Oakland, CA – Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong announced Wednesday that 33 member of the police department – including a deputy chief – would face discipline for their usage of tear gas at a George Floyd protest last summer.
Chief Armstrong said at a press conference on June 2 that the discipline ranged from written reprimands to multi-day unpaid suspensions, KNTV reported.
The chief said four separate reviews were conducted on the officers’ handling of the protests between May 29 and June 1, 2020, and 33 allegations of excessive force or misconduct were sustained.
The reviews were conducted by Oakland PD’s Internal Affairs Division, the Community Police Review Agency, an independent contractor, and a force review board.
Some of the officers are facing multiple disciplinary actions for their role as a result of the findings, KNTV reported.
“I will say clearly June 1 was a failure,” Chief Armstrong told reporters.
The investigations arose from violent protest that began as a youth-led civil rights march from Oakland Technical High School on June 1, 2020, KNTV reported.
The police chief said that gathering was initially peaceful, but then some of the protesters moved to Eighth Street and Broadway and began throwing bottles at police officers.
That’s when officers deployed the tear gas that led to the 33 sustained findings against them, according to KNTV.
“I want to be clear this was not a policy failure,” Chief Armstrong said. “Officers deployed tear gas outside of policy.”
He said that police or civilians must be in imminent danger before tear gas can be deployed, KNTV reported.
Chief Armstrong was deputy chief during the protests and said he has has not been disciplined for his actions.
Thirty-three first responders – including 21 police officers and firefighters – were hurt during the four days of rioting that followed Floyd’s death in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, KNTV reported.
One of the injured officers was struck by a Molotov cocktail.
“My officers faced tremendous challenges over a four-day period,” Chief Armstrong said.
He said the protests were the most difficult days in some of the officers’ careers, KNTV reported.
The police chief said some of the protests during that period were the most violent he’d encountered in his 22 years on the police force.
In addition to the complaints about tear gas usage on June 1, Chief Armstrong said that allegations had also been upheld against one officers for actions on May 29, 2020 and against another officer for actions on May 31, 2020, KNTV reported.
He said that the reviews determined that all of the use of force by officers on May 30, 2020 was appropriate and justified.
The police chief said Oakland PD had suffered from limited resources and some officers had to face off with protesters day after day, which could have impaired their judgement, KNTV reported.
However, the tear gas used on June 1, 2020 violated procedure and every officer who deployed it that day was being held accountable, according to Chief Armstrong.
More than two dozen officers are facing discipline but the police department has not yet released exact numbers on how many members of the department were in trouble, KNTV reported.
The police chief said Oakland police have been retrained on crowd control policies and going forward, would not be permitted to carry chemical agents unless it was approved at the command level, the Mercury News reported.
Command staff will not be allowed to carry chemical agents at all, he said.
“We are going to have strict requirements,” Chief Armstrong said. “It’s my effort to assure the community that as they come to Oakland they can peacefully assemble, peacefully march and protest.”