Oakland cops disciplined for covering badges

January 11, 2012 8:47:20 PM PST
Two Oakland police officers are being disciplined for their behavior during a recent Occupy protest which was captured on video.

Sgt. Barry Donelan is president of the Oakland Police Officer's Association and he is not happy about the public disclosure of the punishment handed down to two of its officers.

"It's an absolute outrage from the perspective of the officers, the members of the Oakland Police Officers Association, and the association itself," he told ABC7.

In the video that went viral via social media, Officer John Hargraves is seen with his name tag covered with black tape, a violation of California law. The photographer questions the officer about his decision to cover his name and that is when the officer's supervisor, Lt. Clifford Wong, walks over to Hargraves, chats with him, and ultimately convinces him to remove the tape.

Both men were punished, Officer Hargraves for 30 days for covering his name, and Lt. Wong was demoted to Sgt. for not properly reporting the incident. Those who watch for signs of police wrong doing say this is evidence of a systemic issue.

"You can never get the department under compliance unless all officers understand that you cannot arbitrarily decide when you are going to follow rules or not," says attorney John Burris.

In a statement that reads in part, OPD says they do recognize that a policy violation occurred, but "This is part of an internal investigation and we do not comment on personnel issues." OPD has been under a microscope since previous clashes have left two military veterans with serious injuries, Iraq War vet Scott Olson on October 25 and Kayvan Sabehgi on November 4.

In August, concerns over privacy were raised after the group Anonymous hacked into the BART police officer's website, releasing the personal information for dozens of officers. Now, police are using tools of their own, small cameras attached to their uniforms, giving everyone an extra set of eyes for the shared goal of bringing the truth into focus.

The Oakland Police Department has had an agreement in place since 2003 that requires them to follow specific rules related to the reporting and investigation of misconduct.