U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick said during a hearing Wednesday that the Oakland (CA) Police Department appears on track to accomplishing 52 tasks required to fully reform itself and end the federal oversight the agency has worked under for more than two decades.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is closer and brighter than it has been at any time since I’ve been sitting on the case, and I think that’s a result of the ongoing commitment of every important player to this process,” Orrick said. However, he added, “more work is needed.”
His words came a week after two civil rights attorneys who long pushed for reform of the police department stated in court documents they believe enough progress has been made to wind down the department’s oversight, the East Bay Times reports.
“After years of backsliding, there is real momentum toward substantive compliance with multiple outstanding … tasks,” civil rights attorneys Jim Chanin and John Burris wrote in their brief filed in federal court last week.
Chanin and Burris represent the plaintiffs in a civil case against a group of Oakland police officers known as “The Riders,” who were alleged to have beaten black residents, planted drugs on them and falsified records. Their lawsuit led to a settlement agreement that has required the department to report its progress in achieving 52 reform measures to an outside monitor and a federal judge.
The measures include documenting use-of-force incidents, investigating officers’ misconduct and eliminating racial disparities within the force.
Even if Orrick deems it has fully complied with the settlement agreement’s terms, the police department would remain in a “sustainability period” for one year to demonstrate it can maintain the reforms without outside oversight.