Email spam filter could cost Oakland police chief his job

Abuse messages were news to him after he blocked all comments about Occupy unrest
  • @guyadams

The chief of Oakland's police, who faces legal action that could imminently remove him from office, says that he failed to read crucial messages about the upcoming court case because he uses a spam filter to automatically delete critical emails from the public.

Howard Jordan has confessed that, for almost a year, any message containing such phrases as "police brutality" or "occupy Oakland" went straight into the trash bin of his official email account. As a result, he never saw several messages relating to a spiralling police abuse scandal.

In December, a judge in San Francisco will hold hearings to decide whether Mr Jordan's department should be placed in the hands of a federal receiver. They are accused of repeated use of excessive force, accusations stretching back to last year's Occupy protests.

In recent months, the police chief was sent several official messages about the case, but never responded. An investigation by the City has established that they disappeared because Mr Jordan had instructed his IT staff to prevent him having to read unsolicited emails from the public.

He appears to have adopted the policy after finding himself at the centre of international condemnation last October, when Oakland police used tear gas and flash grenades to disperse unarmed Occupy protestors. During the operation, an Iraq War veteran, Scott Olsen, suffered a fractured skull, after being shot in the head with a tear-gas canister at close range.

A video uploaded to YouTube appeared to show one of Mr Jordan's officers throwing a "flash bang" explosive device into a crowd of people who had gathered around Mr Olsen to treat his injuries.

Soon afterwards, Oakland's Mayor issued a formal apology and ordered an investigation by an independent police review body. Several lawsuits are outstanding, and it has emerged that Oakland Police tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Google to remove footage of alleged police brutality from YouTube.

Among important messages that Mr Jordan missed was one from Robert Warsaw, a court-appointed monitor of the police department, titled: "Disciplinary actions – Occupy Oakland." In a statement reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the police chief did not apologise for using the email filter, but said he regretted that the important email had gone astray. "It was never my intention to ignore the monitor," he claimed.