Sources: Acting Oakland assistant police chief David Downing used racially insensitive language when referring to handling of protesters

 

OAKLAND (KRON) — KRON has unearthed new details on the man just named as acting assistant police chief and some comments he made.

On Tuesday, KRON learned about a troubling suggestion made during a meeting amongst Oakland police officers.

Multiple Oakland police sources confirm to KRON that they were present when acting assistant chief David Downing used racially insensitive language when referring to the handling of protesters in Oakland.

This happened over a year ago when Downing was a deputy chief, sources said.

One Oakland police source told KRON that they were in a meeting when they heard Downing advocate for using water cannons against protesters and that the then deputy chief Downing seemed oblivious to the racial overtones.

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Another law enforcement source told KRON that they were with Downing at a different meeting of Oakland police commanders, and deputy chief Downing suggested using water hoses against protesters as well.

In fact, sources tell KRON that in one of these meetings, an assistant to the federal monitor overseeing the department was present and taking notes.

This comes after the subject of racist texts at Oakland police were made public by Mayor Libby Schaaf last Friday.

“Racist text messages, we do think it is relevant to share that the text messages were sent by African-American officers,” Schaaf said.

Community activist Cat Brooks said she hopes Mayor Schaaf will not apply a double standard at OPD when it comes to tolerating racial insensitivity when reviewing previous statements made by the acting assistant chief.

“If that is the case, I guess we are going to see another head roll,” Brooks said. “I mean, she was very quick to point out black officers for sending racist text messages, so I’m guessing that the white officers will go to?”

KRON is reaching out to the mayor to find out what she knows about any racially incentive language used by acting assistant chief David Downing. KRON is waiting to hear back.

KRON also reached out to Oakland police requesting to speak to the assistant acting chief to get his side of this story, but he was not available.

Response from Mayor Libby Schaaf:

In mid-2013, then-Deputy Chief Downing participated in a discussion regarding OPD’s crowd management policies and practices. The discussion specifically focused on identifying different force options available to OPD for crowd management during protests. Several participants expressed concern about the use of CS gas (or pepper spray), which is a less-lethal law enforcement tool. Deputy Chief Downing shared his concern that if a tool such as CS was taken away, the Department could be left with methods that no modern-day police force would consider and rhetorically referenced use of such antiquated options such as water hoses.

During a break, one of the meeting attendees pointed out that the reference to water hoses could be perceived as racially insensitive due to their use during civil rights protests; he acknowledged this and did not use this term again. “I did not intend to suggest that such a method would ever be appropriate in Oakland, or any other community, as a legitimate crowd control method,” said Deputy Chief Downing.

News reports have also stated that an assistant from the Court-appointed Monitor was in the room taking notes during the crowd management discussion in 2013. It is important to note that the Monitor concurred with the current management structure of OPD, including having Acting Assistant Chief Downing in charge of Department operations and tactics.

Finally, noted civil rights attorney Jim Chanin, the plaintiff’s counsel in the Riders case, expressed his appreciation for Acting Assistant Chief Downing’s crowd management expertise in a meeting with Mayor Schaaf and City Administrator Landreth last Monday. “I have shared with the Mayor and City Administrator my positive experiences with Chief Downing’s crowd management skills and judgment,” said Chanin.

Mayor Schaaf became aware of this issue on Monday.

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