OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — City officials have agreed to relinquish broad power over the embattled Oakland Police Department to a court-appointed director to avert what would be an unprecedented federal takeover.
As part of a tentative deal announced Wednesday, the compliance director could seek approval from a judge to fire the police chief.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson could approve the deal at a hearing next week. He demanded last month that the parties reach some sort of agreement now that a decade has passed since a federal judge ordered reforms to settle a police brutality lawsuit.
The agreement allows the department to avoid the “stigma” of being under federal receivership, said attorney John Burris, who has been overseeing the brutality lawsuit settlement with fellow lawyer Jim Chanin.
However, Burris said the department will still be under some federal control.
“It is a good proposal and it has some teeth to it,” he said. “We really wanted to have someone in place outside of the city with the authority to remove the chief and or his command staff. … It speaks to the accountability of the Police Department and its officers.”
Police Chief Howard Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan told reporters Wednesday that they also were pleased with the deal and believe it moves the department forward.
Last month, attorneys for Oakland asked the judge to allow the city to appoint an onsite compliance director.
“I think everyone at that table wants OPD to be at the forefront in terms of leading constitutional policing and building and supporting and maintaining public trust,” Jordan said.
Quan added, “This is something that we want. Oakland has a stake in making sure that the community trusts the department.”
Oakland’s deal is close to being a receivership, which would have given federal officials full control of the department, said Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford University. However, under the agreement, the city will have a say in choosing a compliance director.