OAKLAND -- City leaders lacked the experience to effectively deal with Occupy Oakland and moved too quickly in evicting protesters camping in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, former police Chief Anthony Batts said.
"You had an aligning of a perfect storm," Batts told interviewers with a project for the Oakland Museum of California. "You had a rookie crew from the mayor to the city administrator to the police chief at that point in time dealing with a situation that they probably hadn't seen before."
The encampment was undoubtedly an eyesore, Batts said, "But the reality, all you had was people sleeping on grass. And you can replace grass. ... That's no reason to move quickly. You take your time. You use diplomacy. You talk to people."
Batts, who resigned as chief just as Occupy Oakland got underway, said that he would have handled the encampment in a similar manner as the Los Angeles Police Department handled Occupy Los Angeles. "When they moved in they had a very well-organized, well-planned operation," Batts said. "And everybody went home OK."
Batts gave his comments -- his first public statements about Oakland since his resignation last October -- as part of Portraits from the Occupation, a collection of videotaped interviews collected with 16 people involved with or impacted by Occupy Oakland. The interviews go live online at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the museum's website, http://museumca.org/theoaklandstandard/portraits-occupation.
Mayor Jean Quan, who also was interviewed for the project, declined to comment about Batts' statements, as did police Chief Howard Jordan and City Administrator Deanna Santana.
Discussing other topics, Batts said the police department was seen as a pariah within the city administration, although he said that he is hopeful that perception has changed under the new chief.
Batts also questioned the value of continued federal monitoring of the department to ensure compliance with a 2003 agreement that settled the Riders police misconduct case.
"The easy answer is always pointing to the police department, saying that it is failing to get its job done," he said of the department's continued struggle to comply with the settlement. "But if you've had four different chiefs of police and you've had 10 years of process, something else has to be going on there, and nobody's asking those tough questions what that is."
Although he questioned the federal monitoring, Batts said the department still had to improve how it dealt with certain communities. "Some of the cultural treatment that the police organization did to some of the citizenry there -- usually how they spoke to them, how they treated them -- was unacceptable ..." he said.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.