Oakland police announce new reforms


The Oakland Police Department is hoping to avoid the past conflicts when large groups of demonstrators hit the streets next week.

"I have called this news conference today to announce that I have initiated announced significant changes to how the Oakland Police Department approaches crowd management during large demonstrations," Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said.

The reforms come days before the release of two reports, expected to be critical of the department's handling of Occupy protests dating back to October 25, when officers fired tear gas and bean bags into a crowd, seriously injuring Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen.

"With this chief, the Oakland Police Department has become as much of a learning organization as it can," Mayor Jean Quan said.

Among the reforms are better crowd control training, more community input and more comprehensive investigations after force has been used. There's also a new strategy when it comes to handling illegal activity or violence by a small group in a larger demonstration.

"Small unit tactics, that is something we're considering, is using small units to actually go into the crowd to remove people who are causing problems," Jordan said.

"I think it creates more of a gang mentality within law enforcement," demonstrator Shake Anderson said. "If you have separate groups looking for trouble, then therefore, it would distract and create more of a hostile situation."

The reforms come within days of the release of an independent investigation of Oakland police tactics during Occupy protests and a separate quarterly report from a federal monitor.

"This is about the federal receivership and about positioning in terms of public opinion," Occupy Oakland protester Jesse Trepper said. "I'm very skeptical that it's actually about reform of crowd control policy."

Police say they'll have their new reforms in place in time for next week's May Day demonstrations.

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