Community losing confidence in Oakland PD

January 16, 2009 6:39:52 PM PST
One day after the Oakland Police Department announced two sergeants and nine officers had been placed on administrative leave and are likely to be fired, many people in the community say their confidence in the police is eroding.

More than 100 young people gathered at Niles Auditorium in Oakland Friday for a conference with the theme "Action Through Words, Not Weapons."

Conference organizer Brandon Santiago, 21, believes it applies to the Oakland Police Department as well.

"I feel trust has to be restored and repaired through dialogue and conversation and positive interaction between the police and the community," Santiago said.

The conference comes in the wake of a scandal involving Oakland cops.

The Oakland Police Department notified the two sergeants and nine officers it intends to fire them because they reportedly lied to judges in order to get search warrants in drug cases.

For many, the New Year's BART shooting is one more incident that has them questioning police in general.

"Right now I don't really trust them as much because it's not right to kill somebody innocent," 13-year-old Obasi Davis said.

The head of the Oakland Mentoring Group, which works with young people at risk, said regaining the public's confidence will not be a quick fix for police.

"There needs to be a sense that justice is going to be served, that there's accountability and responsibility by police departments and by the government," Celsa Snead said.

Oakland police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason said that is exactly what has happened in the aftermath of the warrant scandal.

"We have new training bulletins about search warrants and we're going to give every officer in the department training on search warrants to make sure this situation doesn't happen," Thomason said.

Thomason also said more checks against police corruption were initiated after the so-called "Riders Scandal" four years ago.

Three officers were eventually cleared of framing and beating drug suspects then falsifying reports, but the scandal cost Oakland millions in a civil court settlement.

The federal court also ordered the police department to improve its procedures for investigating police abuses.

"Right now we investigate every complaint that comes across our department," Thomason said. "Last year we investigated close to 1,700 complaints."

The Riders settlement also established an independent monitoring team to make sure police investigations are done correctly.

A dozen cases have been thrown out because of this latest warrant scandal, with the possibility that more may be dismissed.