OPD to investigate officers in boxing match brawl

May 24, 2010 10:04:43 AM PDT
A YouTube video has Oakland police officers under scrutiny after several of them were involved in a brawl with other police officers at a boxing match in Sacramento over the weekend.

Nearly 2,000 people packed into the Sacramento Radisson Hotel for the event and now internal investigators are wondering if it is really a good idea to have police officers in a publicized fight environment where department bonds run deep and competitive rivalries can get carried away.

Oakland police internal investigators are reviewing YouTube footage to see if any of its officers in the stands violated their off-duty conduct policy.

"You know the crowd was excited. Their emotions got the best of them. There were some words exchanged and there was some shoving going on," said fight promoter Tom Gaffney.

Gaffney promoted the sold-out amateur boxing match. It was billed as "Badge vs. Badge." Police and firefighters from around the state were to duke it out. The main event was between Oakland police officer Casey Johnson and Vacaville State Prison correctional officer Larry "Psycho" Ward.

"I've acquired a couple of gold medals in police and fire games. It always means something special to represent Oakland Police Department, Johnson said before the fight.

"First of all, I just want to know who in the hell is Casey Johnson," Ward said.

Gaffney believes alcohol helped fuel the brawl, but he says no punches were thrown and no property was broken at the Radisson Hotel.

"This has been blown out of proportion because it involves law enforcement. If it were some fans in the crowd, you guys wouldn't be here," Gaffney said.

Oakland Police Officer's Association President Don Arotzarena says it is hard to tell who instigated the brawl.

"Of course this is not the publicity we want, but also I'd like to see more details and find out what exactly happened there," he said.

Still, Arotzarena says OPD officers do have an off-duty conduct policy that holds them to a higher standard and that is why this is being investigated.

Gaffney says he doesn't know if the officer violated off-duty policy, but admits they did not behave to a higher standard. He is also a peace officer and says he has a similar code of off-duty conduct. He is promoting another "Badge vs. Badge" event in August, but this time he says he will hire more security.

The incident may amount to nothing more than a shoving match, but it is also a reminder that in this technological age, everyone is under the scrutiny of mobile video cameras.


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