Image from OPD Recruiting site
With the recent spike in violence on Oakland's streets, and controversy surrounding a rookie police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man on Friday, police recruiting standards in the city are coming under scrutiny. How does the Oakland Police Department pick the best and the brightest? And do family connections ever count more than qualifications? Those are a few of the questions we asked ourselves when we started investigating one recruit, who was admitted in May to the 165th basic academy.
We got interested in the case when we obtained e-mails that Supervising Deputy City Attorney Vicki Laden sent to city officials raising serious concerns about the recruit's admission into the academy. In one e-mail sent at the beginning of June, Laden wrote that "unless OPD is taking all warm-blooded candidates, I can't figure out why they'd take" him. In the same e-mail, she listed her concerns: "spotty job history combined with poor school record...past misdemeanors...inconclusive lie detector test...psych history...[and the] investigators who interviewed references may have been a friend of the references."
Then, there's the city physician's letter we obtained, which revealed a potentially serious problem -- a risk of seizures. Yet, the recruit remains a student at the Oakland Police Academy. Chief Wayne Tucker told us that the City Attorney has hired an outside investigator at his request to find out whether the recruit got preferential treatment because his father is a long-time OPD officer and head of the officers' union. The vice president of the union is in charge of background checks and recruiting for the department. We'll keep you posted on the outcome of that investigation.
If you have a tip for a story we should investigate in Oakland, or elsewhere, send us an email through this website or call 1-888-40-ITEAM.