It’s likely to cause more tension between the Oakland Police Department and Alameda County DA Pamela Price that Price has issued an arrest warrant for OPD officer Phong Tran on five felony counts of perjury and bribery.
In Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s less than four months on the job, she has established a Public Accountability Unit that her office says is tasked with “holding law enforcement and public officials accountable for misconduct.” And that’s a political fight, because law enforcement and public officials don’t like being held accountable for misconduct. So you can see these political battle lines already shaping up, as the Chronicle reports Price’s Public Accountability Unit has issued an arrest warrant for Oakland police officer Phong Tran for bribery and perjury.
Those allegations stem from two 2011 murder convictions that were thrown out last month because, in the words of Oaklandside, “a key witness in the case recanted her trial testimony and alleged that an Oakland police investigator secretly paid her thousands of dollars before the trial.”
Today, OPD was made aware that an arrest warrant was issued for one of our officers. The department is fully cooperating with the Alameda County DA’s Office.— Oakland Police Dept. (@oaklandpoliceca) April 25, 2023
At this time, we are referring all media inquiries to the DA’s Public Information Office. @KTVU https://t.co/RZnhpwEYVe
KTVU has a copy of the arrest warrant, which has a slew of charges, but the big felonies here are the two counts of perjury, plus counts of bribery of a witness, attempted bribery of a witness, and subornation of perjury under oath. The warrant otherwise has little background on the case, but KTVU adds that it’s “a no-bail warrant and Tran must surrender within 48 hours.“
But the Bay Area News Group has the details of the case. The murder convictions were tossed last month after one of the key witnesses came forward and said Tran paid her “tens of thousands of dollars to lie on the stand,” according to the news group. That outlet adds that “Tran admitted to paying the woman, but claimed the amount was far less than she stated," and Tran was “placed on leave last year but returned to detective work with the Oakland Police Department.”
And that detail could jeopardize the other cases on which Tran has done detective work.
"There's a very good likelihood that other cases will be dropped as well," USF law professor Bill Hing told KTVU. "It depends on what this officer did on the various homicide cases. If his investigations involved coercion and bribery on a regular basis, well those cases are going to be dismissed."
While the department has been silent except for the above tweet acknowledging the arrest warrant, the Oakland Police Officers Association union that represents the officers is coming out swinging.
“We are confident that this officer will be vindicated once a competent court reviews these unfounded charges,” sergeant Barry Donelan of the Oakland Police Officers Association said in a statement to the News Group. “This case is not about seeking justice or ensuring public safety; rather, it appears to be an attempt by District Attorney Pamela Price to undermine the credibility of dedicated public servants and facilitate the release of convicted murderers.”
Technically, they’re no longer convicted murderers. But you can see a familiar battle line being drawn here, where district attorneys are politically accused of letting killers walk free whenever they prosecute law enforcement or public officials. And since DA Pamela Price already faces controversy over charging decisions, that narrative is likely to be shoehorned into this case of an officer being accused of bribery and perjury.
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Image: OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06: An Oakland Police patrol car sits in front of the Oakland Police headquarters on December 6, 2012 in Oakland, California. Oakland City officials have come to an agreement to forfeit broad power over the Oakland Police Department to a court-appointed director to avoid federal takeover. The new compliance director would have the power to seek approval from a judge to fire the police chief. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)