The independent review of police actions during the RNC convention last year here in Saint Paul was released yesterday, amid little fanfare. For the most part, it contains little that should surprise anyone: It finds that police, for the most part, did a good job. Most of its criticisms are fairly pedantic, or simply unpractical: for example, it suggests that the heavy police presence during the convention – a presence intentionally escalated in response to ongoing anarchist violence – was upsetting to many because the city had not adequately prepared people to expect such tactics.
It doesn’t really address how the city was supposed to anticipate that events would unfold as they did, and some of its suggestions seem a bit far fetched: evidently, the use of helicopters by law enforcement during the convention should have been announced well in advance, as some found it distressing or intimidating, and one Viet Nam veteran apparently experienced flashbacks during an anti-war demonstration. Mmmkay, then.
One thing the report mentions, which should come as little to surprise to anyone – unless you’re an anarchist deep in denial – is that urine and feces were, in fact, collected and used by anarchists during the demonstrations: The buckets of urine collected by Sheriff Fletcher the weekend before the convention were actually urine, not “grey water” as the anarchists – and their lawyers, of course – had maintained; the lab results have even been released, as part of the supporting evidence. Also, human feces were recovered in at least two instances – once in the backpack of an arrested anarchist, and once after being thrown at police by demonstrators. One anarchist statement during the convention said something to the effect of “do they really think we’re the sorts of people who would fling our own poo at others?”; I’d have to say “yes, and for good reason”…
One of the big criticisms of the report, from anarchists, is that the scope was very limited – in particular, it specifically did not address individual, personal incidents or complaints. Having read the report – and sat through the presentation to the City Council – I think this is a good thing; the seven-member panel could have been kept busy for a decade if they’d chosen to investigate every complaint, and their doing so wouldn’t have served any real purpose, anyway. (If they had, and sided with a complainant, then the complainant was obviously wronged; if they sided with the city, then obviously they’re political cronies out to protect the hand that feeds them. Nevermind the committee had no legal authority: if they’d investigated individual complains, found the city at fault in one, and the courts then disagreed, there’d be all sorts of finger-pointing and hysterical accusations flying around.)
The presentation was not without its lighter moments; a group of anarchists were in the audience, and made every effort to disrupt the proceedings with outbursts and heckling. It was pretty uninspired stuff – accusations that anarchists were being maligned; that every act of violence by an “anarchist” was the work of an “agent provocateur”; and so on. Why they even tried, I don’t know. The funniest bit, though, was when the panel showed surveillance video of a group of black-clad anarchists – a “black bloc” – throwing sandbags off an overpass onto the highway; one of the sandbags went through the roof of a charter bus carrying delegates from Washington state, and one of the anarchists in the audience stood up real quick and said something like “I don’t endorse or approve of those actions”. Freaking hypocrites; so much for “diversity of tactics”, eh, kids?
Once the presentation was over, most people left the council chamber, no doubt to go pester and annoy the panel members, who were taking questions from the media in a nearby conference room. Those who hung around got to hear a quite entertainingly ridiculous report from some self-righteous consultants hired to analyze the police department, and make recommendations for changes to the same. Most of the recommendations were undoubtedly generic boilerplate stuff, copied-and-pasted from previous reports the consultants had done of other departments – gee, a police department collects a lot of raw data, but doesn’t exploit that data to its full, information potential? How shocking. I think their worst recommendation was probably that the department do away with two-person cars, and make all patrol officers patrol alone. WTF? They claimed that’s more “efficient”, but I can’t see that pleasing anyone but bean-counters, if that. It’s a lose-lose situation: you reduce officers awareness, safety, and effectiveness, which doesn’t help anyone, and in return get what seems to be, but in reality isn’t, a larger police presence on the streets, which upsets the kinds of “activists” who like to use phrases like “police state” or “repression”, and just worries the less excitable residents: there are a lot more police cars on the streets lately, so crime must be getting worse, right?
I have a suspicion the local police union will throw a hissy fit over several parts of the consultants’ report, so I wouldn’t expect to necessarily see these “recommendations” implemented any time soon…