OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) -- An Alameda County judge ruled Friday that five Oakland police officers were improperly fired by the city in 2020 and should be given their jobs back. They were involved with the shooting death of Joshua Pawlik.
Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said in his ruling issued that Oakland city employees "improperly manipulated" an outside investigator's report that initially concluded the officers were unjustly fired and should have kept their jobs.
The officers fatally shot Joshua Pawlik, 31, in North Oakland on March 11, 2018. Pawlik was armed and asleep in a small space between two homes. Officers rustled him from his sleep and said they fired at him because he would not put down the gun.
Four of the officers — William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Craig Tanaka and Sgt. Francisco Negrete — fired guns and Officer Josef Philips shot a bean bag.
Karen Boyd, Oakland's communications director, said in a statement that city officials "adhered to the letter and spirit of the labor agreement, and believe the Court erred in finding otherwise."
"We remain committed to ensuring our employees are afforded due process in all disciplinary processes," she added. She did not say whether the city would appeal the decision.
The judge said the city violated its own policies and it needed to rehire those officers with back-pay.
"I was completely shocked to be honest with you," said Howard Jordan, a former Oakland police chief and KPIX 5's police practice and procedures expert. "They attempted to change a report or change parts of the report to water it down to suit their agenda."
Jordan was asked if people trust the city on other employment cases.
"It erodes (their credibility.) There's a serious lack of trust right now," Jordan answered.
Mean, city officials released a statement,
"The City Administration is disappointed by the Court's order," the statement read. "We believe we adhered to the letter and spirit of the labor agreement, and believe the court erred in finding otherwise. We remain committed to ensuring our employees are afforded due process in all disciplinary processes."
Michael Rains, an attorney who represented the officers, said the judge's decision clears the path to allow them to either return to work for the Oakland Police Department or get retroactive pay. It's not clear what the officers will do, Rains said, adding that most of them are now working for other law enforcement agencies.
In 2020, the Oakland City Council agreed to pay $1.4 million to Pawlik's mother to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
"I do not believe that these officers deserve what basically amounts to a four-year paid vacation," said Kelly Pawlik, mother of Joshua Pawlik.
She said those five officers did not give his sleeping son enough time to understand what was going on before opening fire.
"They should've been terminated," she told KPIX. "This should not have gone on as long as it has gone on."
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