OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Two police officers should be fired and another 42 officers disciplined for misconduct during the Occupy Oakland protests that turned violent late last year and in January, city leaders said Friday.
The early findings come from a police internal affairs investigation triggered by more than 1,100 complaints issued against officers following the three major protests, police Chief Howard Jordan said.
An internal affairs investigation has found that 44 officers committed some sort of misconduct, ranging from use of excessive force to failing to turn on their tiny video cameras attached to their uniforms, Jordan said.
Jordan recommended that the two officers be fired, another one demoted and 15 others suspended. Another 23 officers were given written reprimands and three others were ordered to undergo counseling and training, Jordan said.
“I’ve taken action to hold them accountable,” he said at a briefing for several reporters. “Because in the end, I want our officers to exercise good constitutional policing.” In June, an independent study reported that police were ill-equipped to handle a violent protest on Oct. 25 because of inadequate staffing, poor planning and training.
The protest came hours after officers cleared Occupy Oakland’s encampment in front of City Hall. Police fired tear gas canisters and beanbag projectiles and some demonstrators threw glass and other objects.
Critics and residents complained about the police response that night, most notably after protester Scott Olsen was struck by a police beanbag and received a fractured skull that resulted in a brain injury and speech problems.
With Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana alongside, Jordan acknowledged Friday that an Oakland police officer fired a bean bag at Olsen and that another officer fired a gas canister at the crowd while some were attending to Olsen, who lay bleeding on the street.
Olsen, an Iraqi war veteran, is considering a lawsuit against the city.
“I think it’s gratifying that the authorities in Oakland are taking some meaningful action,” his lawyer, Mark Martel, said Friday.
Friday’s announcement also comes a week after lawyers overseeing the terms of a settlement resulting from a decade-old Oakland police corruption scandal filed a motion requesting that the federal government take over the embattled department. A hearing is scheduled in December.
City officials say the majority of the misconduct occurred during three major Occupy-related protests. That includes after officers cleared an encampment on Oct. 25 outside City Hall and a “General Strike” on Nov. 2 that attracted several thousand people and led to a shutdown of the Port of Oakland.
A third protest on Jan. 28 turned violent and led to more than 400 arrests after protesters damaged property inside City Hall, burned an American flag and tried taking over a vacant convention center.
Complaints have led to about 150 different cases, and a number of those cases have turned into criminal investigations that are being handled by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and the FBI, Jordan said.
City officials wouldn’t release the names of the officers who are being disciplined, citing confidentiality. The two officers facing possible termination were on paid leave and the others facing suspension haven’t been disciplined. They all have a right to a hearing under state law, Jordan said.
Quan said she believes that many will be “surprised” by the number of disciplinary actions that have been recommended.
“Following the Oct. 25 protest, I apologized because we had made mistakes,” the mayor said. “We have some officers who have not followed correct procedures and in many cases we had to retrain them on that. Most officers follow the rules.”
Jordan said those corrections were evident during a May 1 protest that resulted in nine complaints against the police. None of those complaints has led to a finding of misconduct.