OPD chief holding officers to 'higher standard' as department's federal oversight enters final stage

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Thursday, June 2, 2022
OPD enters probation period ahead of exiting federal oversight
After nearly 20 years, the Oakland Police Department entered the final stage Wednesday to end its federal oversight.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After nearly 20 years, the Oakland Police Department entered the final stage Wednesday to end its federal oversight.

Since 2003, the department has been required to enact dozens of reform measures under the guidance of a federal judge and outside observers.

At the time, OPD was under heavy scrutiny after four officers known as "the riders" were accused of brutalizing people on the streets of some Oakland neighborhoods.

In a sit-down interview with ABC7 News on Wednesday, Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong called it a monumental day not just for the department, but also for the city as a whole.

RELATED: Oakland Police Department nearing end of its federal oversight after nearly 20 years

Armstrong said the department of today is radically different from the one of decades past.

"We're not going to allow people to work for this department that violates the public's trust, that violates our policies, that we're going to hold our officers to a higher standard," Armstrong said.

Recently, a federal judge determined OPD completed all the of the reforms set out nearly two decades ago.

This final step is a probationary period of one year...at the end of which, if successful, the department will be returned back to local control.

But not everyone is convinced.

VIDEO: Several Oakland police officers face disciplinary action following Instagram scandal

Seven current and three former Oakland police officers are under fire for social media behavior that violated department policy.

"We can look back to last year when they were mired in a racist and sexist text messaging scandal. We can look back to the year before during the George Floyd uprising," said James Burch, of the Anti Police-Terror Project.

Burch believes despite the years of oversight, OPD has not fundamentally changed.

He says, instead, he wants to see the city divert money from the department's budget.

"We're in a housing crisis in the city of Oakland right now. There are thousands of people on our streets that need critical support. So, quite frankly, when it comes to law enforcement, we think our money's better spent elsewhere," said Burch.

RELATED: OPD launches investigation into employees' alleged 'offensive' social media posts

Armstrong says he knows building trust within the community can take time.

But, he says, he remains determined to do it and encourages Oaklanders to take part in the process.

"True transparency is not just about releasing videos. It's about when you're changing policies that are going to impact communities, does community have a say?"

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