A screenshot of a post by a former OPD officer who used the Instagram account "crimereductionteam" to share content that advocated insubordination. Credit: Screenshot via Instagram

The city of Oakland announced Friday that it is disciplining nine police officers for their misuse of social media, and that the department uncovered the identity of the person who created an Instagram account that spread misogynist, racist, and insubordinate content. But the person is a former officer who created the account shortly after they were terminated by the Oakland Police Department for other misconduct.

The Oaklandside exposed the Instagram account last January after learning about it from sources close to OPD. Named “crimereductionteam,” the account included memes and images that joked about police brutality. Some posts included rape jokes while others advocated for undermining constitutional policing reforms.

In response to news stories about the Instagram account, the city initiated an investigation that included the confiscation of 140 OPD work phones. “Investigators scraped the content and online histories from all of those phones,” the city announced in a press release.

An outside third-party investigator was hired to conduct the investigation for OPD, and the city’s Community Police Review Agency also conducted a parallel investigation.

“This broad and deep investigation revealed violations of OPD policy related to the offensive Instagram page, as well as several other unrelated violations,” the city stated.

According to the city, the investigators found that officers accessed inappropriate materials on their phones, engaged in “conduct that brings disrepute to OPD,” that some officers engaged in “sexual harassment or other conduct in violation of Oakland’s workplace standards,” and officers failed to perform their duties and report violations by other officers. Not all of the misconduct was directly related to the “crimereductionteam” Instagram account.

“The nine officers who were found to have violated department policy ranged in rank from officer to Lieutenant,” according to the city’s press release. “The discipline issued to them ranged from an 3-day unpaid suspension to a 25-day unpaid suspension.”

According to the city, “of the nine officers sustained for violating department policies, two have since taken positions with other law enforcement agencies. Oakland has notified those two agencies of the investigation’s findings.”

OPD has been under federal court oversight since 2003 because of the Riders scandal, in which a squad of West Oakland cops beat up and planted drugs on suspects. The outcome of the social media investigation will influence whether or not the Oakland Police Department can move forward with its reforms under this now 18-year-old court settlement agreement.

Last month, two civil rights attorneys who are part of the reform program, wrote in a court brief that they believe OPD has made significant progress and is one of the best police agencies in the nation, but that the department must prove it can hold itself accountable and continue with a culture change.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick mentioned the social media scandal earlier this month during a hearing in the reform case and said he will review the investigation and determine whether any of it can be publicly disclosed.

“Sexist and racist behaviors are far too prevalent in our culture and have no place in our public safety institutions,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a press release. “I wholeheartedly and strongly condemn any behavior, including online communications, that supports or engages with sexist or racist tropes. I’m heartened by the unprecedented size, scope, and thoroughness of this independent investigation, which held officers accountable and created new policies that raise our standards and expectations.”

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.