In 2009, the Oakland Police Department fired Officer Hector Jimenez after two fatal shootings within six months left superiors questioning his fitness for duty. This March, OPD rehired Jimenez on the orders of a labor arbitrator. Now, Judge Thelton Henderson, who’s overseeing the department’s ongoing legal troubles, is wondering why Jimenez is back in an OPD uniform.
The shootings in question took place in 2007 and 2008:
- Officer Jimenez shot and killed Andrew Moppin on December 31, 2007 in East Oakland.
- Mack “Jody” Woodfox III was shot and killed by Jimenez while running from a traffic stop on July 25, 2008.
It was the Woodfox shooting that cost Jimenez his job. An excerpt from Deputy Chief Jeff Israel’s statement to the labor arbitrator indicates why the shooting was against department policy:
“Woodfox was moving away…and it just didn’t appear to me that there was any imminent danger that was articulated….Grant[ed] that Hector said he could not see both hands. Someone running away even if he has his hands in his waistband would not be enough to use deadly force, so I don’t think it was imminent danger of either officer being in danger of lethal force, and so there would be no reason to fire on him.”
Jimenez, a rookie officer who graduated from OPD’s academy in February 2007, was released by OPD on June 4, 2009. The city of Oakland paid out $650,000 to Woodfox’s family to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, in March labor arbitrator found OPD had improperly fired Jimenez and ordered that he be reinstated with full benefits and back pay. In his decision, labor arbitrator David Gaba said OPD’s internal review had improperly found Jimenez in violation of departmental policy and opined that “sacrificing Officer Jimenez on the altar of public opinion” would not bring Woodfox back nor do justice to either the dead man’s family or OPD.
On September 2nd, the Oakland City Attorney, Oakland Police Officers’ Association and John Burris and Jim Chanin, who are responsible for the civil suit that led to OPD’s federal oversight, filed a joint motion in response to an August 25th sealed order from Judge Henderson. Though the contents of the original order are confidential and identifying information for individual officers is redacted, the document contains enough information to reveal Judge Henderson’s interest in the rehiring of Officer Hector Jimenez earlier this year.
Judge Henderson appears to want to discuss the matter in the next hearing on federal oversight on September 22nd. Neither Henderson’s stance on Jimenez’s rehiring nor his questions about the matter are not mentioned in the document. However, OPD’s inability to terminate Jimenez raises questions about the department’s ability to rein in officers engaged in questionable uses of force, which was one charge brought against the four rogue West Oakland officers whose conduct is responsible for the federal oversight.
In the filing, the attorneys respond to requests from Judge Henderson to determine whether matters related to Jimenez’s termination should be deemed confidential, and whether the matter should be discussed in a closed portion of the upcoming NSA status hearing on September 22nd. Under California law, all law enforcement personnel matters, including disciplinary and termination proceedings, are considered confidential.
Burris and Chanin argue that much of the Jimenez matter has been aired out in the media, the Woodfox civil suit, and Jimenez’s arbitration decision, which includes detailed accounts of OPD’s investigations of the July 25, 2008 shooting. OPOA and the city attorney argue that Jimenez’s identity and the particulars of the case should not be revealed in court.
OPOA President Dom Arotzarena had no comment on the court order, stating that he could not speak the requests contained in Henderson’s sealed order.
In regards to confidentiality protections provided by California laws, Jim Chanin said the city’s request to block access to documents and issues that have been public in civil court for years is indicative of law enforcement’s sway over the state’s legal system.
“We have a marriage of Democrats who are beholden to police unions and Republicans who are law and order, and they’ve combined to create a veil of secrecy around police issues that’s unprecedented around the nation,” said Chanin.