THE OAKLAND SCHOOL district should fire the chief of its small police force for his abusive behavior caught on tape as he inappropriately detained an Oakland Tribune journalist during a student protest against immigration raids.
Art Michel's uncontrolled cussing and intimidation of videographer Jane Tyska demonstrates that he is unfit to function as a police officer and certainly not as the chief of a department whose primary mission is to work in the schools around children. As the leader of approximately a half dozen officers, he should be setting an example of how to respond to tense situations in a controlled, thoughtful manner.
Instead, the videotape shows Michel's
Warning: Video contains profanity
We shudder to think how Michel would have reacted if the encounter had involved a student who lacked the ability or resources to question what was happening, and we wonder how much further he would have gone if the video camera wasn't running.
The Oct. 31 incident began as Tyska was videotaping the protesting students at the Fruitvale BART station. The demonstration was part of a larger rally by students who were headed to San Francisco for an
Michel accuses Tyska of deliberately swinging at his patrol car with her elbow as he tried to drive past her and then trying to incite the crowd as he ordered her to get into his car. Tyska disputes that account, saying Michel grazed her with his car when he drove by.
During the confrontation that ensued, Michel orders Tyska to "get in the f------ car." He calls her a "lying son of a b----" and a "pain in the a--." Tyska tries to explain that she is a working member of the press and that she didn't hit his car. Tyska is threatened with arrest but eventually released without citation.
Michel confiscated the videotape to hold as evidence. It was returned to the Tribune three days later and can now be viewed on insidebayarea.com/video. (Viewer discretion is advised because of the profanity.) The Alameda County District Attorney's Office reviewed Michel's allegations and decided not to file charges against Tyska.
But this incident must not end there. The problem behavior was Michel's, not Tyska's. As district spokesman Troy Flint said, "We don't believe (Michel's) language or comportment was appropriate and it's not something to be tolerated in a public representative." That's right. If the district intends to show it's serious, Michel needs to go. Interim schools Superintendent Roberta Mayor must take action. If she won't, the school board should step in.