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A former Oakland police training officer who is a central figure in the “Riders” misconduct criminal trial testified Monday that he never authorized filing false police reports — one of the key charges against him. Charles Mabanag’s testimony was radically different than the accounts given earlier by prosecution witnesses, including Keith Batt, the rookie cop and whistleblower whose reports launched an investigation into the officers’ actions. Mabanag, Jude Siapno and Matthew Hornung — who were part of a band of officers calling themselves the Riders — were fired from the police department and are on trial in front of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Leopoldo Dorado. Authorities believe that Francisco Vazquez, another accused officer, has fled the country. The allegations that police brutalized suspects, planted evidence and falsified reports came to light in the summer of 2000 when Batt quit the Oakland police force after working 10 shifts with the Riders. The subsequent investigation ended the four accused officers’ careers and led to the dismissal of more than 80 cases that relied on their statements. In February, Oakland leaders agreed to pay $10.9 million and to institute reforms to settle federal suits filed by more than 100 plaintiffs who said the Riders and other cops violated their civil rights. Under cross-examination by prosecutor David Hollister, Mabanag said he “trained [Batt] the best way that I could while we were in the streets.” Batt later told supervisors that while he was under Mabanag’s tutelage, he saw officers beat up suspects and plant evidence. On several occasions, Mabanag and other officers concealed those actions by lying in police reports, Batt testified earlier. Mabanag is charged with filing false police reports, conspiracy to make a false arrest, submitting false overtime slips and obstruction of justice. On Monday, Mabanag showed that he’s a veteran on the witness stand. He spoke directly to the jury as he explained police procedures and gave polite, precise answers when Hollister grilled him about his days training Batt. Through his questions, Hollister pointed to several instances where Mabanag allegedly didn’t follow proper procedures when he was training Batt. Those examples included allowing Batt to drive the squad car and speaking to Batt in a demeaning way. Hollister repeatedly asked Mabanag if some rules — such as ones instructing training officers to maintain confidentiality, were things he chose “to follow or disregard.” Mabanag’s answers were calm and unruffled. “I guess I am not as strict” about confidentiality, the ex-officer testified. “If something needs to be said, I will say it.” Hollister continued: “Did you tell [Batt] that you were going to use the [training] manual or that you would do it your own way?” “The manual did not come up,” Mabanag replied. Earlier, Batt testified that he voiced his concerns about unwarranted use of force against suspects, particularly on the part of Vazquez. Mabanag downplayed the incident. “[Batt] said Frank was too hard on suspects,” Mabanag said, adding that Vazquez was “hands on” during some arrests. Cross-examination is expected to continue this week. The trial began in September. Ex-officer Siapno testified earlier, but defense attorneys say it is unclear whether the third defendant, Hornung, will testify.

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