Arbitrator OKs Oakland Firing of 'Riders' Cops

February 5, 2009 , San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland - An arbitrator has upheld the firing of two Oakland police officers who were part of the "Riders" scandal, city officials said today.

Former officers Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag and Jude Siapno were fired in 2000 after they refused to cooperate with internal affairs investigators. They signed agreements with the city last week that ended their grievances challenging their firings and will not be receiving any money from the city, said City Attorney John Russo.

"If the ruling had gone the other way, it would have been a major financial hit to the city, not to mention a huge setback for police reform in Oakland," Russo said. "We were determined that these fired officers would not receive a dime from Oakland taxpayers."

Mabanag, Siapno and a third former officer, Matt Hornung, were the subject of two criminal trials that ended in mistrials. They were charged with beating or framing drug suspects in West Oakland during the summer of 2000.

Hornung, who was acquitted of all charges, received $1.5 million in 2007 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit in which he accused former colleagues of slandering him. Hornung received the money as part of a settlement with the city's insurance carrier.

A fourth former officer who was criminally charged in the case, accused ringleader Francisco Vazquez, remains at large and is believed to be in Mexico.

The case led to a $10.5 million civil settlement to people who said they were victims of the officers and a federal consent decree governing the Police Department. The department will remain under the oversight of U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson until at least 2010.

Recent department scandals and the impending departure of Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker later this month, however, have prompted attorneys who represented plaintiffs in the Riders civil suit to consider asking for an extension of the consent decree.

by Henry K. Lee
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, February 5, 2009 

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.