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Police, City Officials Caught Off Guard With Findings in Occupy Oakland Report


Police move in to break up Occupy Oakland encampment with non-lethal weapons.

Like a sucker punch to the face, Oakland police and city officials didn't know what hit them when Occupy Oakland roared into town - ill prepared to handle the full push back on Oct. 25 when officers forcibly removed demonstrators from Frank Ogawa Plaza. This all according to an independent report released Thursday.

The findings of the Frazier Group - which highlight the flawed actions of officers, the operations of the department and its poor record keeping abilities - are just one more blow to the Oakland Police Department.

The report laid out numerous problems with OPD's response to Occupy Oakland on Oct. 25, saying the department's actions were flawed by, "inadequate staffing, insufficient planning, lack of understanding of modern crowd management techniques and outdated policies and protocol." The department's response to protests that day have been heavily criticized. OPD's use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other forms of "non-lethal" force brought condemnation from around the world.

Standing in front of the media Thursday afternoon, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana admitted they were caught flat-footed by Occupy Oakland.

"Oct. 25 was a very difficult day both for the Oakland Police Department and the community," Jordan said. "The events the city faced were unprecedented."

Quan agreed, saying that while the city is used to public demonstrations, the volume of demonstrations, the sheer number of protesters and the late-night actions around Occupy Oakland caught the city, "off-guard."

The Frazier Group recommends that OPD implement 68 reform measures. The four-person group headed by Thomas C. Frazier said that it found decreased staffing and budget shortages contributed heavily to flawed actions of OPD.

The report is another bitter pill to swallow for OPD and the city as they struggle to implement federal reform measures. In addition, it's almost guaranteed to add to the frustration and ire of the federal judge overseeing OPD's reform.

City officials Thursday stressed that many of Frazier's reform recommendations - 74 percent - are currently in place or "underway."

Under the proposed mid-cycle budget currently in front of City Council, several police reform items are being requested, including funding for a second police academy and stabilized funding for the Citizens Police Review Board. Key reform recommendations that are "pending" including the department's use of force police, its mutual aid policy and the review of policy and practices for officer-involved criminal activity. No specific timeline is in place for completing the Frazier recommendations, Santana said.

The Frazier Group said that it has problems with OPD's own investigation into potential criminal behavior by officers on Oct. 25. It said, "OPD policy regarding the investigation of felony and serious misdemeanor allegations against OPD officers is general in nature and inconsistent in practice."

The report states that record keeping on key matters were poor, including those related to less-lethal ammunition and chemical agent usage by key police officers. Frazier noted that the entire number and types of force applied on Oct. 25 have not yet been individually evaluated by an OPD Use of Force Review Board.

"The review team has received information that the criminal investigation has been closed," the report states. "However, it is our belief that OPD should consider a reexamination of the quality of this investigation." 

Noticeably absent from the press conference was anyone from the Frazier Group. According to Santana, Frazier himself felt the report was a work plan for city. No other explanation was given for not attending the press conference, she said. While the report uses blunt language, no one is directly called out for their actions.

Whether the Oakland community will embrace the findings of the Frazier Group remains to be seen. During the group's tenure, many in the community, along with some City Councilmembers, questioned whether the group was truly independent, given its previous relationship with OPD.

Prior to working as independent investigators of the Oakland police, the Frazier Group worked as special advisers helping the city comply with the federal Negotiated Settlement Agreement. In December, it was selected as independent investigators of OPD Oct. 25 actions with Occupy Oakland.

The ACLU voiced its doubts about OPD actually being able to truly reform.

"Oakland does not have a great history of implementing reforms, considering that it has been nine years since the current Crowd Control Policy came out of a court settlement, and it’s not being properly followed," Rebecca Farmer, a spokeswoman for the ACLU of Northern California, said.

Jordan and other city officials were given a draft of the report six weeks prior to the issuance of the final document. Santana said the city was given a draft to make sure all of the "facts"  around Oct. 25 were correct.

Source: Oakland Local []

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