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Monitor dismayed by Oakland police's Occupy response

May 1, 2012 |  3:34 pm

Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who suffered a head injury during a protest in Oakland, signs a petition before speaking at a December rally.
Oakland police confronted May Day protesters Tuesday -- one day after a federal court monitor issued a report saying he was “thoroughly dismayed” by the department’s “overwhelming  military-type response” to last fall’s Occupy demonstrations.

The report by Robert S. Warshaw, who is overseeing Oakland’s compliance with nine-year-old, court-ordered reforms, was the first to assess the performance of Police Chief Howard Jordan. It evaluated the department during the final quarter of last year, which coincided with contentious Occupy Oakland protests and a heavy-handed police response that received global attention.

Warshaw credited Jordan, who was named interim chief in October and now holds the permanent post, and his staff for demonstrating  “a commitment to …  processes and procedures that will better put the department on the road to compliance.”

But the report said progress at the Oakland PD seemed to have stalled, with 10 of the 22 benchmarks outlined in the legal settlement still unmet  --  “ the same number as reported in our last two reports.”

The settlement stemmed from a civil case involving the framing and beating of criminal suspects more than a decade ago. Compliance was expected to take five years. Lawyers for plaintiffs in the case have said they were likely to press by year’s end for the department to be put into receivership if the stagnation persists.

The report offered the first in-depth glimpse into the handling of the Occupy Oakland protests:

“We were, in some instances, satisfied with the performance of the department; yet in others, we were thoroughly dismayed by what we observed,” Warshaw wrote of the police response, which has resulted in more than 1,000 misconduct complaints.

The monitors reviewed official and unofficial videos of Occupy events on Oct. 25 and Nov. 3.

One case that drew the monitor’s concern involved Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran who suffered a skull fracture after being hit by a police projectile while peacefully protesting the first clearing of the City Hall encampment. The monitor’s report noted for the first time that Olsen’s injury was caused by a bean bag projectile fired by an Oakland officer. Another Oakland officer fired a tear gas canister at demonstrators who rushed to assist Olsen, the report said. Multiple departments provided mutual aid to Oakland that day, and it previously was unclear who had fired the projectiles.

Jordan last week announced new crowd control policies to be rolled out Tuesday, in which small groups of officers would attempt to isolate troublemakers. He also noted that every officer and supervisor in the department has undergone crowd-control training.

In a statement, the city said officials were “committed to facilitating peaceful expressions of free speech rights, and protecting personal safety and property.”


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Photo: Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who suffered a head injury during a protest in Oakland, signs a petition before speaking at a December rally. Credit: Beck Diefenbach / Associated Press