A federal judge ruled that the troubled Oakland, Ca., Police Department (OPD) can take a big step toward ending nearly two decades of federal oversight created after a police corruption scandal in 2000. U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled that Oakland can enter a one-year probationary period after meeting dozens of reform measures required in a consent decree under lawsuits related to abuses by members of a police anti-gang unit who called themselves "The Riders." Scores of victims in 2000 alleged the Riders routinely planted drugs on suspects and occasionally beat suspects, falsified police reports, made unlawful arrests and obstructed justice. A rookie officer blew the whistle; 119 victims filed suit, NPR reports.
For nearly two decades, a court-appointed monitor has overseen whether OPD is meeting more than 50 reform mandated actions. The monitors reports are then reviewed by a judge. While acknowledging there's much work remaining, Mayor Libby Schaaf and Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong welcomed the end of federal oversight as a sign of real progress. Critics say OPD's progress is fragile. They think the fact that basic reforms took 20 years is scandalous. "It's shameful. It's shameful that it has taken this long," says Rashidah Grinage of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability. "It only underscores the level of resistance to making these changes." Federal consent decrees like Oakland's remain a key oversight tool, despite limited evidence they're effective. Oakland has gone through 11 police chiefs in just over 20 years. Last year the homicides total soared yet again and the mayor called for reversing planned policing cuts.