Updated on Oct. 6: Since this story first published, The Oaklandside received additional records from the state that show a fourth officer, Craig Tanaka, was hired by another agency.
Four of the five Oakland police officers fired for the fatal shooting of Joshua Pawlik found law enforcement jobs in other agencies, according to state employment records for peace officers obtained by The Oaklandside.
The officers resurfaced in the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, and the Emeryville Police Department. The state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training provided the records to The Oaklandside in response to a public records request act on Wednesday, a day before Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law two bills designed to keep officers who commit serious misconduct from being hired by other law enforcement agencies.
Until today, California was one of only five states without the authority to decertify police officers, effectively stripping them of their badge.
In Oakland, the five officers involved in the March 2018 police shooting of Pawlik were initially cleared by the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division, the Executive Force Review Board, and the investigative arm of the civilian Police Commission.
But OPD’s court-appointed monitor, former Rochester police Chief Robert Warshaw, intervened and ruled that the shooting violated policy. A special discipline committee of the Police Commission sided with Warshaw and the officers were terminated.
While it has been reported that all five officers protested the firing by suing and seeking to get their jobs back, it was not publicly known until now that a majority of the officers were hired elsewhere.
The state records show that after being officially terminated on April 18, 2020, William Berger and Craig Tanaka became Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, Brandon Hraiz went to work as an Emeryville police officer, and Sgt. Francisco Negrete joined the Solano County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy.
Berger, Hraiz, Negrete, and Tanaka shot and killed Pawlik, a homeless man found asleep between two homes in North Oakland with a gun in his hand. A fifth officer, Josef Phillips, was fired for shooting Pawlik with a bean bag round from a shotgun.
Phillips is the only officer who did not join another law enforcement agency after this termination, according to the state records.
The controversy surrounding the shooting intensified this month, when an outside firm hired by the city to investigate an Instagram account that mocked police reform efforts and spread misogynistic and racist content reported that the account was created by one of the officers terminated in the Pawlik shooting.
The report, which was made public by U.S. District Judge William Orrick, who oversees OPD’s court-ordered reform effort, did not identify the officer by name. In all, nine officers were disciplined for actions related to the social media investigation.
According to state records, Emeryville police hired Hraiz on June 1, 2020. Emeryville Police Capt. Oliver Collins said Hraiz worked as a patrol officer but resigned on March 12, 2021.
“His eight months with us was uneventful,” Collins said. Hraiz now works as a Pittsburg Police Department officer, state records show.
On Jan. 11, 2021, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office hired Negrete as a deputy sheriff, according to the Peace Officer Standards and Training database. The Solano County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Negrete is currently a deputy assigned to patrol.
Next came the hire of Berger, who began his career at OPD in 2014. Berger was hired by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office on March 21, 2021, according to state records. But less than a month into his new job, he went out on medical leave, according to Alameda Sheriff’s spokesperson, Sgt. Ray Kelly.
The sheriff’s office hired Tanaka on Sept. 7, according to state records.
Civil rights attorney Jim Chanin said officers fired for misconduct should not be given an opportunity to be rehired elsewhere.
“When a lawyer is disbarred they don’t get to go to another county and when a police officer is terminated I don’t believe that they should be able to go to another jurisdiction either,” Chanin said. “It shouldn’t happen with lawyers, it shouldn’t happen with police officers, with pharmacists, it shouldn’t with doctors.”
The passage of S.B. 2, introduced by Senator Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senator Steven Bradford, D-Garden, creates a system within the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, a state agency that oversees training and certification of officers, to investigate and revoke or suspend police officers’ certification for “serious misconduct,” which includes excessive force, sexual assault, dishonesty and demonstration of bias.
The bill was supported by the ACLU and the California Innocence Coalition. The Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California Police Chiefs Association both said they support decertification of problem officers but expressed concerns that “serious misconduct” was too vague and subjective.
“California has one of the most progressive criminal justice systems in the nation,” Bradford said in a statement Thursday. “But for too long, problematic officers that commit heinous acts in one department are either not held accountable and continue to be a problem for that community, or are punished, but able to find employment in another department. This rinse and repeat style of accountability has led to the continuous erosion of community trust. At long last, California finally joins the 46 other states with processes for the decertification of bad officers.”
Bradford authored the bill and named it after Kenneth Ross Jr., who was shot and killed by a Gardena police officer in 2018.
Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, praised the passing of S.B. 2 as well as a bill she authored, S.B. 16.
“Trust in law enforcement erodes when police misconduct is kept secret and officers who’ve acted badly are allowed to avoid consequences,” said Skinner. “SB 2 and SB 16 will help restore public trust in California policing.”
S.B. 16 builds on Skinner’s landmark police transparency law, S.B. 1421, by expanding public access to officer misconduct records. The law works in tandem with S.B. 2 by mandating that records be released if an officer resigns before a misconduct investigation is complete. It also requires law enforcement agencies to review an officer’s prior history before hiring the person.