Police Review Commission gets first chance for answers from Berkeley police after December protests

Protesters in Berkeley in December demanded an end to police brutality throughout the nation. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Protesters in Berkeley in December demanded an end to police brutality throughout the nation. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Six months after protesters took to the streets to demand more just policing practices, the Berkeley Police Department will tonight present its report on how it handled the protests, and what it might do better in the future.

The report is scheduled to come Wednesday, June 10, before the city’s Police Review Commission in a 6 p.m. meeting at the South Berkeley Senior Center at 2939 Ellis St.

In recent months, the citizen oversight panel has been working on its own investigation into the protests, which were prompted by killings by officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York. Many community members were outraged after police in Berkeley used tear gas and batons to clear crowds on Telegraph Avenue on Dec. 6, 2014, the first night of frequent, lengthy demonstrations throughout the month. The next night, police kept their distance much of the night, allowing extensive vandalism by some members of the crowd to ravage the city.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.


The PRC plans to submit the findings of its own report to the Berkeley City Council in August after reviewing police documents related to the protests, and interviewing witnesses about what took place. Wednesday night will be the first chance for the commission to question Berkeley police in detail about their December decisions and actions.

In preparation for Wednesday night’s meeting, Berkeley Copwatch, a watchdog organization, has called for the resignation of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, citing “leadership failure” during the protests. According to Copwatch, the police investigation into the protests “identifies a series of bad decisions, system failures, skewed priorities and lack of mission clarity that Berkeley Copwatch feels are numerous enough to justify a call for Chief Michael Meehan to resign.”

A Copwatch statement released Wednesday morning continues, “this report identifies failures of leadership that include an inability to manage mutual aid forces, an inability to effectively distinguish between the need for crowd management and crowd control, an inability to identify a clear mission for local and mutual aid forces and an inability to gather and usefully employ information about what was actually happening in the streets on those nights.”

Berkeleyside reviewed the same protest-related documents the PRC requested from the city, and has posted them below along with brief summaries of what they contain. On Tuesday, the Police Department released the findings of its internal investigation, which included more than 30 recommendations for how the department might improve its practices in the future.

Master case report, Dec. 6. Source: BPD
Master case report, Dec. 6. Source: BPD

MASTER CASE REPORT, DEC. 6 This 75-page document includes dispatch logs and calls for service from Dec. 6, 2014. Some elements have been redacted, including large swaths from some of the document’s final 15 or so pages.

There is no narrative included that describes the evening’s events, though the Berkeley Police report released Tuesday attempts to describe what took place.

The dispatch logs in the master case report begin at about 2:20 p.m. Dec. 6. As of about 5 p.m., the crowd at Sproul Plaza was described as “peaceful” and numbering about 100 people. At 5:11 p.m., officers described “two opposing groups” of 250-300 people marching — one peaceful and one not — that were arguing as they walked through Southside. The crowd, up to 400 people several minutes later, was described as “still peaceful.” By 5:30 p.m., the estimate was about 500. The crowd marched through downtown Berkeley blocking traffic, with some taking time out for a “die-in,” lying down on Shattuck Avenue to protest police killings and police brutality.

Master case report, Dec. 7. Source: BPD
Master case report, Dec. 7. Source: BPD

At 6:11 p.m., the crowd was described as “about one thousand strong,” and had gathered outside the Public Safety Building. Officers called for back up and noted that they were recording the scene on video. At 6:28 p.m., officers reported four people “getting ready to throw rocks” at the Police Department. At 6:30 p.m., police were “taking bricks” and rocks hurled by members of the crowd.

According to the records, police said at 6:32 p.m. that they would start to give dispersal orders. A minute later, someone threw a metal bar and “a large bolder” at police. At 6:34 p.m., there is a line in the log that indicates officers planned to use smoke and less-than-lethal force (rubber projectiles) to clear the crowd. According to the log, at 6:38 p.m., no dispersal orders had yet been given.

The crowd then moved on and was reported to be looting various businesses, including Trader Joe’s and RadioShack on University Avenue. Police reported the crowd’s movement through the city and reported, at 7:41 p.m., that some people were again hurling bottles.

At about 8 p.m., police said they were taking rocks. Police were giving dispersal orders “repeatedly,” according to the logs. By 8:20 p.m., officers had given multiple dispersal orders and the plan was to “start making arrests.” Crowd numbers were estimated at 100-200 people.

Master case report, Dec. 8. Source: BPD
Master case report, Dec. 8. Source: BPD

By 8:24 p.m., the crowd was moving back toward UC Berkeley from University Avenue and downtown, and the log reads, “let’s try to start making arrests.”

Around this time, another dispatcher noted that police units were needed to help firefighters respond to a person having chest pains on University, but no police units were available to secure the scene. There were other references in the documents to medical calls that were delayed due to protest activities.

It appears police tried to contain the crowd at various times as it moved south of the university, and continued giving dispersal orders.

At 9:46 p.m., police were again taking rocks and got an alert from UCPD that 2,300 people were getting out of Zellerbach Hall after seeing a performance at UC Berkeley.

At 9:52 p.m. the log describes a “couple hundred people running” eastbound on Durant, indicating that officers should pursue them and make arrests. There are then numerous references to the use of gas, and additional references to rocks being thrown at police.

Source: Berkeley Police Department
Source: Berkeley Police Department

At 11:18 p.m. there was a reference to a man who had been shot with a projectile on Telegraph Avenue and a request for medical help for him. The crowd appears to have grown after the initial references to gas, and police described it as “hostile” at 11:36 p.m.

Police continued to give dispersal orders but they didn’t seem to be working. According to the dispatch log, “people who are sitting down are standing up, nobody’s leaving.”

At 12:21 a.m., Dec. 7, police were still trying to move the crowd along. At 12:38 a.m. police described the crowd again as “hostile,” and about 500-strong. At 1 a.m., it appears police used gas again on the crowd while giving dispersal orders and pushing it south on Telegraph. As of 1:20 a.m., one officer reported that a police crew was “out of gas again” and had pushed the crowd south to the area near Whole Foods Market. After getting the crowd to Oakland, it appears the Berkeley forces took some time to regroup, noting at 1:53 a.m., “we’ll let OPD hall monitor and we’ll stay off of it.”

At 1:58 a.m., according to the log, Alta Bates Hospital called police looking for information regarding a patient who had been struck with a police baton at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way.

Read more about June 6, and click the thumbnails above to read the logs for Dec. 7 and Dec. 8.

Incident action plans. Source: BPD
Incident action plans. Source: BPD

INCIDENT ACTION PLANS This set of documents sheds light on how police approached the demonstrations planned in Berkeley. Police wrote that they wanted to focus on the “Rapid intervention and arrest of hardcore agitators” and “plan for the swift arrest of vandals. Make good arrests.” They also wrote that officers should “Collect evidence such as missiles that were thrown, etc. These will be valuable not only in court, but in the media as well.”

Police wrote that they had learned via social media of a protest in Berkeley at 5 p.m. Dec. 6 titled “From Ferguson to Ayotzinapa—March Against State Violence—Remember the Dead.” Police wrote that the march would likely be racially charged, and that no similar events were planned elsewhere in the East Bay, which “may magnify the draw to the event in Berkeley.”

Police wrote that, as for tactics, the plan was to “Get ‘um [sic] running! Stretch the crowd out so they are not a mass, but individuals.” They continued, “Hardcore agitators will split up and cause multiple problems. Rapid response to these problems is critical.” 

In the documents, police also note a concern for officer safety after one detective found his home address and other personal information posted online in the days after the clash on Telegraph Avenue.

Mutual aid emails. Image: BPD
Mutual aid emails. Source: BPD

MUTUAL AID EMAILS The morning after Berkeley police used tear gas and batons to clear crowds from Telegraph after many hours of demonstrations, Berkeley Police Lt. Dave Frankel asked for “immediate assistance” from other law enforcement agencies to replenish its depleted supply of CS (tear) gas rounds, rubber projectiles and hand deployable CS grenades. “Last night’s rioting consumed the vast majority of our on-hand supply,” he wrote. “We will take as much as you are willing to loan us.” (Police did not use those tools again, during the Berkeley protests, however.)

The other emails primarily relate to the daily logistics of mutual aid, which Berkeley police relied on to help handle the crowds. After the first night, officers in Berkeley for the most part kept their distance from the protesters, other than skirmish lines and barricades that were set up near the Police Department itself and the University Avenue freeway onramps.

In a Dec. 10, 2014, email to Berkeley Police Lt. Andrew Rateaver, University of California Police Department (UCPD) Lt. Marc DeCoulode referenced clashes the prior night between police and protesters in Emeryville. The email highlights some of the challenges that can arise when officers try to coordinate among departments and work in unfamiliar locations. “Sorry it was confusing in Emeryville last night,” he wrote. “It was tough to get a decision from them, they just wanted them out of their city and I had no idea of the streets / area.”

According to a Dec. 10, 2014, email from Officer Byron White, officers from at least 15 other law enforcement agencies came out to assist in Berkeley over the prior days. Those agencies included the California Highway Patrol; police from Albany, Emeryville, Fairfield, Fremont, Hayward, Newark, Oakland, Pleasanton, Union City, UCPD and Vacaville; and officers from the Alameda County, San Mateo County and Solano County sheriff’s departments.

Injury reports (1/2). Source: BPD
Injury reports (1/2). Source: BPD

INJURY REPORTS There are two sets of injury reports that detail officer injuries during the protests. The first set spans 15 pages and describes injuries, or attempted injuries, to three officers. The report identifies the weapons used as a brick, two rocks and a screwdriver that authorities say members of the crowd hurled at police Dec. 6, 2014. The first incident took place when Officer Glenn Pon said he was standing on Addison Street west of Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Pon wrote that he saw “rocks, bottles, and other projectiles being thrown at officers” near the Public Safety Building. He said he was standing behind a metal barricade when a brick struck his foot, causing “visible bruising and swelling.”

At about 6:30 p.m., Officer Sean Tinney wrote that someone tried to hit him with a rock and a screwdriver, but missed. He said the crowd outside the Public Safety Building numbered 600-700 people and “was violent, and was assaulting police with rocks, bottles, pieces of metal, and other hard objects.” Tinney wrote that police then deployed several smoke canisters to try to disperse the crowd. Around the same time, Officer Brian Wilson said he was struck in the leg by a rock, which caused his leg to buckle and resulted in soreness for several days.

Injury reports (2/2). Source: BPD
Injury reports (2/2). Source: BPD

The other injury report spans nearly 60 pages and describes injuries to 19 Berkeley officers from Dec. 6-13 in both Berkeley and Oakland. (There are no reports regarding injuries to protesters during the demonstrations.)

Some of those injuries were the result of projectiles from the crowd, struggles during arrests and injuries officers sustained in vans while they were responding to protest activities.

Six officers went to Alta Bates or Kaiser for treatment. Most noted that they did not need to be admitted or held overnight. (That information did not appear to be available on every form.)

Injuries spanned everything from pain to various body parts to bruising, sprains and, in one case, a dislocated shoulder. See the full report.

Property damage reports. Source: BPD
Property damage reports. Source: BPD

PROPERTY DAMAGE REPORTS The protests in Berkeley on Dec. 8, which lasted past midnight, resulted in damage to numerous businesses and other property around the city.

According to these documents, there was damage to at least 24 businesses, including various banks, Berkeley Bowl, RadioShack, the Cal Student Store, CREAM ice cream shop, Whole Foods, Lulu’s Cyclery, Any Mountain, Wheelchairs of Berkeley and more. Buildings were spray painted and windows were broken by some members of the crowd. There was also looting — of beer, bags of coffee and electronics equipment — from some businesses. Some demonstrators also smashed ATMs.

According to one of the police reports, video surveillance captured three members of the crowd at Citibank, in hoods and wearing black, “using hammers, a skateboard and a chair to smash the front windows to the bank.” Read more about the damage to local businesses in this past Berkeleyside report.

RadioShack attack. Source: BPD
RadioShack attack. Source: BPD

RADIOSHACK ATTACK, SHOOTING Police linked one group of young men Dec. 6 to a looting at RadioShack, a hammer attack on a man who tried to stop the looting, and the shooting at a local resident who spotted the group near his South Berkeley apartment with merchandise that appeared to have been taken from RadioShack. (See Berkeleyside’s video of the hammer attack.)

This set of documents describes those various incidents and includes dispatch logs and several related police reports.

Other documents reviewed by the PRC included those related to crowd management training, the department’s less lethal inventory and other BPD protest-related emails.

Related:
Berkeley Police release long-awaited protest report (06.09.15)
Berkeley City Council limits police tear gas use, for now (02.11.15)
Police release redacted reports on Berkeley protests (02.10.15)
Exclusive: 23-minute delay for paramedics during Berkeley protests, patient later died (02.05.15)
Citizen panel on police to launch Berkeley protests probe (01.20.15)
Berkeley town hall examines race, police relations (01.18.15)
Berkeley Police Q&A: Tear gas use, protest costs, more (01.08.15)

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