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OPD Reform 1: Officer Awareness of the Crowd Control Policy

Recommendation: Develop proactive, credible, and publicly-accessible processes to demonstrate officers’ awareness of policies designed to protect the rights of Oakland citizens (ex: Oakland’s Crowd Control Policy, OPD’s business card policy, etc.)

We believe that Oakland could have effectively avoided many of the problems associated with the police response to the Occupy protests had the OPD followed its own Crowd Control Policy.  Additional internal procedures to ensure compliance with this policy could have prevented the violence, injuries, and erosion of trust between the OPD and the Oakland community.

Similarly, other policies already in place might help to overcome much of the distrust and fear that continues to hamper OPD’s relationship with the community.  One example includes the business card policy stipulating that police officers shall hand out “Informational Business Cards” to community members asking for that officer’s information, or to juveniles whom the officer detained or asked for his/her personal information.

At a minimum, the OPD needs to recommit to its own internal policies designed to maintain the trust between it and the community.  OPD’s crowd control policy is an example of what a strong crowd control policy might look like on paper, but in practice, OPD’s troubled history since 2003 demonstrates that the policy has not been fully integrated into OPD’s behavior. The OPD urgently needs to develop effective strategies for achieving this objective.

OPD has made critical strides towards improving its officers’ knowledge and adherence to its Crowd Control Policy. On April 23, 2012, former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan announced “major reforms” to the policy, including more targeted arrests, improved training, and clearer dispersal orders prior to making any arrests.  And indeed, the May Day protest a week later—which members of this research team observed as legal observers—proceeded with minimal incident.  Thus, it is possible that the OPD has already instituted some of these necessary reforms.

Nonetheless—especially in the minds of protesters and community activists who still remember all-too-vividly the events of 2011 and 2012—OPD must go beyond simply improving its internal training policies.  To re-build the support and trust of the Oakland community, the OPD must proactively demonstrate the effectiveness of its training to the public.  This might include making more information about police officers’ training records publicly available, and asking officers to demonstrate in some public way that they understand the details of the crowd control policy.

What other concrete measures could OPD undertake to demonstrate to the community a more healthy awareness of, and adherence to, its internal procedures designed to protect civil liberties and build trust with the community?

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