Reuters’ Dan Levine has an exclusive interview with Judge Thelton Henderson, who, at least in the criminal justice world, has had an incredible historical impact on California. Henderson oversaw the Pelican Bay Prison conditions case, the case that’s placed the Oakland Police Department under court monitoring, and the case that has the state completely overhauling its prison system in the wake of massive overcrowding.
Judge Thelton Henderson
By Nicole Jones
The number of incarcerated Americans who are over the age of 65 grew by more than 90 times the rate of the total prison population from 2007-2010, according to a report released last Friday by Human Rights Watch. Across the country, the number of older inmates increased by 63 percent while the number of all inmates rose by just .07 percent. California inmates over the age of 50 increased from 4 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2010.
The average national annual healthcare cost per prisoner is $5,482. But for prisoners aged 55-59 it’s closer to $11,000, and for prisoners age 80 or over, $40,000.
Occupy Oakland made a a peaceful return to Frank Ogawa Plaza last night following a march by several hundred from the Public Library on 14th and Madison to City Hall. Despite holding a packed General Assembly in the amphitheater, dozens of Oakland Police positioned throughout the plaza and the surrounding streets deterred any attempts to set up tents or permanently retake the plaza.
Dealing with Occupy Oakland over the past month and a half has been a costly affair for OPD. Aside from the $2.4 million in police overtime and mutual aid payments, the hundreds of excessive force complaints following the use of tear gas and less-lethal projectiles against demonstrators on October 25th and a lawsuit alleging violations of crowd control policy, the protests are draining manpower from street patrols. And Oakland’s violent year shows no sign of letting up. Continue reading
UPDATE: Sure enough, Chief Howard Jordan said this evening that the Independent Monitor will look into allegations of force used against protesters.
Among the myriad troubles facing the city of Oakland right now is a question of how the federal court that’s currently overseeing Oakland’s police department will view the city’s aggressive response to Occupy Oakland. In 2003, after a group of rogue West Oakland officers, now known as the “Riders” were accused of planting evidence and beating suspects, the department agreed to a number of reforms as part of a negotiated settlement. That consent decree has been extended twice, as the court and its independent monitoring team have repeatedly chastised the department for not adequately progressing on required reforms. In a recent hearing, Judge Henderson went as far as threatening the department with federal receivership if it doesn’t make progress. Oakland officials have repeatedly said they’re taking steps to avoid receivership, but the city’s handling of Occupy Oakland is sure to draw the court’s attention.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan got her first look up close at the Oakland Police Department’s long-running federal oversight, as U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson yet again criticized OPD for its failure to fully comply with court-mandated reforms. In 2003, OPD entered into a consent decree with attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin, who represented over one hundred plaintiffs alleging civil rights abuse by four corrupt West Oakland officers known as the Riders.
The Negotiated Settlement Agreement, as it is known, has been extended twice since it was originally set to expire in 2008. In his remarks to the court this morning, Judge Henderson blamed the department for an “attitude of resistance” to the NSA and said that OPD’s standards and practices lag behind those of modern police departments.
“Despite eight years of monitoring, during the first two years absolutely nothing was done,” Judge Henderson said, adding that the systemic problems the NSA was designed to address have yet to be resolved.
“There is going to be ramped-up participation of this court,” Henderson said. The Judge did not specify what form that intervention would take: the court already receives multiple reports per month from the Independent Monitoring Team that audits OPD’s actions. In the past, Judge Henderson has threatened contempt of court proceedings and federal receivership for OPD. Continue reading
The circumstances of Oakland Police officer Hector Jimenez’s 2009 termination for two officer-involved shootings and a labor arbitrator’s ruling earlier this year that he be rehired will be discussed at next Thursday’s hearing on federal oversight of OPD.
On September 7th, plaintiff’s attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin filed a letter with Judge Henderson citing the Informant’s coverage of Henderson’s interest in Officer Jimenez. In particular, Burris and Chanin pointed out the inclusion of Jimenez’s full arbitration decision in our article.
A day later, Judge Henderson filed an order indicating Officer Jimenez’s name will be discussed in open court because his case has received considerable press coverage — thereby negating the argument that the officer’s privacy should be protected.
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.”
Court filings indicate the federal judge who has led court-imposed oversight of the Oakland Police Department for the past eight years is making preparations for possible contempt of court proceedings due to a lack of progress on mandated reforms.
At the last hearing on the Negotiated Settlement Agreement in March, Judge Thelton Henderson voiced frustration with perceived foot-dragging by OPD that has resulted in two extension of the consent decree, which began in 2003 and was supposed to take five years to implement. In the Judge’s eyes, it was time to start holding people accountable. “Get me a name,” Judge Henderson asked the court-appointed Independent Monitoring Team.
As of earlier this month, those names are now on Judge Henderson’s desk. On May 2nd lawyers for the City Attorney submitted a list of OPD command staff and their various responsibilities in implementing NSA-mandated reforms. However, OPD’s top officers are making it known that accountability to the court goes all the way down to street level. Continue reading