Occupy fallout: Declining mutual aid requests?

January 10, 2012 5:43:57 PM PST
Some city leaders in one East Bay city want their police chief to say no when Oakland asks for help when it comes to controlling future demonstrations. It's the lingering effect of frustration with how Oakland handled Occupy protesters.

"The mayor and I were really horrified by what we saw," Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman said.

Ritterman says he and some of his colleagues didn't have to see too many images like the ones of officers pepper-spraying protesters at UC Davis to know they wanted Richmond officers well away from this kind of action.

"We should make it clear to the people in Richmond and the community that we have a professional police force, they don't participate in that sort of thing, and even if they're asked to, they won't," he said.

The Richmond City Council is considering a resolution that encourages Police Chief Chris Magnus to opt out of certain mutual aid requests.

Last October, a dozen Richmond officers came to Oakland's aid after police clashed with demonstrators at 14th and Broadway. However, Richmond did not arrive until after tear gas was used and Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen was seriously injured. A week later, Richmond police returned to Oakland for the massive march to the port, but only on the condition that they would be away from the front lines to avoid contact with demonstrators.

Richmond police do not expect the new council resolution to affect how they already assess mutual aid requests.

"We will look at the protocol and talk to our command staff and find out exactly what kind of role we're going to play depending on the circumstances," said Sgt. Rahn Carmichael.

Oakland councilman Ignacio De La Fuente thinks the Richmond resolution could set a bad precedent.

"I'm concerned because I don't think the mutual aid is mutual aid," he said. "I think that all the cities in the Bay Area have an agreement on mutual aid and we have to be careful because today it's us and tomorrow it's you."

The resolution makes it clear that Richmond will continue to respond to mutual aid requests that involve emergencies or threats to life or property. The opt-out clause pertains only to peaceful demonstrations.

Berkeley looked at doing something similar. Alameda County sheriffs had their concerns about helping Oakland clear out its Occupy camp a second time.

Tuesday evening Richmond will vote on a resolution that's not binding in any way, but certainly sends a clear message.