OAKLAND — A rookie cop who blew the whistle on a group of renegade Oakland police officers accused of beating suspects and planting evidence testified Thursday about his two-week indoctrination into “the dark side.”
Keith Batt, who was a rookie officer on the “dogwatch,” or night shift, in Oakland for just nine working days, testified at the preliminary hearing for the officers – which is being held to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial.
Batt said a group of officers who called themselves “The Riders” taught him to falsify police reports, subdue suspects and generally disregard what he had learned in the police academy.
Chuck Mabanag, Jude Siapno and Matthew Hornung now face more than 60 felony and misdemeanor counts ranging from assault and kidnapping to falsifying police reports and overtime slips.
Frank Vazquez, the alleged ringleader of the group, is believed to have fled the country.
Batt, 24, who now works for the Pleasanton Police Department, testified all day Thursday. He wore his blue
officer’s uniform, spoke without hesitation and looked frequently at the
His face became red when he was asked about the alleged beating of Delphine Allen.
Mabanag, who was Batt’s trainer and immediate superior, seemed disappointed that Batt hadn’t participated more in the beating, Batt testified.
“I told him that I had kicked Delphine twice,” Batt said. “He said, ‘Why only twice? Why did you stop?’ He said as a trainee I should be aggressive he had never seen a trainee hold back as much as I did.
“I was young and he was old and he would get tired quickly,” Batt testified. “He said I should keep hitting him until he told me to stop.”
Prosecutor David Hollister said Batt is the key witness in the case, and will be on the stand for two or three days. Batt resigned from the Oakland Police Department last summer, shortly after reporting the officers’ alleged activities and prompting an investigation against them.
Batt testified that Siapno repeatedly asked whether he was ready for the dark side.
“The dark side was illegal activity committed by police officers,” Batt explained. “Excessive use of force, lying on police reports, things of that nature.”
Batt said he did whatever Mabanag asked him to do, even when he had to lie, because Mabanag had the power to get him fired.
Batt testified that Vazquez told him, “If you’re a coward, I’ll terminate you. If you’re a snitch, I’ll beat you myself, and if you’re a criminal, I’ll arrest you and I’ll take you to jail myself.”
Batt said “The Riders” routinely beat suspects, concocted police reports filled with lies and he suspected they planted drugs on or near their suspects.
He testified that he once found drugs that a suspect had allegedly tossed when he saw police coming.
“I remember feeling uneasy about saying, ‘Frank (Vazquez), look what I found,’ because I suspected Frank already knew what I would find,” Batt said in court. “I felt like he was using me as a pawn in his game.”
Defense attorneys refused to comment on Batt’s credibility, but said they looked forward to his cross-examination, probably on Friday.