Oakland Police Department

Multiple Oakland Officers Disciplined for Misuse of Tear Gas Last Year

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Multiple Oakland police officers are facing discipline for their use of force or misconduct during the George Floyd protests last year in the city, Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said at a news briefing Wednesday.

The protests took place from May 29 to June 1, 2020, and following four separate reviews, 33 allegations against officers were sustained by the Police Department. Some officers face multiple disciplinary actions.

The discipline ranges from written reprimands to several suspensions from duty for a certain number of days.

"I will say clearly June 1 was a failure," Armstrong told reporters at the briefing.

On June 1, youth led a civil rights march from Oakland Technical High School to Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway. As many as 15,000 people gathered during the event. Armstrong said his daughter was there and the gathering was peaceful. Some from the gathering walked in protest to Eighth Street and Broadway and a couple of bottles were thrown at officers, Armstrong said.

Officers deployed tear gas, leading to the 33 sustained findings against them, he said. "I want to be clear this was not a policy failure," Armstrong said. "Officers deployed tear gas outside of policy," he said. Officers or community members must be in imminent danger for tear gas to be used, the chief said. Armstrong, who was a deputy chief at that time, was not disciplined for his actions, he said.

Over the four days, 33 first responders were injured, including 21 police officers and firefighters. One officer was hit with a Molotov cocktail.

"My officers faced tremendous challenges over a four-day period," Armstrong said. For some, it was the most difficult in their long careers, he said.

Officers facing discipline have been notified of the findings against them and they have a right to due process. That means some officers may challenge the findings against them. Most of the gatherings over the four-day period were peaceful, according to Armstrong, but some became violent. He said some were the most violent in his more than 22 years in the Oakland Police Department.

Besides June 1, one allegation against an officer for an incident on May 29 was upheld and one on May 31. The reviews found that all use of force by officers was justified on May 30, Armstrong said.

On that day, Oakland police responded to violence in Oakland and supported the city of Emeryville when stores including Best Buy, Target and Home Depot were looted. One officer was shot at, according to Armstrong. The officer was not injured.

Violence also occurred May 31. Small businesses in some of the city's most marginalized areas as well as pharmacies and marijuana dispensaries were the target.

With limited resources, the department was forced over four days to use the same officers and their judgments could have become impaired. Nevertheless, the officers were not allowed to use tear gas June 1 and they are being held accountable.

The chief will release the number of officers disciplined at an upcoming Police Commission meeting.

Four independent reviews were conducted of police behavior over the four-day period. Reviews were done by the Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, the Community Police Review Agency, by an independent contractor and by a force review board, which is the highest level of review.

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