Oakland to pay settlement for illegal search warrants

July 21, 2010 6:52:05 PM PDT
The city of Oakland has agreed to pay out millions of dollars because of mistakes made by the police force. In some cases, those mistakes were outright lies.

The $6.5 million settlement is the result of lawsuits over cops who reportedly gave false information in order to get search warrants.

More than 100 people had joined in that lawsuit. Some will get more money, some will get less -- it all depends on their cases. All of the cases came out in 2008 and the lawsuits claim the judges were given false information by the Oakland Police Department, in order to obtain search warrants.

Back in 2008 one Oakland home was raided by Oakland police. According to the complaint, police got in by telling a judge they had evidence that proved there were drugs in the house, but the search warrant was reportedly falsified.

Attorney's John Burris and Jim Chanin represented some of the people that were served with warrants. They say in some cases, police got the wrong information or addresses from their informants.

"Houses were being searched that were the wrong houses, even at the time they knew them to be wrong. People were being harassed in these houses," said Burris.

According to the suit, sometimes the drugs police obtained from informants were never tested -- something required in order to get a warrant.

Chanin says in some cases, women and children were treated harshly.

"We have all sorts of people who are as much victimized by drug activity as anyone else and perhaps even more so in the neighborhood where they live," said Chanin.

Police did not want to comment on the settlement, but this is what their spokesperson said in a prior interview.

"I just want to state for the citizens, we're the ones who discovered this issue through our internal affairs process. This wasn't something that was brought to us, we discovered the problem with the search warrants and we want to be as transparent as possible with the public," said Oakland police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason.

Some of the officers were dismissed. Others, according to police never lied, but were not properly trained.

The City Council handed the case over to their insurance company which means the city of Oakland will be responsible for paying the $2 million deductible and the insurance company pays the rest -- $4.5 million.

"In any settlement you are not admitting guilt or liability. What you are doing is agreeing it's a business decision, where you decide it is less expensive to settle a case than it would be to litigate or perhaps risk losing," said Oakland City Councilmember Patricia Kernighan.

Before the settlement goes through, it must first be approved by a federal judge.

Council members admit the $2 million is a lot of money, given these hard economic times.


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