Stung by criticism over his officers’ actions during Occupy Oakland protests and other demonstrations, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan is ordering “major reforms” in how police deal with large crowds, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Smaller groups of officers will go into crowds to weed out problem protesters, and officers will make every effort to ensure that demonstrators hear dispersal orders and are given a chance to leave, Jordan said. All officers are undergoing training on how to handle large crowds, he said.
The police initiatives will balance protesters’ First Amendment right of peaceful assembly with officers’ responsibility to enforce the law and protect citizens and property, Jordan said. Occupy and its sympathizers have criticized police for the city’s response to the group’s protests since October. Protesters have accused officers of using batons and firing beanbag bullets and tear gas without justification and have pointed out that other large-scale protests across the country have not generated a similar response. Protesters also accused police of making unlawful mass arrests without ordering people to disperse.