A university police spokesman confided to me recently, "most people think they are smarter than the police. Some are," he concluded, after thinking it over.
The officer's words seem a fitting commentary on the last Occupy Berkeley general assembly, held before everyone scattered for X-mass, leaving Civic Center Park, only days earlier bursting with tents—now fenced off for grass restoration—forlorn. Future GA's will return to BA plaza, Jan. 3., where OB began two months ago.
The GA was yet another yawner, when two Berkeley police officers ventured "where no man has gone before." Although the officer's visit was not into the universes of Star-Trek, it had all the ear-marks of alternate reality.
Two patrol sergeants, part of a bored pack of 12 police, monitoring the abandoned MLK Park encampment, a night after it was cleared of the few straggler tents, had the chutzpah to attend a general assembly
Earlier, I schmoozed the bored cop pack. At first they mis-trusted me, but after I cracked a few off-the-cuff jokes, and a got a few smiles, I asked, "in for a long night, officers? That's up to our commanders," one replied.
"What happened last night at 1:30 a.m. when batons were, allegedly, used?" I asked. "Where'd you get that idea," they wanted to know. "I'm just quoting the Trib," I said. The story mentioned batons."
I must be smarter than cops, just not smart enough to draw them away from official statements. Like me, they probably weren't there anyway.
The GA that night was dominated by Copwatchers—a Berkeley group which monitors police conduct—and cop-haters with personal motives. You have to be smarter than cops to monitor cops.
The cops, who approached the periphery of a cop-condemning assembly of twenty were not alone. They aimed a small video-cam at the group, thus began their grief, as the whole police-visit concept turned sour.
Was the cops' GA watch an invasion, investigation, informational operation, community relations, or just a bad idea?
Are you smarter than cops?
Could you predict that the two visiting officers would be verbally assaulted, and mocked? A cop-hater held his video recorder close to the officer's faces. Everyone is smarter than cops.
Sgts. M. Kelly and her colleague, R. Lee fielding one hate-filled question after another, were caught up in an OB mistrust of cameras, and ill-defined notions of the words, "raid", and "theft" by cops of "our stuff." Officer Kelley steadfastly refused to use the word "raid," which only inflamed her mockers. Most raids occur in warfare, or crime, according to dictionaries, and some at the GA believe police to be both warring, and criminal.
If I haven't written this, I've implied it: the police-dismantling of tent-city was peaceful and thoughtful. Kelley said, to howls of laughter, that protesters had "left" the camp. Although she left out repeated official warnings to vacate, and a show-of-force appearance earlier in the evening of the take-down—she was substantially right.
Kelly complained, that although she respected the GA, she was being dissed by the GA.
Officer Lee, who was endorsed as a worthy cop by a lone member of the GA, said, as she was taping, that she, herself, didn't like to be taped, but that her job required her to be photographed by the public.
Why don't you want to be taped, she was asked. "I'm shy," she replied, disarmingly. Later, I confirmed this, to see if she was pulling our legs.
"I've always been a shy person," she confirmed, "I've grown as a person, from my police work," she added.
Officer Lee insisted that since she was being taped, she expected to have the right to her own videotaping.
Finally, a GA attendee, spoke in exasperation. "We post our own nightly video feeds of
our meetings, and press have pictured us (I had been clicking away), why would the police tape be a problem?"
Because it was the police, and they are not populists, according to many GAers. Kelly's ploy of claiming to be part of the 99% was batted away. "If you want to be part of the 99%, join us when you are not in uniform." It was not explained what the difference would be.
Kelly said the video would be available from BPD.
Later, an arriving Sergeant, said to Kelley and Lee, "if the tape upsets them [the GA], we'll just erase it," but this came too late.
In an informal five-way crime seminar after the meeting, with Kelly, Lee, me, and two others from the GA, I asked Lee and Kelly whether the video tape had any "investigational purpose."
"It might have, had anything criminal happened," said Kelly.
Lee readily admitted the video-cam was for the officer's protection. I'm such a crime know-it-all, that I believe she meant that had a mob assaulted them, had they responded, then they'd need proof they were justified.
The crime seminar then drifted off into a "why was I busted, when…?" Q & A, in which I blurted out some answers ("dude you resisted arrest!" and, "perhaps you were arrested for not coming to the point.)"
We learned the difference between arrest and detention, or did we—it's complicated.
I had told Sgt. Lee that I often wrote crime pieces for the Planet, and that a number of BPD officers read me. "The chief said I had "some good ideas about crime," I boasted, "or was he just playing me?"
"Did I pass the [crime] course?" I asked. "Barely", said Lee, "but you did pass." She gave me a C. As my college transcript will attest, C is a grade I'm used to.
Or was she just playing me?
Ted Friedman talked himself into an advanced college sociology class in criminology and now thinks he is, along with most of Berkeley, and certainly its perps, a self-appointed expert."