East Bay News

Investigator to look into Oakland's Occupy response

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Occupy Oakland port blockade from early December 2011 Occupy Oakland

The City of Oakland is ordering an independent investigation into its own police department.

Mayor Jean Quan wants an outside look into the force used against Occupy protesters. It comes as the embattled mayor faces continual criticism into how she has handled the Occupy movement.

Quan says she's not afraid of what the investigation will turn up, saying it's necessary to protect the civil rights of Oakland citizens.

When police moved in to clear Occupy protesters from in front of the City Hall last October, they used tear gas and bean bags, and drew fire from critics who say the police overreacted.

"We have been trying to change, I think, the culture and the way we deal with demonstrators and response," said Quan.

On Wednesday, Quan announced the lead investigator will be retired Baltimore police commissioner Thomas Frazier.

"The value is accountability, number one," said Frazier, "so if there are things that went wrong, (then) we find those out."

Frazier says his team will interview officers and compare their descriptions against the video record. One of the people injured the night of Oct. 25 was Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran who was struck in the head with a tear gas canister.

Olsen couldn't speak after it happened, and his friend Keith Shannon has been speaking on his behalf.

On Wednesday, Shannon expressed little confidence in the investigation.

"I think, if they really wanted an independent investigation, they should've got someone entirely different out of the law enforcement area," Shannon said.

Protesters outside City Hall expressed a similar skepticism.

Protesters say the police are harassing them, while the Port of Oakland complains police aren't doing enough -- that recent protests shutting down the port have caused millions of dollars in lost business.

Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente has called on the council to instruct the police to keep it from happening again.

"I don't understand exactly what Igancio's resolution says," Quan said. "We did our best; we kept most of the port open most of the days."

Quan said a better approach would be to ask the protesters not to target the port for a third shut down day.

"Get the protesters to understand that that's not a good target," Quan said.

Protesters we spoke with didn't seem sympathetic to the mayor's plea.

"Our point is to end capitalism," protester Sean Palmer said. "You do that by ending trade. To end trade, you close down ports."

The investigation into the police use of force is expected to take 90 days and it's budgeted for up to $100,000.

Frazier will be joined by retired officers from Los Angeles and San Jose along with a retired Coast Guard captain.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
occupy oakland, protest, port of oakland, oakland, east bay news, mark matthews
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