Police email shows strategy, politics in run-up to Oscar Grant protests
Below is an email exchange between Oakland Police Captain David Downing, the head of OPD’s Support Operations Division, and OPD Officer Charles O’Connor. The May 8 communication is essentially a clarification for rules of engagement (ROE) for OPD officers preparing for the verdict in the trial of Johannes Mehserle. Former Mayor Ron Dellums and members of the city council had participated in previous demonstrations following Mehserle’s shooting of unarmed BART passenger Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day, 2009. In a telephone conversation earlier today, Capt. Downing said the participation of city officials had caused “operational difficulties.”
Also noted is the practice of confiscating video and photo equipment found on arrestees. Capt. Downing referred to this as standard practice for arrests because footage or pictures taken by suspects can be “fantastic evidence” if they happen to document someone committing a crime.
Downing did not comment on his remarks concerning Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley except for qualifying his words as “personal opinions, and certainly not those of the police department as a whole.” (Text after the jump.)
Charles,To answer the first issue, I don’t think we will have a problem this time with councilmembers or the mayor. Earlier in the year I briefed the Mayor’s Office about NewYear’s Eve and New Year’s Day events. I advised that if city leaders join thecrowds in protest, that I would arrest them like everyone else. Dellum’s is lucky theCity did not get sued for what he did. His actions led directly towards additionalvandalism taking place to local businesses. I think they learned their lesson on thelast one. They have not been a problem since then. I will be ready to act if thedecision needs to be made.Issue two, yes we can take telephones and video equipment as evidence and wedid that last year. Sometimes it works for us; sometimes it does not. Last year wetook their telephones and hardly anyone got charged. During the 4 Mar 10education protest, we didn’t take any phones and they charged almost everyone.However, it is an election year and Nancy O’Mally wants to get elected thisNovember, so she is going to do whatever we ask.The problem with taking cell phones is that we do not have enough investigators toprocess them all for evidence. You would have to run each one through a “cellphone stripper” and review all the pictures and video from each one. It is a timeconsuming process for misdemeanors and infractions; although, the greater benefitis achieved by temporarily denying the opponent their communications. I will haveto weigh the option of taking telephones into evidence. Our ops tempo will dictate ifwe have the time to recover and turn in the evidence.Capt Downing