Four Oakland police officers face combined 49 felonies

The Associated Press
Friday November 03, 2000


OAKLAND — Four Oakland police officers face a combined 49 felony charges including assault, kidnapping and filing false reports in one of the city’s biggest crackdowns on police misconduct. 

The officers – Jude Siapno, 32, Clarence Mabanag, 35, and Matthew Hornung, 28 – were arraigned Thursday in Oakland Superior Court. They wore jackets and ties and did not speak. Frank Vazquez, 43, was out-of-town and did not attend the hearing; a warrant was issued for his arrest, prosecutor David Hollister said. 

None of the officers entered pleas and they were expected to be held in protective custody until a bail hearing Nov. 9. 

The alleged misconduct took place against 10 men between June 13 and July 3 in West Oakland where the officers, who called themselves “The Riders,” patrolled late at night, Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff said Thursday. 

Vazquez and Siapno face the most serious charges of kidnapping and assaulting two men, including one who was beaten in the face, stomach, back and legs while handcuffed. Vazquez and Mabanag later intimidated him when their supervisor asked about his injuries, according to the complaint. 

The officers also were accused of falsely accusing several men of possessing drugs and weapons. 

Mabanag, a training officer, was accused of telling his trainee “not to be a ’snitch’ and that what occurred within the police car stayed within the police car.” Vazquez allegedly told the same man that he should “disregard all police training learned in the police academy, disregard probably cause and arrest suspects on contact without lawful reason,” according to the complaint. 

Mabanag’s lawyer, Michael Rains, said the officers are “both sad and anxious to have their stories heard.” Attorneys for all three officers, who remain on paid administrative leave, said they have seen no evidence backing up any of the charges against their clients. 

Orloff, who does not anticipate additional charges although the investigation is ongoing, said the alleged misconduct has “created a heightened sensitivity in all of us to scrutinize all situations.” 

He said 23 mostly drug possession cases in which the officers were involved have been dismissed. 

Oakland Police Chief Richard Word said he’s confident the four officers’ misconduct was isolated, but the department has implemented additional protections – including a strengthened internal review and early warning system to help prevent future problems. 

He acknowledged, however, that his force faces an uphill battle restoring the public trust. He said the department will grow and learn from this incident. 

“It’s difficult, but you have to take strong and severe action,” Word said. 

The investigation began after a rookie officer who had been on duty about three weeks came forward to his superiors in early July. 

”(He) saw some things going on that he knew weren’t appropriate,” Orloff said. Additional officers and citizens also came forward during the investigation, he said. 

But defense lawyers questioned the informant’s credibility. 

Rains said Mabanag has been with the department 10 years and has worked the same beat for four years. 

“This officer has worked diligently,” he said. “The day (the informant) resigned, he thanked my client, gave him a bottle of wine and said maybe he wasn’t cut out to be a police officer.” 

Hollister refused to comment on those allegations. 

A separate FBI investigation into possible civil rights violations is ongoing, FBI spokesman Andrew Black said.