What Comes After?
Obligatory Disclaimer: If you’re well versed in all things ’Occupy vs Police’ procedings, this post (in content and language) isn’t aimed at you. It’s an attempt to perhaps trip a few of you down into a particular rabbit hole with me who may not have already been.
Only five months down the Occupy rabbit hole, but it’s fair to say I know what a protest looks like (also what they sound and SMELL like). I’ve seen them born in GA’s, read occupiers tweet their anticipation, witnessed and enjoyed the excited atmosphere of the pre-march rally, live-streamed and photographed them as they snake through cities, watched as big banks get shut down and people get enlightened by the message at hand, and filmed them get brutilized and harrased with what any actual witness would call a disproportionate use of force by riot police from cities all over the Bay Area.
(A few exceptions to this include Redwood City PD and San Jose PD who seem to have found an appropriate, civil, non-violent approach to protest)
The sights and sounds and sequence of all of this has become quite familiar…even routine.
Even with this familiarity of the ‘before’ and ‘during’, I reallized I had very little familiarity with what comes AFTER.
What comes after SFPD decide to use their motorcycles as crowd control devices by ramming them into protesters?
What comes after BPD decides to take a running start at a peaceful video journalist to put a baton accross his face?
What comes after OPD in riot gear [insert any of infinite examples of a disproportionate use of force here] on peaceful protesters?
One type of organization that deals with what comes after are local citizen police review boards. After looking at a selection of these from across the US, most often these (unpaid) boards or committees are made up of a diverse cross-section of the local community, usually chosen by the mayor, city counsel, or both. They seek to act as a sort of liason between police and the community.
As the Berkeley CA Police Review Commission states it, they seek to “ensure that Berkeley police officers act in a manner that conforms to community standards”
In light of recent events with #OO and #OPD I found the delicate wording of this excerpt from the Pittsburgh, PA CPRB website quite amusing…couldn’t help but read it picturing rubber bullets and tear gas being fired at peaceful protesters:
“(The Pittsburgh PA CPRB)…finds workable solutions to problems that detract from the safety and security of both groups (residents and police officers).”
One way these groups seek to ensure proper police conduct is by dealing with citizen complaints regarding police conduct. They review complaints, investigate them (in Oaklands case, possibly along side OPD’s Internal Affairs dept), and in some cases conduct hearings and make recommendations to city administration regarding the case.
In an effort to elevate my understanding of what comes after, I recently visited two of these committees: Oakland’s ’Citizens Police Review Board’ and the ‘Berkeley Police Review Committee’.
An excerpt from the City Of Oakland website regarding it’s Citizen Police Review Board:
“The Citizens’ Police Review Board is committed to ensuring that Oakland has a professional police department whose members behave with integrity and justice. The CPRB draws Oakland’s diverse communities and strives to improve police services.”
On the same page is a section dedicated to Oakland Police response to Oakland (complaints to CPRB, future forum date, etc) read more here:
The CPRB meets at Oakland’s City Hall (find the schedule for future meetings on the previous link). The meeting I went to was on March 8th. I decided to go to this particular meeting because Spencer Mills (@OakFoSho) was planning to do a lengthy presentation on #OPD misconduct on #OO, including much video evidence.
As for the routine of the procedings themselves, as people arrive (the public is indeed invited for everything but the closed session portion where the board members discuss cases being investigated, etc) anyone wishing to speak to the board fills out a ‘speaker card’ (an example of Berkeley’s is below):
After these was Spencer Mills #OPD misconduct presentation. The most effective part of it, in my opinion, was showing the video of #OPD brutality and misconduct on #OO intercut with #OPD’s own crowd control/use of force policies that they were shown to be very clearly breaking.
The entirety of this Oakland CPRB meeting can be viewed here - Via @oakfosho (the #OPD misconduct presentation starts at the 23:34 mark):
After the presentation, @OaklandElle followed up with some information on misuse of ‘flexi-cuffs’ and the harmful (sometimes long-term) effects that it can have on people being detained with them. This sparked interest and a discussion between the board members on the subject, followed by a request for more information from her on the subject. One board member also requested a copy of Spencer’s presentation.
On January 28th alone #OPD arrested over 400 protesters, journalists and bystanders during a protest march…
I would put attendance at this meeting at approximately 10.
An excerpt from the City Of Berkeley website regarding its ‘Police Review Commission’:
“Berkeley voters created the Police Review Commission (PRC) in 1973 to ensure that Berkeley police officers act in a manner that conforms to community standards. The PRC is a nine-member commission composed of Berkeley residents appointed by City Council members and the Mayor. The PRC hears individual complaints and makes policy recommendations to the City Manager and the Chief of Police. The PRC continually seeks contribution and feedback from the Berkeley community in this collaborative effort. PRC meetings and policy subcommittee meetings are open to the public, and everyone is welcome. The PRC accepts complaints against Berkeley police officers in person, via mail, fax, or electronic mail. Please call (510) 981-4950 for more information.”
More info can be found here:
The Police Review Commission meets at the South Berkeley Senior Center (for future meeting dates see link above). I visited the meeting on March 14th. This particular meeting was of interest to local Occupy groups due to what transpired at the previous meeting. An excerpt from an article on Indybay.org on the matter:
“Berkeley Police Chief Meehan lied at a recent community meeting, claiming that an FTP march was headed to take over the UC Berkeley police station. This tall-tale was his excuse for not having police respond to a call for aid, resulting in the death of a Berkeley citizen.
After the community conference, the police chief was unhappy with a late-night news story regarding the meeting. A sergeant was sent to the reporter’s home, with a list of changes for the reporter to implement.
There are now calls for the resignation of police chief Meehan for playing politics with public safety and for intimidating the press.”
A video of Meehan getting called out on this from that meeting can be seen here:
The protocol for the Berkeley meeting took a similar course as in Oakland. A photo of the agenda for the night:
One of the speakers that evening was #OO’s ‘Running Wolf’. He spoke about the incident involving Meehan as did the next speaker who was the gentleman who called Meehan out from the back of the room in the video (I failed to get his name).
Also present at this meeting was Berkeley PD Captain Cynthia Harris, who was very hesitant to answer questions on the matter regarding Meehan at the last meeting. ”I don’t have that information in front of me” when asked a question by commissioner Sharon Adams. This was the ongoing theme of her answers to direct questions about many issues from the commissioners, including Adams, Marco Amaral, Kiran Shenoy, and Veena Dubal.
Following this questioning was a long back and forth between the commissioners regarding policy on many topics which quite honestly left me with my head spinning. Perhaps more visits will help me absorb the content.
For an exhaustive account of the proceedings that evening watch the livestream archive via @courtneyoccupy:
I would estimate the public attendance at this meeting at 15.
The following is new info added 3 weeks after original post.
Originally, my (unwritten) thought on the low public attendance at these meetings was that there was a lack of follow through on the part of those arrested/harassed by the police that these groups SEEK to hold accountable. Upon further reading/research, however, I’m finding it has something to do with a lack of trust in the review boards ability to actually impose any consequences on police, as well as the police departments ability to access testimony at the closed sessions of the meetings and use it in their own investigation.
More time will be put into investigating the actual ‘teeth’ these groups have in holding police accountable for misconduct, as their ‘missions’ state.