Documents point to Oakland police cover-up
By Thomas Peele and Kelly Rayburn, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — There is “strong circumstantial evidence” that police covered up the 2000 beating of drug suspect Jerry Amaro III, who died a month after suffering broken ribs, according to confidential city documents obtained late Wednesday.
Two other people also arrested in the same drug sting and put in a police car with Amaro later told investigators Amaro was “complaining constantly that he was in pain, and wanted to see a doctor and that (he) was sweating profusely, consistent with a painful injury,” the document states. Amaro was denied immediate medical care.
The FBI is investigating Amaro’s death, and police last week suspended a senior officer, Capt. Edward Poulson, with pay as his role in the matter is probed. Poulson is suspected of kicking Amaro and then ordering subordinate officers to lie about it.
Administrative charges against Poulson were sustained for interfering in an internal affairs investigation. Then-Chief Richard Word changed a recommendation to fire Poulson to a two-week suspension.
Last year, Chief Wayne Tucker put Poulson in charge of Internal Affairs. In announcing his resignation Tuesday, hours before City Council members were scheduled to call for a no-confidence vote on him, partly because of the Poulson matter, Tucker said he would have fired Poulson if he had been given the same choice as Word.
But Tucker also described Poulson as his best choice last year to head Internal Affairs.
A separate confidential document City Attorney John Russo wrote to City Council members in 2005 stated that Poulson was “permitted to issue directives concerning the investigation to the other officers who were being investigated even though he was (the) subject of the investigation.”
Tucker on Tuesday ripped council members for criticizing his decision to promote Poulson even though they had been briefed on the Amaro case.
Russo declined to comment on the document Wednesday, saying “it speaks for itself.” Poulson, who has not commented since his suspension a week ago, could not be reached.
Laura Stevens, an outside attorney who investigated the matter for Russo’s office, found deep flaws in the Internal Affairs investigation of the cover-up and the homicide-unit probe of Amaro’s death.
“No mention of Amaro’s alleged resistance to arrest or the alleged need to use force on him were contained in the police records of his arrest,” Stevens wrote. She also noted that officers about to be interviewed by homicide detectives met together before the interviews, and then all told detectives they saw no one use force on Amaro.
Russo wrote in a companion memo: “The interviews conducted by internal affairs were exceedingly shallow: inconsistencies were not explored, the inability to recall details was not probed and the questioning seemed to offer excuses to officers.”
Stevens questioned how Word handled the matter.
Word ordered that discrepancies in some officers’ statements “not be held against” them, she wrote. She added emphasis to the word “not” in that sentence and wrote, “Frankly, I am mystified by the statement.”
Word has declined to discuss the matter, citing the confidentiality of internal police documents.