A federal judge has rejected two civil rights groups' request for a preliminary injunction to keep Oakland Police from using excessive force against Occupy protesters and other demonstrators.
The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild filed a lawsuit Nov. 14 on behalf of Scott Campbell, a protester and videographer at whom police are accused of firing a beanbag round without provocation or adequate reason. U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg basically denied the request for the same reasons he had denied an earlier request for a temporary restraining order: it would require the court to oversee the department's compliance with its own policies, something that's not appropriate without evidence of intentional, officially sanctioned violations of constitutional rights.
"Whatever the relative strength of each side's factual record, mere proof of police misconduct does not entitle plaintiffs to an injunction," the judge wrote. "(B)ecause plaintiffs have not shown a pattern of officially sanctioned misconduct, they have not dispelled doubt as to their standing for injunctive relief, and therefore cannot establish a likelihood of success on the merits."
Gregory Fox, the city's lawyer, said the city appreciates the attention Seeborg paid to Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan's testimony that although his department is investigating a few specific allegations of misconduct, it hewed pretty closely to its crowd-control policies and protesters' civil rights.
"The judge clearly recognized the chief is committed to both allowing free speech to take place on the streets of Oakland while maintaining order and safety for all those concerned," Fox said.
Nonetheless, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California declared victory.
"(E)ven without a favorable ruling at this juncture, we've reached our ultimate goal with the lawsuit: stopping further violence by OPD against protesters," ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye blogged Tuesday. "Since the filing of the lawsuit, there has not been a repeat of police violence. OPD has toned down its bad behavior. Whether the timing is coincidental, it's not a far stretch to assume that being under the scrutiny of yet another court may have impacted OPD's approach to handling demonstrations."