Oakland Mayor Defends Civilian Overseeing Police

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — A group in charge of establishing law-enforcement standards walked back its comments that Oakland’s mayor broke the law when she appointed the city manager to oversee the police department.
     After cycling through three police chiefs in nine days, embattled Mayor Libby Schaaf appointed City Administrator Sabrian Landreth as the person in charge of administration matters at the department.
     Officials at the Police Officers Standards and Training Agency, or POST, responded with Schaaf’s proposed new hierarchy by saying California state law prohibited police departments from functioning without an acting police chief.
     The organization executed an about-face after Schaaf fired back, asserting a POST public information officer confused a section of California Code that applied to general-law cities with laws that apply to charter cities like Oakland.
     “The leadership arrangement of the Oakland Police Department announced on Friday is proper, complies with POST regulations and remains in effect,” Schaaf said in a statement on Friday. “As was stated Friday, ‘tactical and operational decisions will remain with the OPD commanders as they always have. Administrative and personnel decisions will come directly to the city administrator.'”
     In this particular case, Acting Assistant Chief of Police David Downing is in charge of the tactical and operational aspects of the department as the city begins its hunt for a permanent replacement for former Chief Sean Whent.
     Whent stepped down less than two weeks ago amid allegations that as many as a dozen Oakland police officers had sex with a teenager and that they tipped off the teenager as to the location and times of various prostitution stings.
     He was replaced by Ben Fairow — the chief of Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, police — who lasted all of six days.
     Speculation has emerged that Fairow was ousted after he admitted to an affair. OPD’s Assistant Chief Paul Figueroa was then anointed as the acting chief, but he stepped aside after only two days at the helm.
     Schaaf issued scathing comments about the OPD in a Friday press conference, comparing it to a “frat house” as more controversies, including racist text messages sent by police officers, continue to emerge.
     Critics continue to question Schaaf’s handling of the rash of firings, resignations and aborted appointments at the top of the police department.
     “Your incendiary comment about a ‘horrible frat boy culture’ in OPD is unforgivable,” Oakland resident Steve Heimoff said on the mayor’s Facebook page.
     Schaaf said she maintains the department has made progress in terms of reform, but the scandal has marred that progress and cast the vast majority of police officers in a negative light.
     “I am determined to root out a culture that tolerates unethical behavior,” she said.
     The city’s police department has been on shaky ground for a decade, after a federal judge ruled in favor of citizens who claimed a group of four OPD officers kidnapped people, assaulted them, planted evidence and engaged in other scurrilous behavior.
     As a result of Allen v. City of Oakland, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson was appointed to oversee mandatory reforms in the police department. While monthly reports indicated progress was being made, the judge in March issued an order citing violations in the internal affairs investigations of the sex scandal.
     The department has also been criticized for heavy-handed tactics on protestors and its role in several fatal police shootings.

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