According to a recent American Civil Liberties of Northern California posting, the Oakland Police Department is refusing to release almost all information about its use of force on October 25th (the night Scott Olsen was almost killed).
The Oakland Police Department oversaw the use excessive force against Occupy Oakland demonstrators, and now the department is refusing to hand over information about what really happened.
The ACLU of Northern California and the National Lawyers' Guild sent a public records request about OPD's use of force on the night of October 25, 2011 on demonstrators supporting Occupy Oakland. The response we received is both infuriating and misguided.
OPD's Chief of Staff prefaced the Department's response to us with this: "The Oakland Police Department understands that the greater and more unfettered the public official's power, the greater the public's interest in monitoring the governmental action. We recognize and acknowledge your October 26th, 2011 request furthers our commitment to this obligation."
Then the email went on to say that OPD was refusing to provide almost all the information that we had requested.
Not only is this a complete contradiction, it also reveals something very troubling. Police officers actually do not have "unfettered" discretion in using force against political protesters. It's constrained by, among other things, the constitutional prohibition against excessive force and OPD's own Crowd Control Policy, which as we've previously noted, was repeatedly breached that night.
Juxtaposed against OPD's decision to withhold reports documenting its use of force that night -- a decision we think misguided as a matter of law and policy (see our letter back to OPD today) -- OPD's response underscores the gap between its policy and practice. The agency has a great Crowd Control Policy, but doesn't abide by it. The agency celebrates its "commitment" to "the public's interest in monitoring " governmental action," but withholds essential documents. It's time for OPD to close the gap and live up to its word. Given the seriousness of what happened on October 25, 2011, the public has a right to full disclosure. And while we're on this topic, OPD should really start following its own policies. That will help prevent messes like this.
I am extremely please to see the ACLU, which I continue to support with my contributions, getting involved.
One way or another it seems to me, the shit is going to hit the fan. After the Oakland Police's attacks on Scott Olsen and, subsequently another veteran, Kayvan Sabeghi, it doesn't seem like they're going to be able to hunker down and cover up indefinitely.
Not only veterans but reporters have been arrested and treated with, let us say, disrespect. (Check out the full report, it's a great read)
First, we were split up by gender for transport a few blocks south to be booked. This took three hours. Upon arrival at North County jail, we were searched by Alameda County sheriffs ("Do you have any weapons of mass destruction?" they asked while grabbing at our breasts) and urine tested for pregnancy. That night bled into day, when all 25 women were transferred to another jail 40 minutes outside Oakland, because no jail in the city is technically equipped to handle female inmates.
Upon transfer to Santa Rita jail, demonstrator Andrea Barrera was denied her prescription antibiotics and threatened with recourse. "Maybe I'll accidentally lose your paperwork and you'll be here all week," Sheriff Fox told her, only one of many times such a threat was made against us "prisoners." Barrera did not receive her medication until her release.
After transfer, we were subjected to another round of searches, this time more invasive than the last. While standing single file in a hallway with male inmates leering and licking the windows in their cell doors, we were told to hold out our bras and shake our breasts. "Come on, ladies, shimmy," said one sheriff. "Get into it. Shimmy."
But if they do release what is likely to be very damning information, Oakland is going to be potentially liable for millions, if not tens of millions of dollars from lawsuits.
Mayor Quan cannot be happy about any of this, from the continued presence of protesters on her lawn to an Oakland Police Department that is completely out of control. If she unleashes them again no good to the City can come of it, and she likely knows it. On the other hand, the pressure continues to mount to "Do Something!", which can only mean clearing out the protesters using force in a manner which we have already seen lead to catastrophe.
I am hoping beyond hope the ACLU, the NLG and/or the press will start attempting to get some kind of injunctions against the Oakland Police continuing to operate in the manner they have been -- apparently, as the ACLU notes, in violation of their own policies and procedures and existing agreements with the Federal judiciary. But I'm not expecting it.
5:12 PM PT: More on the Oakland Police
The Oakland Police Department is walking back widely reported comments offered by its Interim Chief, Howard Jordan, at an Oct. 25 televised press conference (video posted below) that law enforcement "had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks."
Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 8:09 AM PT: You can tell Mayor Quan what you think of the Oakland Police: