OAKLAND — Nine current or former Oakland police officers were found to have been involved with an Instagram account that featured racist, misogynists posts or violated department policies in other ways online, according to an announcement from the city.
Investigations by a third-party investigation firm and by Oakland’s Community Police Review Agency found that the nine officers who were found to have violated a variety of department policies ranged in rank from officer to Lieutenant. The discipline imposed on them ranged from a three-day unpaid suspension to a 25-day unpaid suspension, according to a news release from the office of Mayor Libby Schaaf.
“Sexist and racist behaviors are far too prevalent in our culture and have no place in our public safety institutions,” Schaaf said in a written statement. “I wholeheartedly and strongly condemn any behavior, including online communications, that supports or engages with sexist or racist tropes.”
The Instagram account, which was named “@crimereductionteam” — the name of a specific Oakland Police Department entity — posted multiple memes and captions that mocked efforts to curb police brutality, including policies that had come out of the ongoing settlement agreement.
The investigation determined that the offensive account was created by a former Oakland police officer shortly after he had been fired for violating department policy.
Of the nine officers sustained for violating department policies, two have since left Oakland for other law enforcement agencies, and Oakland notified the agencies of the investigation’s findings. The memo did not identify the current or former officers.
The public revelation of the account’s existence early this year thrust the police department under intense scrutiny not just by residents and city officials but by the monitor and judge who oversee the department under a two-decade long federal court agreement program.
Recently, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick said that how the department deals with the investigation into the Instagram scandal will have a significant bearing on whether he deems the department ready to move on from federal oversight.
“To the extent that this report shows that racism, misogyny and cultural rot exist in OPD or that there are officers who do not respect and treat equally all the people they serve,…that will affect the five issues I went over and make it impossible for the OPD to fully comply,” Orrick said during a hearing earlier this month.
The final investigation report was submitted to the court, the mayor’s office confirmed. The court will determine which parts of the investigation to make public.
The Instagram account has been taken down, but according to court filings from civil rights attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin, who have represented the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit that sparked the ongoing court monitoring, one image posted by the Instagram account “depicts a scene from a pornographic film.” The photo of the Instagram image, included in the court filing, labeled the woman ‘Cop that just wants to fight crime’, and labeled the men looming over her as ‘Internal Affairs,’ ‘Police Commission,’ ‘Command Staff,’ ‘Spineless Cops,’ and ‘Criminals taking advantage of the situation.’”
Other posts poked fun at the idea of lying about beating up people in custody and the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last May.
While the department had knowledge of the Instagram account as early as September, when an email about it was circulated, the attorneys said in court filings they are disturbed that no thorough internal investigation was started until after The Oaklandside published a report about the account in January, along with reporting showing some officers signaled support for a former Oakland officer’s posts about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Still, Schaaf in her statement issued Friday called the investigation “unprecedented” in “size, scope and thoroughness,” and vowed that it held officers accountable and “created new policies that raise our standards and expectations.”
The announcement described the investigation as beginning with every officer who served in crime reduction team units and those who intersected with those officers. The investigators seized more than 140 work phones from the officers and scraped their content and online histories.
The directive to the investigator was to use IT records to expose the account creator, according to the city’s announcement, and to see if any current Oakland employees had “engaged” with the offensive content or violated any department policies.
“The independent investigators cast a net as wide as legally and constitutionally allowable,” the announcement said.
The mayor’s office also promised that the police department will review and strengthen its policies for department-issued technology, create extra trainings about using department technology as well as sexual harassment and cultural competency, require employees to report work-related social media accounts to the police department’s Office of Inspector General, which would be required to collect department social media account names and passwords, and regularly audit the content of department-issued technology.
The department will also forbid employees from having personal social media accounts attached to their department phones and other technology.