OAKLAND -- He was young and inexperienced -- a 23-year-old police officer just three weeks out of training. He went straight to the night shift, where most officers start their careers.

There, on patrol in west Oakland, one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods, officer Keith Batt met The Riders.

Nearly every day from June 13 until July 3, prosecutors say, the rookie watched his fellow officers beat, harass and falsely arrest at least 10 victims. His training officer, Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag, warned him not to be a "snitch." His superior officer, Frank Vazquez, told him to forget everything he had learned at the police academy.

And he tried to. For nearly three weeks, he silently stood by and watched.

Then, on July 3, prosecutors say, the training officer told another rookie to falsely report that he had seen 19-year-old Rodney Mack discard 17 rocks of cocaine and to arrest him. The rookie did as he was told. And Batt had seen enough.

Batt, who quit the force almost immediately after reporting what he saw, set in motion a police corruption scandal that shows no signs of being contained, despite repeated statements from Police Chief Richard Word that abuse was limited to the four officers who worked the late shift in west Oakland.

"It's burying one's head in the sand to assume these cases are confined to a short period of time involving these four officers," said lawyer John Burris, who has talked to at least 15 people arrested by The Riders about suing.

The four officers -- Frank Vazquez, 44, Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag, 35, Jude Siapno, 32, and Matthew Hornung, 29 -- were charged Nov. 2 with offenses including assault, kidnapping and filing false reports. Three are expected to enter pleas on Dec. 6; Vazquez is a fugitive, believed to be hiding in Mexico.

Lawyers for the three officers, who are on paid leave, said they have seen no evidence backing the charges. Mabanag's lawyer, Michael Rains, said the officers are "both sad and anxious to have their stories heard." Vazquez's lawyer has not returned repeated calls.

While the charges are limited to what Batt witnessed, the department is re-examining the officers' records and looking at whether other members of the force were involved.

Prosecutor David Hollister said 49 mostly drug-related cases -- convictions and pending cases alike -- have been dismissed and more could fall apart as his office sorts through all cases involving the four officers dating back 18 months before they were taken off the streets.

Community advocates said calls and letters are pouring in from people saying they were mistreated by The Riders, and several lawsuits are expected.

Some fear juries may not be so quick to trust the word of police officers anymore.<

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