More than two dozens Oakland police officers were reprimanded or suspended for using tear gas last summer against peaceful protesters who took to the streets following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, officials said Wednesday.
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said the disciplined officers, who included a deputy chief, violated department policy involving tear gas.
“The policy is very clear, officers were not authorized to use gas in a manner which they did, and for that, the department’s held them accountable,” Armstrong said.
Hundreds of people gathered in Oakland and some briefly shut down Interstate 880. Things became increasingly tense as protesters defaced buildings, smashed windows and threw bottles and fireworks at police, injuring several officers.
The city saw protests over four nights last May and June that began peacefully but sank into chaos late at night. On May 29, 2020, a federal agent was killed by a member of the far-right Boogaloo movement, authorities said.
Dozens of businesses were damaged or destroyed. Police said 13 officers were injured and people in car caravans broke into marijuana dispensaries and other businesses in Oakland and neighboring Emeryville.
With limited resources, the department was forced to deploy the same officers over “four difficult, exhausting days,” Armstrong said.
On June 1, 2020, police declared an unlawful assembly and fired tear gas into a crowd, prompting some demonstrators to pour milk or water into their stinging eyes.
“There was a failure on June 1 and for that, we are holding ourselves accountable,” Armstrong said. “It starts with me. I will ensure, moving forward, that there is a strong plan, that there’s a strong supervisory and command control, and that we are minimizing the use of force.”
Armstrong wouldn’t say how many officers faced disciplinary action but Mayor Libby Schaaf told KTVU-TV it was more than two dozen.