Protests broke out in Oakland last summer, from May 29th to June 1st. Thousands gathered to march for racial justice following the assassination of George Floyd, while some groups gathered to destroy property and break into shops. Police officers from across California rushed into town to enforce a night curfew. As reported by The Oaklandside last year, Oakland Police and Deputies of the Alameda County Sheriff opened with tear gas and rubber bullets on the 1. On that day, a federal civil rights complaint is pending over the behavior of the police.
Now, a year after the protests, several Oakland police officers face disciplinary action over their handling of the protests, according to recent reports from the Community Police Review Agency, the investigative arm of the civilian-led Oakland Police Commission.
CPRA investigators found that officials had violated guidelines on the use of force, arrest, and care for detainees and their property for about four days. Officials face disciplinary action that may include suspensions, downgrades, or possibly even dismissals.
In an incident on May 31, an officer was found to have violated the OPD’s “Level 1” policy on the use of force. Details of this incident have not yet been released, but Level 1 violence may include an officer using their firearm or other type of violence likely to result in death or serious injury, including other types of weapons. This officer could be dismissed for the violation under the rules of OPD. Oaklandside filed a Public Records Act request to learn more about the incident.
In this incident, records show that a commanding officer did not properly supervise their force and did not inform those arrested of their Miranda rights, which means they were not told that they had the right to a lawyer and did not have to respond to the police Questions from the officers. Two other officers at the scene also failed to properly deal with the arrested demonstrators, although no further details are given.
There have been dozens of complaints against OPD for how they handled last year’s protests – so many that the city council had to put additional funds into the CPRA’s budget to cope with the increased workload. CPRA Executive Director John Alden, who is leading the investigation, told the police commission last week that his team had finished reviewing all but one of the cases.
The vast majority of allegations against OPD officials have so far been dismissed as “unfounded,” “exonerated,” or “unsupervised,” according to several updates to the “Recently Completed Investigations” the CPRA sent to the Police Commission. An unsubstantiated allegation is one that has not been made, while an exonerated statement means that the act took place but the officer was entitled to do it. Failure to maintain means that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove or disprove that something happened.
Alden told The Oaklandside that the CPRA is preparing a report summarizing the results of last year’s protests and that it will be made available at an upcoming police commission meeting.
“I am really impressed with our staff that they have been able to handle this huge influx of cases,” he told the police commission at the meeting last week.
As part of Oakland’s system of police accountability, the OPD’s internal affairs department investigates allegations of wrongdoing and reports the results to the chief who will decide whether an officer will be punished. At the same time, the CPRA is conducting a separate and parallel investigation into the same case and recommending disciplinary action to the Police Commission. If internal affairs and the CPRA disagree on the findings, the police commission sets up a special committee of commissions to make the final decision on discipline.
As KTVU reported yesterday, Oakland Police said they have completed their investigation into last year’s protests and a report on tear gas use by protesters is also ready, but OPD has not yet released that report. The results of the OPD’s investigation into police misconduct during the protests are also not yet known, and the department has not provided KTVU with details of the investigators’ findings.