OAKLAND — A federal judge has ordered city officials to negotiate with two lawyers who want the embattled Oakland Police Department to become the first in the nation to be taken over by the federal government.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ordered the city to talk with attorneys who represent plaintiffs in a decade-old police corruption scandal.
Henderson gave both sides until Nov. 29 to outline areas of agreement, the Oakland Tribune reported Thursday.
The order came nearly a week after Oakland city attorneys urged Henderson to keep the department from going into federal receivership.
The attorneys instead pushed for the city to appoint an onsite compliance director and a new assistant chief of constitutional policing to ensure the department fully implements reforms.
Last month, lawyers John Burris and Jim Chanin, who are overseeing a previous settlement in the case, said city officials and police have chronically failed to implement reforms that were supposed to be in place in five years.
“I cannot have our clients or our future clients subjected to the kind of mass harassment that goes on at OPD because the command staff is not doing its job,” Chanin told the newspaper.
Chanin said he would reconsider the receivership proposal only if city leaders reverse course and take verifiable steps to make police commanders fully accountable.
“I need something close to a guarantee that these kinds of systemic problems won’t continue,” Chanin said.
If a receiver is appointed, Oakland would become the first U.S. city to lose substantial power over its police.
The reforms were reached as part of a 2003 lawsuit involving several rogue officers, known as the “Riders,” who were charged with beating or framing drug suspects in 2000. Other police abuse claims resulted in nearly $11 million in payments to 119 plaintiffs and attorneys.
Henderson said in January that he “remains in disbelief” that police had failed to adopt the reforms, and he threatened federal takeover of the department.
A key sticking point remains whether a federal receiver would have the power to discipline and fire Police Chief Howard Jordan and his command staff. The city has refused to relinquish that authority.
Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan insist the department is making progress with the reforms. Attorneys for the city say it has only a few tasks left to complete.
But Burris and Chanin contend Oakland’s time is up. They say the city already has been allowed two extensions and two independent monitoring teams while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants to help get in compliance.
A hearing on the last motions in the case is scheduled for Dec. 13.