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Oakland Officials: 9 OPD Officers Disciplined After Investigation into Racist, Sexist Social Media Posts

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Oakland city officials on Friday released a statement regarding a recent investigation into inappropriate use of social media by OPD officers that started last January, noting that a total of nine officers were disciplined as a result.

According to the statement issued by the city of Oakland, the investigation into social media use started in January after Oakland Police Department officials became aware of "an Instagram account that hosted deeply offensive content that was sexist, racist, and totally unacceptable to the standards of our community."

City officials also said the account posted subversive memes that criticized the policies and cultural changes that made the Oakland Police Department "a nationally recognized leader in progressive, constitutional policing."

Officials said the person behind the account seemed to be intimately familiar with the OPD, particularly its crime reduction teams or CRTs. Because there were clear indications that the account could possibly have been created by a current OPD employee, city officials started an investigation immediately, the statement said.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Ed Reiskin took immediate action, hiring a third-party independent investigator to ensure the integrity of the inquiry, the statement noted. The investigator was directed to determine the Instagram account's creator through IT records and learn "if any current Oakland employees had engaged with the offensive content and/or had otherwise violated any department policies."

According to the statement, the account holder's familiarity with CRTs led the investigation to start with all officers who served in those units, individuals located in specialized units, as well every officer in patrol and investigative units who intersected with those officers.

Investigators executed the unannounced seizure of over 140 work phones from those Oakland police officers and scraped the content and online histories from all of those phones. Officials said the investigation determined that the offensive account was created by a former Oakland police officer shortly after he was terminated for violating department policy.

"These cellphones were issued by the department, paid for by taxpayers and that means they don't have the right to do what they want with these department-issued cellphones," explained former Superior Court judge, LaDoris Cordell.

While the statement did not get into specifics or name the former officer, back in January, the OPD announced its own internal investigation about "allegations that current employees may have been involved on social media accounts that contain objectionable or offensive content" about the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Of the hundreds of online histories studied, authorities said the investigation revealed nine officers were found to have violated department policy. Violations included:

  • Accessing inappropriate material on department-issued equipment
    (including materials unrelated to the Instagram page)
  • Conduct that brings disrepute to OPD
  • Sexual harassment or other conduct in violation of Oakland's workplace
  • Failure to perform duties and responsibilities
  • Failure to report violations

Of the nine officers sustained for violating department policies, two have since taken positions with other law enforcement agencies. Oakland has notified those two agencies of the investigation's findings.

The nine officers who were found to have violated department policy ranged in rank from officer to Lieutenant. The discipline issued to them ranged from an 3-day unpaid suspension to a 25-day unpaid suspension.

"Sexist and racist behaviors are far too prevalent in our culture and have no place in our public safety institutions," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in the release. "I wholeheartedly and strongly condemn any behavior, including online communications, that supports or engages with sexist or racist tropes. I'm heartened by the unprecedented size, scope, and thoroughness of this independent investigation, which held officers accountable and created new policies that raise our standards and expectations."

In response to the investigation and in an effort to prevent such instances of inappropriate behavior in the future, the Oakland police department is instituting the following policies.

  • Review and strengthen existing policies for all department-issued
  • Create additional training for the appropriate use of department cell
  • Develop robust training to ensure no violations of the zero-tolerance racial policy that forbids any engagement with racist, extremist, or white
    supremacy groups
  • Require department employees to report all work-related social media
    accounts to the OPD Office of Inspector General
  • Require mandatory collection of all department social media account
    names and passwords by the Office of Inspector General
  • Audit content of department-issued technology at any time by the Office
    of Inspector General to ensure it is appropriate, work related, contains no
    inappropriate images or content and that the material does not violate
    department policy
  • Require that employees shall have no work-related social media accounts
    attached to their personal phones nor use personal phones for OPD
  • Require that employees shall have no personal social media accounts
    attached to their department-issued technology
  • Require the OPD Office of Inspector General to hold all work-related
    social media accounts and passwords
  • Develop cultural-competency training with Stanford University and
    deliver to all relevant staff
  • Provide outside expert to conduct additional sexual harassment and
    inappropriate behavior trainings in the workplace

The final investigation report was submitted to the federal court overseeing Allen v. City of Oakland. The Court will determine which parts of the investigation, if any, it will make publicly available.

Loren Taylor, an Oakland city council member told KPIX "I think it sends a very clear statement that racist, sexist and homophobic tweets and social media posts are not going to be tolerated and can't be tolerated here in Oakland."

Taylor introduced a zero-tolerance policy last June to erase racist practices within the city and the police department.

KPIX correspondent Andrea Nakano contributed to this report

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