Report: Oakland Police Used 'Overwhelming Military-Type Response' Against Occupiers

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Common Dreams

Report: Oakland Police Used 'Overwhelming Military-Type Response' Against Occupiers

Court ordered monitors 'thoroughly dismayed by what we observed' at Oakland Police Department

by
Common Dreams staff

Members of the Oakland Police department form a line during an Occupy Oakland demonstration, January 28, 2012. (Reuters/Stephen Lam)

Oakland police used "an overwhelming military-type response" to disperse Occupy Oakland demonstrators and fired at a former Marine and Iraq war veteran who was critically injured in the clashes in October, according to a court ordered report released Monday.

The Oakland Police Department has been under investigation by third party monitors since 2003 after reported misconduct and repeated use of unlawful force. The department came under renewed scrutiny during last year's Occupy Oakland protests that brought many new charges of police brutality; Oakland police received more than 1,000 misconduct complaints during the OWS protests.

In the most televised case, OWS protester and former US marine Scott Olsen was shot in the head with what is now reported to be a 'beanbag round', causing severe brain damage.

This latest court ordered report now concludes, for the first time from an official source, that police did fire at and hit Olsen that evening.

"We have viewed many official and unofficial video clips of the Occupy Oakland-related incidents," the report said. "These recordings lead us to ask additional questions as the level of force that was used by OPD officers, and whether that use of force was in compliance with the Department's use of force policies."

The third-party report author Robert Warshaw wrote that he was 'thoroughly dismayed' by many actions taken by the Oakland Police Department in response to the Occupy protests.

"Stagnation is troubling. After nine years, more progress should be made," John Burris, one of two attorneys who brought a civil suit a decade ago that led to court oversight, told Reuters. "We must seriously explore the next step."

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Occupy Oakland video: Riot police fire tear gas, flash grenades, bean bags, Scott Olsen injured:

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Reuters: Report criticizes Oakland police handling of Occupy protests

Oakland's police practices came under intense scrutiny last year when former Marine Scott Olsen was critically injured during a demonstration in October. Protesters said he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister.

The report concludes, for the first time from an official source, that police did fire at and hit Olsen that evening. An Oakland Police Department SWAT team member fired a beanbag round at Olsen, striking him in the head, according to the report. [...]

The beanbag rounds fired that night leave a green residue, which was found on the hat Olsen was wearing that night, later retrieved by police, according to the report.

Olsen's case reinvigorated the Occupy movement against economic inequality, and the confrontations with police in subsequent protests turned Oakland into a focal point for the movement as demonstrators rallied against what they described as police brutality.

The Oakland Police Department has been subject to court-ordered external monitoring and review since the 2003 settlement of what was known as the Riders case, in which four officers were accused of planting evidence, fabricating police reports and using unlawful force, according to the Oakland police.

Monday's report was the latest in a series designed to monitor and enforce compliance with the court-ordered reforms, known as the Negotiated Settlement Agreement.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland police monitor questions response to Occupy

The federal court monitor tracking reforms in the Oakland police force said Monday that the effort had met "outright stagnation," and raised questions about officers' use of beanbag shotguns and other weapons during what he called a "military-type" response to Occupy demonstrations.

The court-ordered reforms, many of them focused on how the department polices its own officers, haven't progressed in six months and have gone backward in the past year, said a report by the monitor, Robert Warshaw.

Critics of the department said the findings brought Oakland's police force closer to a federal takeover.

"Stagnation is troubling. After nine years, more progress should be made," said John Burris, one of two attorneys who brought a civil suit a decade ago that led to court oversight. "We must seriously explore the next step."

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