Oakland police chief seeks to fire two officers, discipline 42 others for misconduct during Occupy protests

Updated:   10/12/2012 09:00:43 PM PDT

Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan at a 2012 press conference (Laura A. Oda/Staff)


OAKLAND -- In the largest mass discipline in department history, police Chief Howard Jordan wants to reprimand 44 of his officers, including firing two, for various forms of misconduct in their aggressive handing of protesters during Occupy Oakland events in the past year.

Jordan announced the recommendations Friday morning as city officials released a much anticipated summary of internal affairs investigations sparked by complaints made against officers during the often violent protests.

Jordan also confirmed that it was one of his officers who fired a bean bag into the head of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, seriously injuring the protester, while also epitomizing what many said was the police department's unnecessary forceful reaction to the protests. Jordan refused to say if one of the two officers he believes should be fired is the officer who fired the bean bag at Olsen.


The release of the report comes almost a year after police dismantled the Occupy Oakland camp at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza and as two civil rights attorneys have asked a federal judge to place the police department under federal receivership for failing to reach agreed-upon reforms. It also comes two weeks before the Occupy Oakland movement plans an anniversary gathering at the plaza.

Under state law the city has one year from the time a complaint is filed to discipline an officer.

The police department's reaction to the Occupy Oakland events became a prime example of how the department has failed to reform, those attorneys and a federal monitor said recently.

But on Friday, Jordan, along with Mayor Jean Quan, said the discipline recommendations against 44 officers prove that the department is moving in the correct direction.

"It's a reflection of how we want to improve how we treat people," Jordon said. "I have an obligation to hold (my officers) accountable."

A large majority of the discipline involves relatively minor written reprimands, counseling and training, but Jordan has recommended that 15 officers receive suspensions, one be demoted and two be fired.

The misconduct carried out by the officers ranges from failure to activate a video camera that all officers must wear to excessive use of force and being untruthful, the report states. Other transgressions include commanders making improper decisions and officers failing to report misconduct, using improper language and making false arrests, the report states.

And the discipline has been doled out against all levels of the department from patrol officers to commanders, Jordan said.

City officials would not release the names of the officers who are being disciplined, citing confidentiality laws. Officials also said the more serious discipline recommendations have not been finalized since police officers have several appellate rights that have just begun.

In addition, investigations into complaints against officers continue, officials said, as 26 cases are still open.

As expected, rank-and-file police officers were not happy with the chief's decisions and blamed "indecisive leadership" for placing officers in dangerous situations.

"I've never seen anything like this. The city is focused on persecuting hardworking police officers and there is no interest in prosecuting criminals," said Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, as he chastised city leaders for lauding police discipline. "There was absolutely no leadership by the city leaders in this whole situation and these poor officers were left to fend for themselves.

"It would be nice if the city officials that put us in this position were facing the same type of discipline," Donelan added.

City leaders praised its police department's brass for making tough decisions about discipline to prove to the community that officers who do not follow proper procedures will be held accountable.

"We could all see a real maturing of the department," Quan said. "I think people will be surprised by the discipline level in total."

The city has been inundated with complaints against officers ever since Occupy Oakland protesters set up camp on Frank H. Ogawa Plaza on Oct. 10, 2011, and then were forcibly removed by the police two weeks later.

As of Oct. 4, the city has received 1,127 complaints with 90 percent stemming from three Occupy Oakland events. Those three events include Oct. 25, 2011, when the Occupy Oakland camp was first removed by the police in the early morning hours and the ensuing clash that night; Nov. 2, 2011, when thousands attended a citywide general strike; and Jan. 28, when protesters attempted to take control of the city's vacant Kaiser Convention Center near Lake Merritt.

The city has spent about $750,000 investigating the complaints. The money was used for overtime for Internal Affairs officers and to hire outside law firms to help with its investigation into the complaints.

John Burris, one of two attorneys who have asked for a federal takeover of the department, said Jordan's decision to discipline officers is a positive step.

"It's finally a sign that action is being taken that is consistent with everyone's observations," Burris said. "I'm not surprised by the number of officers being disciplined, it seemed to me at the time that it was so out of control, it was cops gone wild."

Yet, Burris said, he still believes the department will not make all the necessary reforms it agreed to under the settlement agreement without a federal takeover.

Jordan said his department has "learned some lessons" through the entire process and has changed its tactics in hopes of reaching the "delicate balance" of fostering first amendment rights to free speech while also preventing vandalism in the city.

"We're in a position now where we can say we have learned some lessons," Jordan said.

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