A federal judge overseeing reforms at the Oakland Police Department fired the man he appointed last year to the top job of compliance director, saying the $270,000-a-year role proved to be ineffective.
In an order issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said Thomas Frazier's position as compliance director was "unnecessarily duplicative and has been less efficient and more expensive."
When Frazier steps down March 10, his sweeping powers to reform the department and discipline, demote or fire police commanders will transfer to Robert Warshaw, the independent monitor appointed by Henderson to review the force.
Sean Maher, a spokesman for Mayor Jean Quan, said the city had no immediate comment on Henderson's ruling or Frazier's departure.
The two-person compliance team was pushed in 2012 by city leaders eager to avoid a federal takeover of the Police Department. Frazier would force the city to take action and Warshaw would monitor the city's -- and Frazier's -- progress.
But Henderson wrote Wednesday that he would prefer Warshaw be the sole person responsible for completing 22 reforms required by a 2003 settlement that ended a sprawling lawsuit accusing four Oakland police officers, called the Riders, of misconduct.
"The court finds that it would be more appropriate and effective to now concentrate the powers of the compliance director and monitor into one position," Henderson wrote.
Rashidah Grinage, director of the police watchdog group Pueblo, said she was happy to see Frazier go.
"In almost the year ... that he has been on the job, he is seldom in his office," Grinage said. "It doesn't appear that he has made much progress or that (the police) have made much progress."
Jim Chanin, an Oakland civil rights attorney involved in the 2003 settlement, said he didn't believe Henderson's ruling would slow down the reform effort.
"I don't think it is a setback for (the settlement) in terms of what we are trying to do," Chanin said. "I don't see any criticism of us" or the terms of the settlement.
But what impact Henderson's ruling will have on the city's stubborn police reform effort remains unclear.
Giving one person the authority to monitor and implement reforms may streamline the process, but Warshaw has often had a less-than-amicable relationship with Oakland officials.
In August 2012, sources told The Chronicle that City Administrator Deanna Santana said Warshaw made a sexual advance by taking her hand and telling her she looked "stunning" and used derogatory language to describe then-Chief Howard Jordan.
Warshaw was eventually cleared by Henderson, who said in a one-paragraph statement that "nothing in the investigation has in any way diminished the court's confidence in the monitor's professionalism or his ability to perform his duties."
In his most recent quarterly compliance report, Warshaw said city and police leaders, under the direction of Frazier, were inconsistent in their efforts to fully complete 22 reforms required by the 2003 settlement.
"Some (tasks) appear to be moving forward -- as a result of focused and organized efforts to solve the problems that have been obstacles to progress," Warshaw wrote in his January report. "In other areas, however, the attention has been less systematic; and there are concerns that remain."
The Police Department became subject to court oversight in the aftermath of the Riders case, in which four officers were accused of running roughshod in West Oakland, beating suspects and planting evidence. The city paid $10.9 million to more than 100 plaintiffs and agreed to make more than 50 changes in police practices under the oversight of a court-appointed monitor.
More than a decade later, the department still does not fully comply with eight reforms.
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