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Arbitration Documents at Center of Controversy for Oakland Police Officers

Monday, December, 15, 2014

Attorney Edward Swanson has been granted broad power to investigate the city of Oakland’s arbitration process involving fired or disciplined police officers by a Federal Judge. At issue is the common reinstatement of officers by arbitration panels even if they have been terminated via due process. The new investigation was prompted by the recent reinstatement of two terminated officers.


Public records show that about half the time, arbitration panels reverse discipline or terminations in the cases of police officers in Oakland, and often adjust the level of punishment to less stringent levels. The city of Oakland has so far refused to release the documents behind these cases. The city’s attorney has cited attorney-client privilege as the reason these documents cannot be released, as they often reflect private discussions between city officials and the city’s attorneys.


Many involved wonder openly why the city, which is losing the arbitration cases, would resist discovering why their track record is so poor in these arbitration hearings.


Oakland, however, has countered by pointing out it has voluntarily released more than 13,000 documents and has withheld only 118.


The federal court raised the question of whether Oakland was adequately preparing for arbitration cases involving terminated officers, and cited two recent reinstatements by officers who used deadly force unnecessarily as examples of arbitrations the city should not have lost. The city and attorneys for the officers involved have suggested that it was the quality of the evidence, not the quality of the preparation, which was at fault.