Oakland's police department has had its share of critics and last year a report was released by one of its top critics, which highlighted the numerous problem areas and reforms that had yet to be enacted. The report was written by Thomas Frazier, a former San Jose deputy chief, who has been appointed by U.S. District Judge Henderson to oversee the department's reforms, which should have been completed five years ago.
This appointment has granted Frazier unprecedented powers, which include the authority to not only spend city money but he will also have the power to overrule top commanders. This is all in hopes of getting Oakland police to fully satisfy reforms that were part of the 1999 Riders settlement.
Frazier served five years as Chief of Baltimore's police department, worked for 27 years in San Jose's police department, and from 1999-2001 directed the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Since 2001, he has headed The Frazier Group, LLC, a police consulting firm.
"I'm encouraged by the selection," said John Burris who represented plaintiffs in the Riders case. "I think we've got a very knowledgeable person who knows about the Oakland Police Department and should be able to hit the ground running. The report he issued last year really confirmed that he was unafraid to make tough calls about a police department."
According to the report, the department has neglected to meet standards when it comes to investigating its officers, reporting the use of force and tracking officers who exhibit potentially "risky" behavior.
Frazier also wrote that the department was not historically "a learning organization" where senior commanders focused on career development and training.
This past December, Oakland's leaders had no choice but to agree to cede significant power over the police department as part of an agreement with attorneys who represented 119 plaintiffs in a civil suit connected with the 1999 Riders police brutality scandal. The city risked Henderson ordering a total federal takeover of the department had they not settled.
The department has been in such a total disarray for so many years, between the many misconduct complaints, to the political strife to being under-staffed, one can only hope that Frazier has a plan of action that will cut through the chaos and actually be a benefit to the city of Oakland.