OAKLAND — A former Oakland rookie cop testified Friday that a group of renegade officers known as “The Riders” pressured him to quit after he disapproved of their practices.
Keith Batt, 24, was questioned for more than four hours Friday about his two weeks working the night shift on the streets of west Oakland. He said he quickly realized he didn't like the tactics of his trainer, Chuck Mabanag, and his fellow officers.
Batt later reported the alleged behavior to police authorities, opening Oakland’s biggest police scandal in recent years.
“I didn't want to go on doing the things we were doing,” said Batt, who is now a police officer in Pleasanton.
“It was illegal. It was immoral. It was contrary to what I had been trained and what I believed was right.”
Mabanag, Jude Siapno and Matthew Hornung faced Batt and their alleged victims in Alameda Superior Court for the past week during their preliminary hearing after which a judge will decide whether there’s enough evidence for a trial.
A fourth accused officer, Frank Vazquez, is believed to have fled the country.
The officers now face more than 60 felony and misdemeanor counts ranging from assault and kidnapping to falsifying reports and overtime slips.
Batt has spent two days testifying that “The Riders” taught him to handcuff and search suspects before finding out whether they had done anything wrong. Suspects were rarely read their rights and were often beaten and threatened, Batt said. Reports were later concocted to cover the officers tracks.
“I was afraid of what those officers were going to do next,” Batt said. After nine nights on the job, Batt told Mabanag he didn't like “the way they did things.” He said Mabanag got angry and told him “it was a major setback in my training.”
Batt talked briefly to Vazquez, who declared he no longer wanted to work with him, and then talked for several hours with Mabanag who persuaded him to resign. At Mabanags suggestion, Batt said he wrote a short letter that said “the city’s too much for me. I'm not cut out to be an Oakland police officer.”
He later reported the officers behavior to internal affairs, prompting a full-scale investigation.
Defense attorney Mike Rains began his cross-examination of Batt late Friday. He asked whether he was aware that “The Riders” superiors were aware of their activities and were able to constantly monitor radio communications. He also implied that it was suspicious Batt didn't report the officers earlier.
Batt appeared to grow increasingly impatient, smiling and rolling his eyes.
“I didn't know what was to come,” he said.