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Tales of the Occupation

In the last six months, police nationwide have had to refine their crowd control tactics to counter a new method of protest.

February 17, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

Oakland's experience is hardly unique-similar missteps have occurred in Los Angeles and elsewhere. But Oakland perhaps best illustrates how disparate issues are complicating law enforcement's ability to deal with the Occupy phenomenon and perhaps future protests.

In the decade before the Occupy Movement, Oakland was the scene of several high-profile incidents, including the murder of four officers by Lovelle Mixon and the shooting of an unarmed black man by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle. Millions of dollars paid out behind a variety of force-related lawsuits only further compromised the city's budget. The results have been devastating to the Oakland Police Department.

The Oakland PD is 600 officers down, saddled with increasingly limiting force policies, and subject to a dissatisfied federal oversight committee. This decimated force has repeatedly been forced to call upon mutual aid resources that, as de facto agents of the Oakland Police Department, become active participants in problems that are at once uniquely Oakland's and already rife with potential lawsuits. These confrontations have resulted in injuries to two war veterans among the protesters and more disastrous public relations for the Oakland PD.

A Leaderless Movement

Even those who might side with the Occupy movement are questioning its tactics.

Jim Huffman, dean emeritus of Lewis and Clark Law School, is an advocate of civil disobedience as a political strategy. But writing for, Huffman notes that it is the movement's self-defining tactic of occupying venues for protracted periods of time that has found initially sympathetic mayors such as Michael Bloomberg in New York City and Sam Adams in Portland, Ore., re-evaluating their postures and rolling up the welcome mats. "In foregoing parade permits and marches in favor of establishing tent cities in violation of city ordinances the OM is violating laws that by any objective standard could hardly be called unreasonable," observes Huffman.

The movement's doctrine that "We really are all equal, no one above, and no one below" has also proven problematic for law enforcement. There are no designated leaders. Therefore there is no one in authority and no one for law enforcement officials or city government to negotiate with.

Worse, people claiming to be in charge could just be deluded. Valerie Krull, who participated in Occupy Olympia (Wash.), wrote: "We do not throw people away because they are addicts, or have mental health issues, or have any other aspect that makes them challenging to work with."

Violence and Anarchy

A few deluded homeless guys claiming to be in charge is one thing. But there's a darker side to the "come one, come all" philosophy reported by Krull. It welcomes people with many different agendas, including anarchists.

The movement's darker side has found creative expression ranging from 48-page police-brutality coloring books, to YouTube videos warning NYPD officers of forthcoming reprisals, to flyers advocating an occasional need to kill cops. The discovery of a weapons cache in Zuccotti Park following the dispersal of Wall Street protesters suggests there are those who consider acting on that perceived obligation.

Threats aside, IUPA's Roberts finds the Occupy Movement already culpable in hurting law enforcement in three key areas.

First, it is exhausting critical resources that are already very limited. "In every city where this has taken place, you've seen increased amounts of overtime-this at a time when police departments all over the country are facing cutbacks. They are damaging the departments financially right off the top," Roberts says. The damages stem from more than the expenditure of overtime. In Los Angeles, a city already more than $70 million in debt, Occupy-related costs in police operations and clean-up efforts were already well over $2 million by early December.

Second, not only do the demonstrations put their participants at a higher risk, but the public is increasingly endangered as many police officers are pulled away from their regular public safety duties.

Finally, it puts officers at risk because that kind of overtime in those kinds of intense situations leads to significant fatigue. "Fatigue is very dangerous to the police officer because it has a diminishing effect on their thinking processes," asserts Roberts. "This is particularly dangerous any time they're obligated to make a split-second decision."

Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

TimFromLA @ 2/21/2012 12:18 AM

Really, we are the problem. Since when was the last time you spoke to your union and asked how many of your brothers and sisters lost their homes because of mortgage fraud? According to the different LEO unions, quite a few. Yet how many detectives who homes were stolen by the banks were ordered to not investigate and arrest the managers for committing felonies? There are a lot out there and since I am not an LEO, I can speak truth to power. I am not bound by some greedy City/County politician or their pogues to remain silent. And that's what the Occupy movement is doing. So by arresting the men and women who are in fact trying to find justice for the crimes the banksters committed, and your bosses tell you to not make the felony arrest, you arrest people committing misdemeanors whose intention is to protect our country?

LEOs out there, grow a pair. Be that man or woman you claim to be and stand up to your pogues and the politicians who have you by your proverbial private parts. Stop complaining about us and do your job and make that arrest. Scared of losing your job? Too bad. You swore to protect and defend the Constitution AND did you know that you are protected under federal law?

18 USC § 4 - Misprision of felony

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Now make the arrests...unless you're too scared. And if you are, leave us alone to educate the people.

[email protected] @ 2/21/2012 9:09 AM

timfromla, It is painfully clear that you are not LEO. It's not the Detectives or Uniforms or even the upper Dept. brass that decides who gets prosecuted. Its the DA. Which, if I'm not mistaken, is a political postion. Ask any cop how frustrating it is to work a case and then be told "No way" by a political appointee. Don't want to waste the taxpayers money, too much opposition to bring the case to trail, etc. It all feeds back to lawyers who are afraid to offend someone in power. Go ahead, pursue that case after you've been told to drop it and see how it feels to patrol the local garbage dump. Can we assume the "occupiers" are wealthy enough to not go to work? Unemployed? Being funded by some one else? Got too much time on their hands?

Rick @ 2/21/2012 9:28 AM

Soros has been proven to behind the occupy movement, both in money and in organization. He said earlier this year that the Occupy movement is going to become violent this year. LEO's need to take his warning seriously and be prepared.

TimFromLA @ 2/21/2012 8:38 PM

[email protected] And because of that the cops are merely lackeys for the corporation? Why have a law enforcement agency of, by and for the people? Give me a good reason why Halliburton and XE should NOT take your careers and patrol the streets of our city where more than 300 million pay in taxes: sales, property, and so on to fund a publicly run organization like law enforcement when we could get the same results from a private corporation who answers to a CEO or a board of directors?

Alex, I am NOT an LEO. But my taxes pay for the local P.D. and the Occupiers who are unemployed still need to pay rent or sales tax which goes to pay for LEOs and now you're telling me and possibly millions of readers on this site that your oath to protect and defend the Constitution is a farce because of politics?

Then every LEO who has this attitude should resign. Seriously. What then is the difference between a private security firm who would go after the Occupiers and not the 1% and the LEO doing the will of the management who is doing the will of the government who is doing the will of the corporations? Less clutter in between the enforcer and corporations.

Mad at me? Good, do something

TimFromLA @ 2/21/2012 8:39 PM

@Rick, then tax Soros at the level when Republican Gerald Ford was president 74%

John Russell @ 2/25/2012 6:23 PM

Remember the one doctrine that was created to serve all citizens when pilgrims first came to this country; THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES that guaranteed right to assembly--- peaceful asembly.... and seems that is now under scrutiny?

[email protected] @ 2/28/2012 1:43 PM

timfromla, Did I say give up? Don't bother? Ignore it? No. Enforce the law. The JOB. Perhaps the "lawyer" slam it a little too close to home? I'm sure the local dept. you "pay" for are aware of your kindness. Hey, why not get the military to do this? After all, we "pay" thier salaries, right........

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