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DA/US Attorney Reform 1: Prosecuting Officer Misconduct

Recommendation: The Alameda County District Attorney and US Attorney need to prosecute misbehaving OPD officers as needed in accordance with their mandates

The threat—even if rarely exercised—of potentially being prosecuted for willful illegal behavior is an important factor that should influence every officer’s decisions.  The Alameda County DA has—in fact—investigated Police Officers for criminal conduct (the Riders case and the BART police officer who shot Oscar Grant).  Nonetheless, many feel that the office could be doing more in this regard, and that making these sorts of prosecutions a higher priority would send a clear message to both the OPD and the Oakland public that impunity has no place in the Police Department.

The same sentiment is articulated even more forcefully for the US Attorney, who has so far been largely inactive when it comes to the prosecuting OPD officers for misconduct.

At the same time, the Alameda County DA has been praised by Public Defenders in the county for her office’s practice of independently conducting investigations into Police Officers’ personnel files, looking for criminal records or compromising internal affairs investigations.  Even though such investigations result in no repercussions for the officer other than to impugn his testimony as a witness, it nonetheless communicates a concern with the integrity of an officer’s character.

What – if anything – can be done to increase the threat of credible prosecution for serious officer misconduct in Oakland?

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