By Paul T. Rosynsky, The Oakland Tribune –
OAKLAND, Calif. — A federal judge found the city’s police department in “serious violation” of court-ordered standards and procedures related to a decade-old misconduct scandal for allowing one if its officers to cover his name badge during an Occupy Oakland protest and then not reporting the act to Internal Affairs.
U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson ruled late last week that Officer John Hargraves and his supervisor Lt. Clifford Wong were in serious violation of a negotiated settlement agreement created in 2003 after the city was forced to pay millions of dollars to West Oakland residents who were mistreated by a band of rouge police officers.
That agreement, which stemmed from the “Riders” police misconduct scandal, mandates certain policies and procedures that must be followed to ensure the department does not repeat the misconduct it allowed to occur in the past. The city has struggled to comply with the agreement and is on the cusp of having its police department taken over by the federal government.
Hargraves concealed his nameplate with black tape during a Nov. 2 Occupy Oakland protest. A video recording posted on the Internet shows two protesters approaching Hargraves and asking why he had concealed his name which is a violation of police procedures.
Hargraves refused to respond but later was forced to remove the tape after protesters asked Wong about the hidden name tag. While Wong did not respond to the protesters’ questions, he walked over to Hargraves and removed the tape. But, Wong never reported Hargraves to the department’s Internal Affairs division nor did he tell the protester that he had a right to file a complaint.
Henderson ruled that covering the name tag and not reporting the officer to Internal Affairs were Class I offenses, meaning they were the most serious level of misconduct.
“It is apparent in this case that Hargraves and Wong both committed such offenses in violation of both departmental policy and the reforms mandated by this court,” Henderson ruled. “As the Court hopes all employees of the Department are aware, individual acts of serious misconduct are of the utmost concern and will not be taken lightly.”
Although Hargraves was suspended for 30 days and Wong was demoted, attorneys who crafted the NSA asked the federal judge to take action against the department because it did not follow proper procedures.
In his ruling Friday, Henderson found that Hargraves and Wong had violated a court-order but said he had yet to decide if he would find the two officers in contempt of court.
John Burris, one of two attorneys who filed the initial lawsuit against the department and helped craft the settlement agreement, said he will not seek a contempt of court hearing if both police officers admit wrongdoing and take responsibility for their actions.