Allen v. City of Oakland

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Allen v. City of Oakland
US DC NorCal.svg
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Full case name Delphine Allen et al v. City of Oakland
Judge sitting Thelton Henderson
42:1983 Civil Rights Act

Delphine Allen et al. v. City of Oakland (or the Riders Case or Riders Scandal) is an ongoing civil rights lawsuit in Federal District Court regarding police misconduct in Oakland, California. Plaintiffs alleged mistreatment at the hands of four veteran officers, known as the "Riders", who were alleged to have kidnapped, planted evidence, and beaten citizens. Plaintiffs also alleged that the Oakland Police Department turned a blind eye to police misconduct.

In 2003, the parties entered into a settlement. Part of that settlement saw a $10.9 million payout to the 119 plaintiffs. Additionally, the Oakland Police Department was required to comply with a series of reforms. An independent monitoring team was appointed by the court to ensure the police complied with the settlement. As of January 24, 2012 the city has yet to fully comply with the terms of that settlement.[1]


"The Riders" refer to four officers in the Oakland Police Department. The Washington Post described them:

"At the high point of their careers, the so-called "Riders" were considered the best and the brightest, veterans whom rookie police officers tried to emulate. Their specialty: bringing in reputed drug dealers in record numbers from the crime-plagued streets of West Oakland.[2]

The alleged abuses came to light after a rookie officer, just 10 days on the job and fresh out of the police academy, resigned and reported his former co-workers' activities to the police department's Internal Affairs Division.

A string of incidents of police misconduct by the group of four Oakland PD officers known as "the Oakland Riders" came to light.[3] 119 people pressed civil rights lawsuits for unlawful beatings and detention, ultimately settling for $11 million with an agreement that the Oakland Police Department would implement significant reforms.[4] Although all of the police officers involved were fired, three were later acquitted of criminal charges while one fled, presumably to Mexico, to avoid prosecution.[5]


On 17 December 2000, Delphine Allen filed suit against the city. Her case was ultimately consolidated along with other similar civil rights lawsuits against Oakland and its police, including a total of 119 different plaintiffs.

In 2003, the city entered into a negotiated settlement agreement. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to pay nearly $11 million to the 119 plaintiffs.

Negotiated settlement[edit]

The parties negotiated the largest legal settlement in Oakland municipal history and on March 14, 2003, the district court approved the negotiated settlement agreement.[6]

The settlement brought major changes to police department operations and dealings with the public. The case riveted the city as it was the largest case of police misconduct in Oakland in decades. Despite the settlement's hefty price tag, Russo said the cases could have cost the city tens of millions of dollars more had they gone to trial, pointing out that the victims had spent more than 25 years, combined, imprisoned on false charges. By comparison, Los Angeles spent $40 million to settle litigation stemming from the Rampart corruption scandal.

The payout went to 119 plaintiffs who filed federal civil rights lawsuits claiming four police officers kidnapped, beat and planted drugs on them during the summer of 2000. The plaintiffs alleged that the Oakland Police Department either encouraged or turned a blind eye to the abuse. U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson approved the settlement in the civil cases after 18 months of negotiations.

Post-settlement action[edit]

On August 20, 2003 the District Court appointed an independent monitoring team; Rachel Burgess, Kelli Evans, Charles Gruber and Christy Lopez to oversee the reform process and ensure city compliance with the settlement agreement.

A Jan 17, 2012 report by the independent monitoring team found "no improvement in compliance" during the past quarter.[7] In a January 24, 2012 ruling, the district court found that Oakland Police Department had still failed to comply with the terms of the settlement.[8] Plaintiffs have requested that the Oakland Police Department be immediately placed into federal receivership, while the Oakland Police Department requests more time to achieve compliance. The court issued an order partially stripping the Oakland police of its independence by requiring the department to directly consult with the independent monitor in order to exercise a variety of powers, such as the promotion or disciplining of personnel.

Specifically, the court ordered that city and the police must:

"consult with the Monitor on all major decisions that may impact compliance with the [Settlement], including but not limited to:

  • changes to policies, the manual of rules, or standard operating procedures;
  • personnel decisions, including promotions, engagement of consultants, and disciplinary actions in Class I misconduct cases;
  • tactical initiatives that may have a direct or indirect impact on the [Settlement]; and
  • procurement of equipment, including software, that is intended for the purpose of [Settlement] compliance.


If the city ultimately implements a decision against the Monitor’s recommendation, then the court may schedule a hearing to determine whether it should order that the monitor’s recommendation be implemented. At any such hearing, the city will bear the burden of persuading the court that its failure to follow the monitor’s recommendation will not have a negative impact on the city’s compliance efforts."

If Oakland Police Department were to be placed into federal receivership, it would be the first such occurrence.[9]

Related legal issues[edit]

Keith Batt, the rookie who first reported the misconduct, ultimately settled with the city for $625,000.[10]

In total, the City of Oakland has paid a total of $57 million during the 2001-2011 timeframe to alleged victims of police abuse—the largest sum of any city in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Oakland has the third largest population.[11]

Criminal proceedings[edit]

In November 2000, Alameda county prosecutors filed charges against four members of the Oakland Police Department. One officer, Francisco "Frank" Vazquez, the alleged ringleader, became a fugitive and was not brought to trial.[12] He is currently wanted by the FBI.[13]

The other three charged officers did stand trial and two juries failed to convict them. Opening arguments for the first criminal trial began in September 2002. In September 2003, after the longest criminal trial in county history, a jury deadlocked on 27 counts and a mistrial was declared.

The second criminal trial began in November 2004. In May 2005, a jury found officer Matthew Hornung not guilty of all charges.[14]

After two mistrials, the judge dismissed the remaining charges against the two remaining officers.[15]


  1. ^ 24 January 2012 ruling
  2. ^ Liz Garone, “Oakland's Police 'Riders' on Trial: Officers Lauded for Drug Busts Are Accused of Brutality by Ex-Colleague,” Washington Post, January 26, 2003
  3. ^ "Oakland struggles with police scandal". Associated Press (Berkeley Daily Planet). 2000-11-30. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  4. ^ "Riders' Cop Case Settlement Will Cost $10.9 Million". KTVU News. 2003-02-19. Archived from the original on 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  5. ^ "Three Oakland 'Riders' still seeking arbitration". East Bay Daily News. 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  6. ^ Janine DeFao, “Oakland settles 'Riders' Suits: Record $10.5 Million Payout,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 2003
  7. ^ IMT Report, 1/17/12
  8. ^
  9. ^ Jim Chanin, public meeting 2/9/12
  10. ^ Whistle-blower in 'Riders' case settles with Oakland for $625,000
  11. ^ KTVU - Investigation reveals East Bay city paying out extraordinary police abuse settlements Nov 14, 2011
  12. ^ "With charges dismissed, Oakland Riders want jobs back". The San Francisco Chronicle. 2011-06-24. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Retrial starts of ex-cops called 'Riders'
  15. ^ "With charges dismissed, Oakland Riders want jobs back". The San Francisco Chronicle. 2011-06-24. 

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