Anthony Batts has only been the Oakland police chief for a year, which has prompted speculation as to why he is interested in coming to fill San Jose’s open position in the midst of a three-year contract he just signed. Batts is one of two finalists being considered by City Manager Debra Figone to become San Jose’s next police chief; acting chief Christopher Moore is the other.
A report by Ali Winston, a producer for KALW Radio in Oakland, suggests Batts might want to come here because Oakland faces a real threat of having its police department placed under federal receivership. The result would be a black eye on Batts’ mostly sterling record, despite his brief tenure in overseeing a department that was battling a multitude of issues well before his arrival.
Winston reports that a Negotiated Settlement Agreement signed in 2003, and originally designed to expire in 2008, has had the department under the watchful eye of independent monitor Robert Warshaw, a former assistant police chief in Miami. Reports from Warshaw, submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, continue to state the OPD is failing in its obligations to clean up its act following the infamous “Riders” scandal—which included allegations of police brutality and evidence planting—more than a decade ago.
The next report from Warshaw is expected to come this month, and attorneys representing more than 119 plaintiffs who filed suit against the city of Oakland for pervasive police misconduct said in a recent court filing that the OPD is unlikely to meet its goals and obligations once again.
Judge Henderson seems to agree with this assumption, according to a court filing he wrote in December.
“It is difficult to imagine that Defendants’ promises of substantial compliance in a few short weeks are grounded in reality,” Henderson wrote, adding that Batts should shoulder some of the blame.
“For example, the Court’s review of a use-of-force incident brought to the Court’s attention by the Monitor — who uncovered a video recording made by an officer’s lapel camera during a random audit of internal affairs investigations—highlights potential problems not only with compliance with particular tasks but also with the culture of the Department, up to and including the Chief of Police, who concurred with the investigative finding that the force was not excessive and minor discipline was appropriate only for the use of profanity.”
The OPD has said it is optimistic it will meet its timeline for reform on deadline, if given cooperation from the independent monitor’s office. The OPD’s attorneys argue in court filings that there are key differences in interpreting the independent monitor’s definitions regarding oversight, and that the department has also been hamstrung in meeting expectations due to heavy cutbacks in staffing.