Oakland police officers involved in Joshua Pawlik shooting lose important hearing

Joshua Pawlik was killed March 2018 by Oakland police.

The five Oakland police officers who were fighting to keep their jobs after shooting a homeless man to death in March 2018 have lost an important hearing, KTVU has learned.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed on Wednesday that the officers lost their Skelly hearing, which is a hearing that must be provided to public sector employees before they can be terminated, demoted, suspended or receive a pay cut. 

The matter was decided by a third party who does not work for Oakland Police Department. Skelly Review Officer Michael Gennaco's job is to decide whether there were reasonable grounds to justify the discipline imposed, in this case, termination.

In August 2019, Oakland Police Commission moved to fire Sgt. Francisco Negrete and officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Josef Phillips and Craig Tanaka after they shot and killed Joshua Pawlik, who lay sleeping with a gun in his hand in front of an Oakland home. 

Those who typically attend the Skelly hearing include the employees being disciplined and their union representative or attorney, the official proposing the discipline, a representative of the Human Resources and the Skelly Review Officer. 

But the officers' attorney, Harry Stern, told KTVU on Wednesday that no one had notified him of the decision in his clients' Skelly hearing to uphold their dismissals. 

The officers' next step is to go to arbitration, which will be overseen by an outside, independent arbiter. 

Former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick had originally cleared the officers in the Pawlik shooting, but the commission, made up of civilians, instead found that they had violated policy. The commission fired Kirkpatrick in February. 

Video from the scene showed officers yelling at Pawlik to both freeze and raise his hands. Pawlik’s hand was moving slightly in the video and his hand was on a pistol resting on the ground when the officers opened fire.

The officers explained later they believed Pawlik was about to shoot at them and that is why they fired their weapons. They since have sued the city and the commission, saying neither entity had the power to fire them.