disciplines employees. The City’s acceptance of the decision that the Police Commission had no grounds to fire these officers should not have taken over a hundred thousand dollars in taxpayer money and involvement by the Court. Everybody suffers when the City and its Police Commission abandon the rule of law and honesty in civic governance. The City’s residents deserve better,” said Rains.