Oakland police hold riot response exercise

June 18, 2010 6:53:30 PM PDT
Oakland police would like to think there will not be any violence after the verdict is announced in the Oscar Grant case, but based on riots in the past, the city is preparing to handle any reaction that might erupt.

One hundred fifty Oakland police officers in full riot gear participated in mock riot exercises at the Port of Oakland Friday morning.

The massive exercise was designed to make sure Oakland is ready, but some along 17th Street wonder if the police will really get there in time if there is trouble.

"This is a refresher course we'll call it, and make sure that everyone has their equipment, make sure that it all works and make sure that everyone remembers exactly how crowd control techniques work," OPD Special Operations Lt. Michael Poirier said.

Besides Oakland police, the exercise included 200 officers from other agencies, along with the California Highway Patrol and Oakland Fire Department.

"The fire department is actually supporting the police department and making sure that we have check in and staging and communications taken care of, instead of just having them come in and react," Oakland Fire Department Capt. Melinda Drayton said.

Other agencies would be called, depending on location. For instance, if a riot happened in north Oakland, Berkeley might be called in to help.

Last year, violent demonstrations followed Grant's killing and former BART officer Johannes Mehserle's release on $3 million bail. There is concern that similar events could occur after a verdict is reached in Mehserle's Los Angeles murder trial.

Along one block of 17th Street, dozens of windows were shattered by a splinter group of protestors, who also set dumpsters and cars on fire.

One business owner thinks this big show of force ahead of the verdict sends the wrong message.

"It's like you're sending the negative, that it's going to turn out the way that people don't expect and that part bothers me," Sharon Pierre said. "Because if the police prepare, then inside people are preparing, thinking the worst."

"If he's not convicted of murder, then there should be some kind of reaction," Oakland resident Jada Phillips said. "I'm not saying it should be a negative reaction, but there should be some kind of reaction from our community."

Despite the scale of Friday's exercises, Oakland police say it did not cost the city anything extra and was done without any overtime.

As for the business owners along 17th Street, some say they will not take any chances and plan to board up their windows ahead of the verdict.


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