Oakland Police are using the provocateurs of the Trayvon Martin protests as examples about why they need more money and military-style equipment!
* Crowd control at Oakland protests: A visual explainer [oaklandnorth.net/2012/03/01/crowd-control-at-oakland-protests-a-visual-explainer/]
* 2012-04-28 "Police Used Illegal Weapons on Occupy Protesters; Internal reports show Oakland department violated its own policies" by Shoshana Walter [https://www.baycitizen.org/news/crime/oakland-police-aim-improve-crowd-tactics/]
* 2013-04-23 "Oakland police announce new crowd control tactics" by Matthew Artz from "Oakland Tribune" [http://www.insidebayarea.com/occupy/ci_20462130/police-announce-new-crowd-control-tactics]
2013-07-19 "What more can Oakland do to control the crowds? Tactics may put Oakland police at a disadvantage"
by Demian Bulwa [http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Tactics-may-put-Oakland-police-at-a-disadvantage-4673932.php]:
The atmosphere was calm as demonstrators streamed through downtown Oakland. Then a masked figure emerged from the crowd with a hammer and smashed the windows of a Comerica Bank branch.
No police officers were nearby, and the vandal slipped into the mass of people. But something had changed. In the next half-hour, the Monday night rally over the acquittal of George Zimmerman turned ugly, with police skirmishes, more broken windows and a hammer attack on a waiter.
As Oakland again struggles to keep such episodes from scarring its downtown, city leaders and outside experts point to a core problem: the understaffed police force's inability to control subsets of agitators and simultaneously ensure the free-speech rights of peaceful protesters.
The failure to arrest the person who smashed the bank window at 10:30 p.m. was pivotal, said Don Cameron, who teaches police tactics. The attack, he said, was an overt act designed to incite.
"When you get into the copycat phase, it can get to a point where (police) can't take control," said Cameron, a former officer for Berkeley and BART. "I don't think Oakland buys into that - that you have to respond to the first overt action. What I've seen in the past is they let it get out of hand before they take action."
'Poor management' -
City Councilman Noel Gallo said the police force, which has been led by four chiefs since 2009, was unprepared for this week's protests.
"It's just poor management," said Gallo, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee. "The protesters are better organized than our Police Department."
While saying the problem traced largely to severe understaffing - Oakland has 630 officers, down from 837 in December 2008 - interim Police Chief Sean Whent promises to be more assertive if there's trouble this weekend. Another protest is planned Saturday.
Whent and Mayor Jean Quan are under intense pressure from business owners to calm protests and make more arrests. Police arrested nine people Monday night after making no arrests during rallies Saturday and Sunday. Some merchants say they are bringing in private security guards.
Whent, who became acting chief in May, said he would put more officers on the streets by canceling days off and paying overtime. He may also call for mutual aid from outside agencies, as he did late Monday.
One of his goals is to avoid a repeat of that night, when officers were often several blocks away from protesters and, as a result, missed the hammer attack that injured a waiter at Flora restaurant on Telegraph Avenue. The assailant ran off.
"I can't really get into a lot of specifics. But, largely, we're trying to keep the police closer to the demonstrators," Whent said.
Quan said the agitators, whom she described as anarchists and "idiots," "are changing their tactics, and we need to change our tactics, too."
One veteran Oakland officer said he and his colleagues were in a terrible position during most of this week's demonstrations - understaffed and lacking a clear message from city leaders on whether to be forceful with protesters.
"San Francisco takes a very straightforward line," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "You're not messing with anyone's life or property, or it's over - you're going to jail."
Taking names -
City officials say other changes are coming. On Tuesday, Oakland officers began issuing tickets to protesters for infractions such as jaywalking. Cameron said that appeared to be an effort to deter people from committing crimes by letting them know their presence was a matter of record.
At its July 30 meeting, the City Council will also revisit a ban on carrying hammers, shields and other potential weapons at demonstrations - a measure Whent said he supported.
The original proposal, raised last year in the midst of Occupy protests, died after council President Pat Kernighan said it might be counterproductive, providing a fresh controversy that would energize street protests just as they were tapering off.
Councilwoman Libby Schaaf said Thursday that the city had to do better, "even with our limited resources. We've got to be more prepared. If anyone should get good at responding to protests, it should be the city of Oakland."
But while Oakland has a track record in dealing with chaotic protests, such as those linked to the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer, that record is rocky.
History of mistakes -
Last year, a city-commissioned report criticized the department for a "flawed response" to Occupy demonstrations, citing "years of diminishing resources, increasing workload and failure to keep pace with national current standards."
During Occupy protests, officers shot beanbag rounds at people who were not posing a threat - a direct violation of the city's crowd-control policy, which the department is now updating.
As a result of that and other alleged police abuses, the City Council recently agreed to a pair of civil settlements with protesters, paying a total of about $2 million.
Rachel Lederman, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco who represented some of the plaintiffs, said she continues to be concerned by police actions - including an incident Monday night in which an officer used an explosive to clear an unruly crowd.
She said the blast caused only chaos, injuring a protester.
"We don't have any problem with them arresting people who break the law," Lederman said. "But taking enforcement action on every single thing can make the situation much worse and lead to injuries."