Nearly six months after the first clashes between police officers and Occupy Oakland protesters in the middle of downtown Oakland garnered national attention, the Oakland Police Department is changing its crowd control policies, chief Howard Jordan announced at a press conference on Monday afternoon.
“We recognize there is room for improvement,” Jordan said. “We are committed to improving our training, tactics and policies in light of our experiences.”
The changes are intended to “enhance” OPD’s existing policy, Jordan said. Jordan said the focus is on five categories—improving crowd management training for officers, the formation of a community advisory working group to review the policy, training officers in how to deal with media during protests, better investigating excessive use of force allegations, and providing clear instructions for other departments that send officers to assist the OPD when there’s a large crowd and a mutual aid request is sent out by the city. Jordan said all officers will undergo the new training by April 30.
The department received heavy criticism—and dozens of filed complaints alleging officer misconduct—for its handling of Occupy Oakland, beginning with the eviction of the encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza on October 25, 2011. That night, police in riot gear prevented protesters from retaking the plaza and used teargas canisters and flashbang grenades. More than 100 people were arrested, and military veteran Scott Olson was badly injured.
The department has also been criticized for actions at other Occupy demonstrations, notably on January 28, 2012, when more than 300 people were arrested after protesters tried to take over the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. Among those arrested were six journalists.
Since October 25, 2011, Occupy Oakland has staged dozens of protests in the city, including shutting down operations at the Port of Oakland twice. Mass protests are planned for throughout the day on May 1, including shutting down the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning, and marches in downtown Oakland.
OPD’s handling of Occupy Oakland protests has led to two investigations, one conducted internally by the department, and one by a federal monitor. The results of each investigation are expected to be released soon, Jordan said Monday. He said the changes to the existing crowd control policy are part of a larger effort by the department to be in compliance with the 2003 negotiated settlement agreement stemming from the “Riders” lawsuit.
“My goal as chief is to lead this broad reform effort by improving relations with the community we serve,” Jordan said.
The changes to the policy were lauded by Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana, who were also both present at the press conference Monday at city hall. Quan said it was important that department leaders “learned from experiences” when policing the protests.
“The chief has made a commitment, as only I think someone who came up the ranks can, of changing the culture very swiftly when it’s clear who is at fault and discipline actions are necessary,” Quan said.
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.