Inquiries on Violence at Occupy Protests Moving Slowly
More than four months after an Occupy demonstration shut down the Port of Oakland and devolved into violence, at least nine separate investigations into the ways police officers dealt with the protests in Oakland and on University of California campuses in Davis and Berkeley remain unresolved.
Many of the investigations have been delayed for reasons that range from a court challenge to the difficulty of scheduling meetings with college students. And while people on both sides of the Occupy issue applaud the efforts, experts said the sheer number of investigations could be counterproductive.
There is a danger that excessive investigation “can actually lead to greater obfuscation, because no one understands what each investigation is doing,” said Linda Lye, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which is representing protesters in lawsuits against Oakland and U.C. Davis. “Delay is always a concern, because it can lead to diminished public interest and distraction.”
At U.C. Davis, where a campus policeman pepper-sprayed a group of seated students and others on Nov. 18, a task force report was expected last week. However, a judge granted a temporary restraining order at the request of the police union. A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Alameda County Superior Court.
At U.C. Berkeley, several groups are reviewing the events of Nov. 9, when campus police jabbed demonstrators with batons and dragged two protesters, including a professor, to the ground by their hair. The professor, Celeste Langan, was one of five people charged by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office last week with misdemeanor resisting arrest in connection with the protest.
Lt. Eric Tejada of the U.C. Berkeley police said the results of one investigation were expected “any day now.”
Meanwhile, a report by U.C. Berkeley’s Police Review Board, initially expected in January, may now be finished in April. “We had a subcommittee of five people,” said Jesse Choper, a professor at the university’s law school and chairman of the review board. “Two of them are students. It’s very hard to get meetings together.”
In Oakland, investigators are working through hundreds of complaints of police misconduct, many of them related to Scott Olsen, the Iraq war veteran who sustained a fractured skull during a protest on Oct. 25. Mr. Olsen’s lawyer, Mark Martel, told The Bay Citizen this week that Oakland police had acknowledged that a bean bag round hit Mr. Olsen in the head. It is still not clear who fired the shot.
“I think that it’s been plenty of time by now,” Mr. Martel said. “It doesn’t take five months to find out who shot him.”
Sgt. Chris Bolton, the Oakland Police Department’s chief of staff, said his department was reviewing hundreds of videos, documents and other evidence related to Occupy protests on Oct. 25 and Nov. 2.
“I don’t want anyone to think that it’s ever our hope or intention to let things die down and never address it,” Sgt. Bolton said. “We have never backed down from telling people that where appropriate we will investigate, and we will hold ourselves and each other accountable. So at some point those investigations will conclude.”
Source: The New York Times