Associated Press & CBS-SF Television – 2012-10-14 23:32:48
Officers Disciplined in Occupy Oakland Protests
Terry Collins / Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif.(October 13, 2012) — Two police officers should be fired and another 42 officers disciplined or reprimanded for misconduct during the Occupy Oakland protests that turned violent late last year and in January, city leaders said Friday. The early findings come from a police internal affairs investigation triggered by more than 1,100 complaints issued against officers following the three major protests, police Chief Howard Jordan said.
An internal affairs investigation has found that 44 officers committed some sort of misconduct, ranging from use of excessive force to failing to turn on their tiny video cameras attached to their uniforms, Jordan said.
Jordan recommended that the two officers be fired, another one demoted and 15 others suspended. Another 23 officers were given written reprimands and three others were ordered to undergo counseling and training, Jordan said. “I’ve taken action to hold them accountable,” he said at a briefing for several reporters. “Because in the end, I want our officers to exercise good constitutional policing.”
In June, an independent study reported that police were ill-equipped to handle a violent protest on Oct. 25 because of inadequate staffing, poor planning and training.
The protest came hours after officers cleared Occupy Oakland’s encampment in front of City Hall. Police fired tear gas canisters and beanbag projectiles and some demonstrators threw glass and other objects.
Critics and residents complained about the police response that night, most notably after protester Scott Olsen was struck by a police beanbag and received a fractured skull that resulted in a brain injury and speech problems.
With Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana alongside, Jordan acknowledged Friday that an Oakland police officer fired a bean bag at Olsen and that another officer fired a gas canister at the crowd while some were attending to Olsen, who lay bleeding on the street. Olsen, an Iraqi war veteran, is considering a lawsuit against the city.
“I think it’s gratifying that the authorities in Oakland are taking some meaningful action,” his lawyer, Mark Martel, said Friday.
Friday’s announcement also comes a week after lawyers overseeing the terms of a settlement resulting from a decade-old Oakland police corruption scandal filed a motion requesting that the federal government take over the embattled department. A hearing is scheduled in December.
City officials say the majority of the misconduct occurred during three major Occupy-related protests. That includes after officers cleared an encampment on Oct. 25 outside City Hall and a “General Strike” on Nov. 2 that attracted several thousand people and led to a shutdown of the Port of Oakland.
A third protest on Jan. 28 turned violent and led to more than 400 arrests after protesters damaged property inside City Hall, burned an American flag and tried taking over a vacant convention center.
Complaints have led to about 150 different cases, and a number of those cases have turned into criminal investigations that are being handled by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and the FBI, Jordan said.
City officials wouldn’t release the names of the officers who are being disciplined, citing confidentiality. The two officers facing possible termination were on paid leave and the others facing suspension haven’t been disciplined. They all have a right to a hearing under state law, Jordan said.
Quan said she believes that many will be “surprised” by the number of disciplinary actions that have been recommended. “Following the Oct. 25 protest, I apologized because we had made mistakes,” the mayor said. “We have some officers who have not followed correct procedures and in many cases we had to retrain them on that. Most officers follow the rules.”
Jordan said those corrections were evident during a May 1 protest that resulted in nine complaints against the police. None of those complaints has led to a finding of misconduct.
Oakland Police Officers To Be Disciplined For Occupy Protest Incidents
OAKLAND (October 12, 2012) — Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said Friday that he wants to discipline 44 of his officers for misconduct in their handling of Occupy Oakland protesters at three major demonstrations in the past year.
Jordan said at a briefing at City Hall that his Internal Affairs division has received 1,127 complaints about alleged officer misconduct at Occupy Oakland protests in the past year.
He said about 90 percent of the complaints stem from three events: the police removal of protesters from Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall on Oct. 25, the aftermath of a general strike on Nov. 2 and â€œMove In Dayâ€ on Jan. 28, when protesters tried to take over a vacant building in downtown Oakland.
Jordan said the Internal Affairs review found that â€œthe vast majority of my officers did what we asked them to doâ€ in demonstrations involving more than 50,000 people. However, he admitted, â€œA few acted improperly and Iâ€™ve taken action to hold them accountable.â€
Jordan revealed for the first time that one of his officers, not an officer from an outside agency who assisted Oakland police, fired the bean bag that struck Iraq War veteran Scott Olson in the head on Oct. 25, seriously injuring the protester.
â€œOur officer acted inappropriately in that incident,â€ he said. Jordan said he has recommended that two officers be fired, one be demoted, three undergo counseling and training, 15 be suspended for up to 30 days and 23 receive written reprimands.
Jordan said the disciplinary action against the 40-plus officers â€œis not a reflection on the entire departmentâ€ and pledged that the department is working hard â€œto improve on how we treat peopleâ€ at large protests.
Mayor Jean Quan said she believes â€œpeople will be surprised at the number of disciplinary actionsâ€ that Jordan has recommended and said she believes thereâ€™s been â€œa real maturing of the departmentâ€ in how it treats protesters since the Occupy Oakland demonstrations began a year ago.
Jordan said the officers who are subject to discipline have the right to a hearing so no one has been fired or suspended at this point. He also declined to release the officersâ€™ names, citing confidentiality laws.
Jordan said all 44 officers are still being paid by the city and most are working for the Police Department in some capacity but the two officers who face being fired are on paid leave and arenâ€™t currently performing any police duties.
Jordan said, â€œBy holding police officers accountable, and by disciplining those who do not meet the departmentâ€™s high standards of conduct, we honor those officers who maintain their commitment to constitutional policing and faithfully adhere to the policies which keep both officers and the public safe.â€
He said, â€œWe are managing a delicate balance between protecting the first amendment rights of protesters, and protecting life and property when small groups of protesters engage in vandalism and violence. We are a better department that we were a year ago, and we will continue to learn from our mistakes.â€
Quan said Oakland has implemented 75 percent of the recommendations for improvement made earlier this year by the Frazier Group, an outside group of police experts who said the Police Department was poorly prepared for the protest last Oct. 25 and used outdated crowd control tactics.
She said the there have been important changes to policies and procedures and better training in crowd management.
Olson filed a claim in March against the city of Oakland for the injuries he suffered. His attorney, Mark Martel, said Friday that the city denied the claim so he plans to file a civil lawsuit against the city on Olsonâ€™s behalf in the near future.
Martel said that although heâ€™s unhappy the city denied Olsonâ€™s claim, heâ€™s impressed that Jordan is recommending discipline for 44 officers. â€œIt sounds like a serious response to the complaints and it doesnâ€™t sound like a whitewash,â€ he said.
The Internal Affairs probe sustained 26 complaints for the Jan. 28 protest, 15 complaints for the Oct. 25 police actions and two complaints for the protest on Nov. 2.
Jordan said there were more complaints for the Jan. 28 protest than for the other events because â€œit was the most confrontational and violent behavior weâ€™d seen thus farâ€ by Occupy Oakland protesters and it required a large police response. He said that because of the large crowd involved, â€œthings are going to happen but unfortunately not all of my officers acted appropriately.â€
Barry Donelan, the president of the union that represents Oaklandâ€™s police officers, said he thinks the complaints should have been handled privately through the normal Internal Affairs investigation process instead of being announced publicly.
Referring to a four-page summary of the Occupy Oakland findings that city leaders gave to reporters Friday, Donelan said, â€œThis document shows where the city is focused: on prosecuting police officers and not prosecuting criminals.â€
Donelan said he thinks Occupy Oakland protests got out of hand because of â€œindecisive leadership by city leaders who never chose to deal with Occupy Oakland.â€
He said the result is that the city had to pay several million dollars to pay the overtime costs for Oakland officers who responded to the protests as well as officers from outside agencies as well as an additional several million dollars for the Frazier Group report and other outside investigations.
Donelan said Oakland has had a 20 percent increase in violent crime this year so he thinks the city should concentrate more on fighting crime than on investigating officers.
(c) 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.