An inquiry by the California Highway Patrol has concluded that an undercover plainclothes police officer acted in accordance with departmental policy this past December when he drew his gun and aimed it at protesters during a disturbance at an anti-police demonstration.
As reported by the Contra Costa Times, the incident that sparked the investigation occurred during a protest in Oakland, California on December 10th, 2014. The unnamed officer and his partner were assigned to follow and monitor a crowd of protesters.
According to Chief Avery Browne of the CHP’s Golden Gate Division, the assignment of plainclothes officers to demonstrations has become standard procedure following the incident in Ferguson, Missouri that has sparked protests across the nation.
When some individuals within the crowd began vandalizing and looting local businesses, the officers began to follow on foot, hoping to later help Oakland police in the identification of the perpetrators.
Around 11:30 PM, some of the protesters became suspicious that the two men were undercover police officers instead of protesters. At least one of the demonstrators tried to pull off the bandannas that the undercover officers were using to disguise their faces.
One officer wrestled with a protester and was punched in the head. A general melee began, and the crowd began to close in around the officers. Out of fear for the safety of his partner and himself, the second officer drew his baton and then his gun. He aimed the gun at the crowd to keep any aggressive individuals away from him and his partner.
Although SF Gate explains that some are critical of the officers’ actions because they failed to show their badges, Chief Browne believes that such criticism is unwarranted, saying, “Was it unnerving? Yes. Shocking? Yes. We take that seriously when there is a display of a firearm, but had he not done that, today we might be having a different discussion. He saved his partner’s life and other citizens that were there, too.”
Chief Browne went on to say that the actions of the undercover plainclothes officers were entirely appropriate, because they felt threatened and were both outnumbered and surrounded by the protesters. During the course of the investigation, statements were taken from numerous witnesses, and investigators spent hours reviewing footage from surveillance cameras that captured the incident.