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Oakland Police may be on their Own

As police prepare to evict Occupy encampment, many outside agencies say they don’t want to help

Source: The Bay Citizen (

By Shoshana Walter

November 10, 2011

Shortly after 5 p.m. on Thursday, a man was shot and killed at Frank Ogawa Plaza, feet away from the Occupy Oakland encampment. Almost immediately after the shooting, the protesters tweeted, “This was unrelated to the occupation.”

Members of Occupy Oakland may have been concerned that the shooting could precipitate a police raid, something they have been bracing for, as City Council members have demanded the immediate closure of the camp. Even Mayor Jean Quan, who allowed protesters to set up another encampment soon after authorizing a raid on the encampment last month, is calling for protesters to leave peacefully.

“Tonight’s incident underscores the reason why the encampment must end. The risks are too great,” the mayor said in a statement Thursday night.

Oakland police have begun to plan another eviction operation, but it appears that this time, they may not be able to rely on other law enforcement agencies. Quan’s indecisiveness has frustrated many agencies that provided mutual aid during the eviction and two subsequent demonstrations. Some of the agencies say they cannot afford to send more police to Oakland, when their own departments are understaffed — and especially if the city is going to allow protesters to return to the camp.

“There are some chiefs and some city councils that I think are upset with having to keep sending officers to Oakland,” said Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. “And their point is: ‘Why are we sending people there when their own mayor can’t make a decision on what to do?’”

The Sheriff’s Department told Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan Wednesday they will charge $1,000 per deputy for a 12-hour shift. Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern said his deputies would only come in for free if the situation prompted an emergency.

“After we assisted Oakland in removing the occupiers who were unlawfully camping in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the government officials allowed them back into the plaza and allowed them to resume camping,” said Ahern. “They’re trying to allow people the right to free speech and it’s a very difficult line that we’re dealing with here. But once they allow it, then they have to understand . . . it’s no longer an emergency.”

Oakland police officers say they understand why other departments are reluctant to help. During a confrontation Nov. 3, demonstrators dressed in black clothing, wearing masks and bandanas, set fire to homemade barricades, threw firecrackers at police and smashed the windows of downtown businesses.

“No one wants to come back,” said one police supervisor. “They sustained injuries, they spent all this money on overtime. We used them for nothing.”

Oakland had already spent more than $1 million on cleanup and police response to the Oct. 25 protests; that figure will increase substantially when the city tallies the costs for the massive demonstration and clashes on Nov. 3. Meanwhile, some neighboring police agencies have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on overtime and equipment.

Of the 17 agencies that responded to the call for mutual aid on Oct. 25, six that replied to Bay Citizen inquiries have spent a total of $425,000, a conservative estimate. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has spent upwards of $250,000, according to a department estimate, while the Berkeley Police Department and San Francisco Sheriff’s Department have spent more than $120,000 combined, according to preliminary estimates. The numbers for those agencies alone, according to police department officials, are likely to go higher.

Oakland police officers, unsure of which agencies they can rely on, are bracing for what they believe will be an inevitable showdown with protesters, who are preparing for a fight.

“We’re going to defend the camp,” said protester Brooke Anderson, who was arrested during an Oct. 25 confrontation with police.