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Louisiana Law Enforcement Officers Are Moonlighting For A Controversial Pipeline Company

Off-duty law enforcement officers are using state resources to work side jobs for the pipeline company.

Probation and parole officers arrested pipeline protesters while working secondary jobs providing security to the pipeline company.
Karen Savage

Louisiana Law Enforcement Officers Are Moonlighting For A Controversial Pipeline Company

Off-duty law enforcement officers are using state resources to work side jobs for the pipeline company.

Karen Savage is an investigative journalist currently embedded with the L’eau Est La Vie resistance camp in Louisiana. She was arrested in the course of reporting this article.

Pipeline protester Cindy Spoon was trying to stop Energy Transfer Partners’ heavy tree-cutting equipment from coming onto a pristine cypress forest-covered island in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin. As she paddled in the bayou on Aug. 9, fan boats roared around her, blowing her canoe backward and kettling her in a smaller bayou.

Within minutes, Spoon and fellow activist Sophia Cook-Phillips were handcuffed and yanked out of the canoe by armed officers who refused to fully identify themselves.

“What law enforcement agency are you with and where are you taking me?” Spoon asked repeatedly, her voice cracking and growing increasingly frantic as she was pulled up a steep embankment and dragged onto Energy Transfer Partners’ Bayou Bridge pipeline easement.

Spoon and Cook-Phillips later learned they were being detained and dragged onto the construction site by probation and parole officers for the state of Louisiana who were working side jobs for an Energy Transfer Partners contractor.

Spoon, who prefers to be called a water protector, said she knew she was allowed to be on navigable waters, which are generally open to fishermen and members of the public who recreate in the basin.  She also knew that setting foot on land where the pipeline was being constructed could result in a felony.

“Despite being informed by law enforcement that the waterways are public and free to use, Louisiana probation and parole officers—acting as ETP’s private security—were allowed to…rip us out from our canoe while in the middle of the public waterway and turn us over to the police to be arrested without question,” said Spoon, adding that local police didn’t even pretend to act like they are in charge.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who.

A probation and parole officer wore a hat emblazoned with the word “police” in the Atchafalaya Basin on August 8, 2018.
Karen Savage

A recent increase in resistance to the pipeline project by Spoon and others has revealed a cozy relationship between Energy Transfer Partners and state and local law enforcement officers who work side jobs for security firms contracted by the pipeline company. At the same time, stakes for those opposing the project have never been higher. A new Louisiana law significantly increases the legal consequences for protesters, allowing for felony charges to be filed against those who engage in certain types of nonviolent direct action. Activists and some legal experts are questioning whether officers who are on the payroll of private security firms contracted by Energy Transfer Partners are able to adequately protect the constitutional rights of individuals who oppose the project.

Sometimes officers use state-owned vehicles and other equipment while working these private security jobs.

Anne White Hat, co-founder of the resistance group L’eau Est La Vie, said interactions between probation and parole officers and St. Martin Parish sheriff’s deputies demonstrate the murky relationship between both local and state officials and Energy Transfer Partners, a private corporation. Probation and parole officers appear to be directing the deputies, she added.

Changing the rules

On at least three occasions—one in April experienced by this reporter and two reported by pipeline opponents—probation and parole officers have used state-owned vehicles to make motor vehicle stops while working for the pipeline company.

In all three instances, drivers say they pulled over because the officers wore either shirts or hats that said “police” and appeared to be with a local law enforcement agency.

According to state guidelines provided to The Appeal by the department in late July, probation and parole officers need permission from their district administrator to work second jobs.

The guidelines provided in July also stipulated that state-owned equipment cannot be used while working second jobs unless that work is “under the auspices/authority of an outside law enforcement agency,” which is defined as an “agency with the authority to make arrests and includes city police, sheriff’s office, campus police, state police or federal law enforcement agencies.”

But probation and parole officers are allowed to use department-issued equipment and state-owned vehicles while working secondary assignments, Ken Pastorick, communications director for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said in an email on Aug. 15.

When asked in a phone interview a few days later about the discrepancy between the state guidelines The Appeal was given in July and actual practices, Pastorick said the guidelines had been revised and said he would send the current version, which he did a few hours later.

During the interview, Pastorick said the Department of Corrections has been working on the new policy for about a year and a half.

“The old guidelines spelled out that they could not use it [equipment] without the permission of the director, so now you still have to get the permission of the director, but it spells out in there that while on these details, you can use your service weapon, you can use your unit, you can use your uniform—the old policy wasn’t like that,” he said.

Pastorick said officers must obtain permission from the department to work secondary jobs, and once they receive permission, officers are allowed to use their service weapon, their uniform and their vehicle.

“Now, with that said, while they’re working, they’re not in the capacity of a probation and parole officer, but they are in the capacity of a state peace officer—a certified, credentialed state peace officer,” said Pastorick.

“So, they have the same arrest powers and police powers as somebody who might be working for the Louisiana State Police or probation and parole during their regular detail or a city police officer or sheriff’s deputy. But while they’re working those extra duty details, they’re not working for the department, they’re working independently, using their commission to work for companies like Hub or Athos to provide security for that pipeline,” he said, adding that officers are low-paid and often supplement their income with second jobs.

“You know when you look at my officer and with that Louisiana state map on his or her left chest and you see that badge, you know that’s an official law enforcement agent,” said Pastorick, who reiterated that while working outside jobs, the officers are using their commission to work independently.

Guidelines later received by The Appeal from Pastorick were dated Aug. 17—the day of the phone interview. A note in the revised guidelines says “08/17/2018; Supersedes policy PER 218 dated 03/06/2015.” Metadata shows the document was created about an hour after the phone interview.

The revised guidelines now allow for the use of state-issued equipment and state-owned vehicles in the performance of agency-approved jobs.

Pastorick did not respond to multiple requests for further comment.

Probation and parole officers detained water protectors while working secondary jobs for the pipeline company in the Atchafalaya Basin on August 9, 2018.
Karen Savage

Spoon and Cook-Phillips, along with Eric Moll, who was also arrested that day, are the first in Louisiana to be charged under a new state law that increases the stakes for protesters by redefining pipelines as critical infrastructure and imposing felony charges on those convicted of entering pipeline construction sites without authorization.

The new law went into effect Aug. 1. Spoon, Cook-Phillips, and Moll, who were arrested on Aug. 9, were each freed on a $10,000 bond. If convicted, each could face a sentence of imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and fines up to $1,000.

Bill Quigley, a New Orleans law professor who is representing the three pro bono, said similar nonviolent protests previously would have been considered misdemeanors.

“In fact, dozens of protesters have been arrested for the same or similar conduct for the past few months—every single one was charged with a misdemeanor. Many did not even have to put up bond,” said Quigley, referring to activists who engaged in nonviolent protests against the Bayou Bridge pipeline before August.

“Now, all of a sudden, the exact same actions are serious felonies with $10,000 bonds?  This is precisely the hypercriminalization of protest that critics of the new law predicted,” he said, adding that in both instances activists report they were on either public property or on private property with the permission of the owners.

“Yet the powerful pipeline corporations have orchestrated the state legislature to enact new laws [and] hired state law enforcement to enforce the new laws,” said Quigley.

Bills criminalizing many forms of pipeline protests have been proposed in several states, including Wyoming, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Most are modeled under the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, which defines pipelines as “critical infrastructure” and imposes harsh sentences and heavy fines to those convicted of entering a facility without the express permission of the landowner.   

Quigley said it’s unclear how the new law would apply on public trust land. While the definition of which waterways are navigable and what rights landowners have has been subject to debate, he said in this case the activists were on public trust waters and should not have been arrested. If the district attorney presses charges, he said, they will challenge the new law in court as part of their defense.

Pipeline police

Photos from the day of Spoon’s arrest show that armed security officers for the Bayou Bridge project wore badges and uniforms identifying them as probation and parole officers. Some also wore dark blue hats and shirts with “POLICE” in large white letters.

When Spoon and this reporter asked which law enforcement agency they work for, a few said they work “for the state.” One officer said to call the Department of Corrections in Baton Rouge for more information on the arrests. Most refused to answer.

Deputies with the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office, the local law enforcement agency, arrived about 30 minutes after the incident took place. They arrested and charged the protesters under the new felony law based on information given to them by probation and parole officers, who had removed Spoon, Cook-Phillips, and Moll from the waterway and onto the land portion of the easement at the direction of pipeline supervisors.  

A more recent incident took place on cypress tree-covered land in the Atchafalaya Basin that is jointly owned by hundreds of individuals. In a petition filed against several hundred property co-owners in July, Energy Transfer Partners said it has easement agreements with nearly additional 350 co-owners, but is seeking a judgement of expropriation against the remaining co-owners.

To prevent further construction, several landowners who oppose the project have given activists permission to occupy the land. Generally, guests on private property need only the permission of one owner in order to be legally present.

Despite having permission to be on the land, five pipeline opponents and this reporter were arrested last weekend by St. Martin Parish sheriff’s deputies. All but one were charged with felonies under the new law.

The company must have easement agreements with or expropriation judgments against all landowners in order to legally proceed with construction, Robert Verchick, professor of environmental law at Loyola University New Orleans, told Inside Climate News. The company has cut cypress trees, dug a trench and is in the process of moving pipeline through the property.

Deputies are allowing the company to continue to work.

“The fact that this company is allowed to do whatever it wants while the rights of our water protectors are being trampled, while landowners’ rights are being trampled, really makes me question who the St. Martin Parish deputies are working for,” said Cherri Foytlin, co-founder of the L’eau Est La Vie resistance camp.

“In North Dakota, they paid TigerSwan mercenaries to terrorize water protectors,” said Foytlin. She expressed similar worries about what could happen in Louisiana given the relationship between ETP and local law enforcement, adding that one activist was tased and another threatened with a semi-automatic weapon.

St. Martin Parish sheriff’s deputies told those arrested that they have signed affidavits from some of the landowners and told activists they are not allowed on the property. When asked, deputies would not say which landowners had signed the affidavits, nor could they provide copies of the documents.

The St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.  

The resistance grows

Construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline was controversial before it began. It is part of a larger project intended to connect Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota to refineries in St. James Parish and nearby export terminals.

Normally sparsely attended, public permitting hearings overflowed and contentious debates broke out between industry speakers and pipeline opponents.

Founded by four Native women, L’eau Est La Vie launched last year and activists began nonviolent direct actions against the project nearly as soon as construction began in January.

It is believed to be the first-ever large-scale resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the previously oil-friendly state.

In recent months, activists have ramped up the resistance, engaging in tree sits and other nonviolent direct actions in the Atchafalaya Basin, all aimed at protecting the swamp’s delicate ecosystem. They also hope to spur public officials to require the company to provide an evacuation route for St. James.

Because of the resistance, Energy Transfer Partners maintains a hefty security force.

The company has relied on at least three firms—Hub Enterprises, Athos Group, and Hillard Heintze—to monitor the 163-mile route and to keep tabs on those who oppose the project.

To fulfill that mission, Athos and Hub hired probation and parole officers, employees of the state of Louisiana under the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, to fill those jobs.

Between September 2016 and July 2018, nearly 60 officers assigned to the Louisiana Division of Probation and Parole were approved to work secondary jobs providing pipeline security through one or both of the companies.

Since The Appeal began its investigation, probation and parole officers have stopped working for the Bayou Bridge project.

“Our officers are out of that detail now and I believe that you can talk to Hub and I’ve heard that Hub has maybe some St. Martin Parish deputies working that detail now,” Pastorick said.

Citing a confidentiality agreement with Energy Transfer Partners, Hub Enterprises declined to comment.

An Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson said the company is thankful for local and state law enforcement, but declined to comment on their security firms or on the arrests.

A representative for the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

It is unknown how many, if any, deputies from the department work secondary jobs for Bayou Bridge.

Quigley, the activists’ attorney, said he finds it very troubling that a big corporation can come into the state and hire state and local law enforcement employees as their private security guards.

“Once hired, the corporation has the private benefit of public employees showing up in state law enforcement uniforms with state-issued weapons and state-issued gear to impose the power of the state on behalf of the highest bidder,” he said.

“What shows the raw power of big money more than bringing in the big guns of state law enforcement?  This is an absolute abuse of public trust,” Quigley added.

White Hat said, “They are targeting strong women, who are inherently protectors of the water and they’re coming straight at us in a very cowardly way.”  She added that “ultimately what’s at stake is clean water for our kids—for more than 300,000 people, for the city of New Orleans and for South Louisiana.”

“We’re not going to let people bully us around like that,” White Hat said. “They will be held accountable.”

Case Of Intellectually Disabled Teen Falsely Accused of Sex Offense Reveals Registry Flaws

Before Edgar Coker was exonerated in a rape case, he underwent therapy meant to prevent sexual reoffenses. Thousands of kids involved in sexual offenses are forced into therapies like “relapse prevention” that experts say are ineffective.

Edgar Coker with his parents at the University of Virginia School of Law in 2014.
University of Virginia School of Law

Case Of Intellectually Disabled Teen Falsely Accused of Sex Offense Reveals Registry Flaws

Before Edgar Coker was exonerated in a rape case, he underwent therapy meant to prevent sexual reoffenses. Thousands of kids involved in sexual offenses are forced into therapies like “relapse prevention” that experts say are ineffective.

In 2007, when he was 15, Edgar Coker pleaded guilty to raping a friend. Though Coker maintained his innocence and said he had only consensual sex with the accuser, a 14-year-old girl with a mental disability, Coker’s court appointed attorney advised him to enter the guilty plea in order to avoid being charged as an adult and he was sentenced to serve over a year in the Hanover Juvenile Correctional Facility in Virginia.

With an IQ of 78, Coker himself was deemed borderline intellectually disabled and, two months after he was sentenced, the girl recanted. She said she told the police she was raped when her mother caught her “pulling up her pants” at the family home after having sex with him.

Coker was eventually released and a circuit court in Stafford County vacated his charges. But despite his innocence, Coker underwent therapy at Hanover to prevent him from sexually reoffending, which included admitting guilt in the rape case, according to Jeree Thomas, who performed legal research for Coker’s habeas petition that led to his exoneration in 2014.

“Treatment is helpful, but for [kids] who are in sex offender treatment, they have to show remorse,” Thomas, now a policy director at the Campaign for Youth Justice, told The Appeal. “There’s a whole process. In Coker’s case, where he and the young woman were about the same age and intellectual capacity, they told him he needed to say he raped her.”

That kind of treatment, experts say, is ineffective.

Since 2006, when a federal law was enacted that required children convicted (not just charged) of aggravated sexual offenses who are 14 and older to be included on the national sex offender public registry, nearly 200,000 young people have been placed on the registry. African-Americans like Coker are disproportionately represented on the registry; the sex offender registration rate for black people is twice that of whites.

Many young people on the registry have had to undergo psychotherapy, which includes sessions of “relapse prevention”—a type of treatment used for people with substance use disorder—while attending inpatient or detention centers. But relapse prevention has never been proved effective in treating young people who commit sexual offenses. Moreover, studies show that only 5 to 14 percent of juveniles who commit sexual offenses are likely reoffend.

The low recidivism rate has more to do with the way children’s brains develop throughout their teens, according to juvenile justice experts.

“Kids grow up, they enter puberty and they become very sexually curious,” said David Prescott, clinical services development director for the Becket Family of Services, an alliance of nonprofit agencies that studies youth sexual behaviors. “Also, adolescents challenge authority and break rules. So, when you get all of those things in that stage of life, especially with kids less supervised, we shouldn’t be surprised when they do stupid stuff.”

Relapse prevention treatment is under the umbrella of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and focuses on self-regulating behavior if individuals find themselves in a situation where they might reoffend.

The therapy  works from a substance use disorder treatment model where, for example, drug users who feel compelled to use are taught to evaluate their situation and walk away. But substance use disorder is far different than a sexual impulse, said Pamela Yates, a Canadian forensic psychology researcher for Cabot Consulting and Research Services.

“The addiction model never fit well,” Yates said. “Sexual behavior is biologically ingrained in individuals. Having a goal of abstaining for individuals is unrealistic and unlikely to be achieved.”

In Virginia, where Coker was sentenced, a state report recommended relapse prevention along with empathy development as options for treatment of youth sex offenders, citing a 2008 study that found that over over 80 percent of mental health professionals supported the treatment. But the report also acknowledged, “given the lack of studies, these components are not designated as evidence based.”

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice said the state uses relapse prevention as one treatment option, adding that its program “utilizes an individualized, holistic, cognitive behavioral and strengths-based approach, which encompasses individual, group and family therapies.”

The number of juvenile detention or correctional facilities that use relapse prevention methods is unclear, but a 2009 study—the most recent year available—found that more than 50 percent of jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada continue to use it for juvenile sex offenders. In some jurisdictions, even more archaic methods are used.

“Some [kids] go into older-school models, where they have kids masturbate to images to the point of pain,” said Paul Shawler with the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth. Indeed, one treatment model instructed kids to masturbate to an illicit image and then sniff ammonia until their “state of sexual arousal is completely removed.”

There is no federal oversight of treatment for young people who commit sex offenses, so states set the standards. This means that treatment varies from the progressive (multisystemic therapy, or MST, in which young people are encouraged to engage with their communities and families) to non-evidence based (using drugs that reduce arousal).

“People are trying the best with the tools they have,” Shawler said. “But what we do know is the more restrictive [of sexual behavior] we are in our treatments, the more it becomes highly problematic.”

Prescott of Becket Family of Service advocates the Good Lives Model, which uses a combination of MST and CBT that addresses underlying problems—such as feeling emotionally disconnected from peers—that might have turned into an inappropriate touch.

But Yates, the forensic psychologist, says that the Good Lives Model and other progressive treatment models are not widely used. As a result, non-evidence based science that hasn’t been proved effective in reducing recidivism is informing treatment for sex offenders in prisons and detention centers. “Many of these interventions in place just aren’t research-based,” Yates said. “Those are resources that could be redirected into other places” such as MST treatment. “As a result, now, there are practices that actually work against public safety.”

Correction: In a previous version of this story, Pamela Yates was identified as a forensic psychologist and researcher. Because Yates is a non-practicing psychologist, her correct title is forensic psychology researcher.

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Doxxed By Berkeley Police

Critics say the Berkeley Police Department’s unusual practice of posting anti-fascist protesters’ mugshots on Twitter endangers activists and violates free speech rights.

Students hold a protest on a walkway over the entrance to right-wing journalist Ben Shapiro's speaking event in 2017.
Scott Morris

Doxxed By Berkeley Police

Critics say the Berkeley Police Department’s unusual practice of posting anti-fascist protesters’ mugshots on Twitter endangers activists and violates free speech rights.

On Aug. 5, far-right activists held a “No to Marxism” rally in Berkeley, California, as part of a national commemoration of the anniversary of a deadly white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia. The small rally was besieged by counterprotesters. As had usually been the case during such rallies, the Berkeley Police Department made arrests. But the department took an extra step that was unusual: It posted protesters’ names and booking photos on Twitter.

Three days later, the department removed the tweets. But each name and photo had already been widely shared, including on conservative news outlets and among right-wing social media users. “Let’s make them famous,” one Republican strategist instructed his thousands of followers.

While the department has sporadically released booking photos of arrestees via Twitter, it has never released them so quickly and methodically as during protests, leading some attorneys to argue that the targeting of protesters could violate their First Amendment rights. Activists have raised concerns that by broadcasting their identity, Berkeley police have put anti-fascist protesters in danger.

This social media practice appears to be highly unusual. A review of the Twitter accounts of law enforcement agencies in the 50 largest cities over the last year turned up few examples of protesters’ booking photos. Police in St. Louis posted photos of protesters arrested during a demonstration against a police shooting last September, but deleted the tweet after getting hundreds of negative responses. The Portland Police Department has posted booking photos of protesters, but also routinely posts booking photos for other offenses, unlike Berkeley. The Oakland Police Department has at times provided protesters’ booking photos with press releases, but typically waits until after prosecutors have filed charges.

Berkeley police started using the tactic last year after a series of confrontations between far-right activists and counterprotesters. The department tweeted the names and photos of 15 protesters arrested at two demonstrations last September. The grounds for those arrests have been called into question as none of those protesters were ever convicted of a crime, according to court records.

“Last year, anti-fascist arrestees and one of their defense lawyers received death threats and neo-Nazis showed up at court and were waiting for arrestees outside the jail,” said Rachel Lederman, an attorney with the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “Even the assistant district attorney was harassed. Berkeley is well aware of the danger in posting this information.”

Lederman said that the National Lawyers Guild has found that nearly everyone arrested at the protests last year and everyone arrested this year were anti-fascist protesters. Five anti-fascist protesters arrested in March 2017 were tried for assault but found not guilty. Meanwhile, Nathan Damigo of the white supremacist group Identity Evropa was captured on video punching a woman in the face in April 2017 but was never arrested or charged.

Berkeley Police Twitter account

The department has disputed that ideology has played any role in the arrests. It said in a statement that arrests are “based on people breaking the law, not on viewpoint and expression of speech.”

Berkeley first became the target for a series of rallies and events by far-right activists in February 2017, when a planned speaking engagement at University of California, Berkeley by then Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos was disrupted by large crowds of counterprotesters. Black-clad activists attacked the campus venue, setting a fire and breaking windows. At rallies in March and April, right-wing activists arrived armed and ready to fight. There were brawls at each event, and dozens of people were arrested.

That September, UC Berkeley students planned more appearances by far-right speakers. About 1,000 people protested outside a speech by Ben Shapiro, another former Breitbart editor, and nine people were arrested. Yiannopoulos then announced a week of speeches by well-known conservatives, including Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter, but the event fizzled into only a short speech by Yiannopoulos in a public square on campus. A large group of demonstrators then marched through city streets and 11 people were arrested.

Berkeley police tweeted the names, booking photos, and charges for a total of 15 protesters from the two September 2017 events. The charges identified in the tweets included carrying a banned weapon, battery on a police officer, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest. But only four of those people were ever charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office and all of their cases were dismissed in court.

At the Aug. 5 rally, police protected a small group of right-wing activists who gathered in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. Unable to access the park, anti-fascist protesters marched through the streets, smashing the windows of parked city vehicles and at a U.S. Marine recruiting center. Police said protesters threw fireworks at officers and officers deployed smoke grenades and rubber bullets.

As the demonstration went on, police announced a steady stream of arrests via Twitter, eventually posting 15 booking photos. The department later said it had arrested 20 people.

Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Byron White provided a written statement from the police defending the release of photos on Twitter, saying it was legal and constitutional. “This is done not in an effort to shame, or to chill freedom of speech, but to deny lawbreakers anonymity, and to deter those who in the future may be considering bringing weapons into our community, in order to commit acts of violence,” the department said.

The charges listed in the department’s tweets were vague, including for carrying a “banned weapon” or “working with others to commit a crime.” White would not clarify what weapons the protesters were accused of carrying or what crime they were allegedly conspiring to commit. White also would not answer questions about why Berkeley police do not typically announce arrests via social media except at protests, why no one whose arrest was publicized on social media last year was convicted or why the tweets were removed.

None of the arrestees identified from the Aug. 5 demonstration have been charged. Lederman said that many of the “banned weapons” were common items associated with protests such as flagpoles or bandanas. Since last year, the department has issued a long list of banned items before protests, including masks, which Lederman said the National Lawyers Guild has warned the Berkeley city attorney’s office is unconstitutional. It appears that those arrested are not accused of the most serious acts of vandalism: While one protester was arrested for alleged vandalism, Berkeley police issued a press release on Aug. 9 seeking help identifying the protesters who smashed city vehicles and the Marine recruiting center.

Under California law, an arrestee’s name and booking photo is considered public information. But the rapid release of this information via social media is unusual for Berkeley police. The department typically does not release the names or booking photos of suspects so quickly after an arrest, even for shootings and homicides. For example, an official press release issued in June about the arrest of a shooting suspect neither named the suspect nor provided a booking photo.

The Berkeley Police Department has struggled with its response to protests in recent years. The National Lawyers Guild sued the city after a Black Lives Matter protest in 2014, when police used batons and tear gas on peaceful demonstrators and journalists. The city settled the suit last year and the department promised to change its use of force policy. But those reforms have been moving slowly and the department was sued again last month for officers’ use of force during a protest at a June 2017 City Council meeting.

Not everyone has been critical of the Berkeley police response to the protests, however.

“The police have been great,” right-wing organizer Amber Cummings told reporter Ford Fischer on Aug. 5. “They’ve been handling things and keeping us separated. Police have done a great job here.”

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