Community activists cheered the Oakland City Council’s move to force a more transparent police reform process from the city administration Tuesday night.

The Council voted 8-0 to set a timeline for City Administrator Deanna Santana to complete the transfer of citizen complaints against OPD from the police’s discretion to her office.

Under the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, a court-ordered series of reforms that were mandated 13 years ago in the wake of the Riders Case, the city was supposed to have already undertaken the effort to move the Office of Inspector General and the public complaints process to under the city administrator’s authority.

The City Council’s vote on Tuesday was an attempt to hurry the administration along. The Council’s motion set an Oct. 15 deadline for the transition, as well as directing city staff to present a monthly progress report to the public safety committee of the Council.

Santana blamed the delay on a shrunken city staff and changes in the way that the city obtained approvals from the federally appointed compliance director, retired Baltimore police chief Thomas Frasier.

But as has been the case for years as the police reform process has dragged on, several City Council members and community activists accused the administration of intentionally delaying the effort.

“The fact that it hasn’t happen yet is a matter of concern,” Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said. “What we’re talking about doing should yield improvement in the quality of complaint intake and getting boots on the ground.”

Rashida Grinage, the founder and executive director of PUEBLO in East Oakland, was skeptical of Santana and Mayor Jean Quan’s excuse that the delay was a result of the NSA and the difficulties in getting approval from compliance director Henderson.

“The compliance director was well aware of this,” Grinage said. “If he had been opposed to it, he could have told the city to stop.”

Councilwoman Desley Brooks also noted the recent court order from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson that admonished the city for constricting Thelton’s attempts to monitor the reforms. Henderson accused the city of being “misguided.”

“The court issues this order – which should be unnecessary – to clarify its orders mean what they say,” Henderson wrote.

Though only a few audience members remained when the vote was cast – it was finally taken after 10 p.m., fours hours into the meeting – the ones who remained were jubilant.

“We were extremely satisfied,” Grinage said. “We weren’t sure of the kind of moxy the City Council was going to have in the face of some overwhelming arguments from the city administrator, but they showed real leadership.”


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