As oversight nears end, Riders plaintiff recalls when Oakland police planted drugs on her

The Oakland Police Department is taking a big step in ending federal oversight that came after a police abuse scandal involving four officers 20 years ago.

"It's a huge moment for the Oakland Police Department but also for the city of Oakland," said Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong. 

It's a milestone that took two decades to reach.  

June 1 marked the first day of a one-year probationary period for the department  to show that it can sustain the reforms it has made in order to move out of federal oversight. 

"We want to be a police department that people trust. We want to be focused in our efforts to address violence while not being actually harmful to our community," Armstrong said.  

The federal oversight was part of a 2003 settlement after a class action lawsuit by 119 plaintiffs who claimed four officers known as "The Riders" racially profiled them, beat them, falsified police reports, and planted drugs.

One woman remembers that time well. She was one of the people who sued OPD over that illegal behavior. 

"He had me up against the car.  He stuck his hands in my pocket. Oh, look what I found,"said Jeannette, a plaintiff, who asked KTVU not to give her last name. 

She said she was in West Oakland when she was pulled over by police. 

She said an officer planted a bag of white substance in her pocket.  

She was arrested and faced drug charges. 

"I went to jail for the first time in my whole life.  I didn't understand why.  I didn't know what to do," said Jeannette. 

That was 20 years ago.  

Jeannette said she has never been involved with drugs. 

At the time, she was a new homeowner and working in real estate. 

She moved out of Oakland and changed careers. 

"It was bad.  I just hope nobody has to go through it.  Even reliving it today, I'm sick to my stomach.  I get nervous.  It's hard to talk about," said Jeannette.  

Armstrong said citizen complaints will now be investigated by Internal Affairs and the Police Commission. 

He said 75% of the officers have been with the department less than 20 years and they have been trained in the culture of building trust and confidence with the community. 

The plaintiffs' attorneys, Jim Chanin and John Burris, said they're cautiously optimistic.

"We want a different Oakland PD, not one that pours out misery to our clients and then we get money," said Chanin.  

"We're on the right track now.  I'm very hopeful that we'll get through this next year and last a generation or more," said Burris.  

"I apologize that it took so long but there was so much change that needed to occur in this department," Armstrong said.  

There are 51 reforms measures.  

The department said it is in compliance with all but one.

It has six months to comply with creating equal disciplinary measures for all officers.  

The probationary period ends May 31, 2023.  If all goes well, the Police Commission will take over when federal oversight ends.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @