An independent report released today said the Oakland Police Department was poorly prepared and used outdated crowd control tactics in responding to an Occupy Oakland protest last Oct. 25.
City leaders asked for the report from the Frazier Group last December after receiving widespread criticism for the way in which police cleared an encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza the morning of Oct. 25 and then responded to protesters who returned to the plaza that night to retake it.
The group is headed by former San Jose Deputy Police Chief Thomas Frazier, who also served as Baltimore Police Commissioner and as executive director of the Major Police Chiefs Association.
The 82-page report compared the actions of the Oakland Police Department on Oct. 25 to airplane crashes that "are caused by a series of cascading events, not a singular problem."
It said, "Years of diminishing resources, increasing workload and failure to keep pace with national current standards and preferred practices led to cascading elements resulting in flawed responses during the events of October 25."
The report said the department's executive leadership team "has been unstable for years" because the city has had four different police chiefs in the past nine years. It also said the department has been "seriously weakened" by a 23 percent drop in officers due to "substantial and cumulative budget cuts."
The report said city leaders had "legitimate concerns" about the Occupy Oakland encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of city hall because trash and debris were excessive, there was human and animal waste and "attitudes graduated toward aggression and violence."
But it said the police raid on the encampment of about 150 tents that was carried out at about 5 a.m. on Oct. 25 "should have been postponed until adequate planning, key command personnel, intelligence updates and sufficient resources could be obtained."
There also was "a failure" of the morning and evening incident commanders to confer and coordinate a balanced police staffing and leadership plan throughout the day, the report concluded.
In addition, the crowd control tactics used by Oakland police as well as mutual aid officers from outside law enforcement agencies "were not well-planned, were not well-coordinated, were confrontational and were poorly executed," the report said.
The crowd control tactics were "outdated, dangerous and ineffective," according to the report.
The report made 68 recommendations. Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters at a news conference at police headquarters that his department has completed 21 percent of the recommendations and work on another 53 percent of them is underway but 26 percent are still pending.
Jordan said, "Oct. 25 was a very difficult day for the Police Department and the community and it was clear to me that our response to the events that followed was flawed."
He said his department didn't wait for the report to be completed to institute important policy changes and he thinks those changes led to a better police response to a major protest on May 1.
"I'm fully committed to making all necessary changes and I ask that people not only judge us by our mistakes but by how we correct them," Jordan said.
Mayor Jean Quan said, "This is not an easy report to release, but we are committed to confronting the truth and implementing meaningful reforms."
She said, "We knew we could do better and we had to do better."
Jordan said that among the changes that already have been made are revising his department's crowd management policy to be consistent with new state guidelines, training every officer in crowd management and enhanced planning and staffing for future protests.
Stephanie Demos of Occupy Oakland said, "There's nothing new in this report" and she thinks it's "not unbiased" because it was written by former police officials.
"It's ridiculous to have police doing an investigation of the police," she said.
Demos also said she doesn't think the Police Department has made any noticeable improvements in its tactics since Oct. 25, alleging that police used similar aggressive actions in dealing with demonstrators during the May 1 protest.
She said, "They're still using tear gas and hitting unarmed people with sticks."