Police Executive Research Forum: We aren't involved in guiding Occupy crackdowns. Oh wait, yes we are.

A US police organization can't seem to make up its mind about whether it is or isn't playing a significant role in crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street in cities around the US.

Above, a tweet from Chuck Wexler, the Executive Director of PERF, dated November 1.

He's referencing this document (PDF). The contents of the document aren't all that shocking, really, and some of the advice seems reasonable—engaging with large crowds in a non-confrontational way instead of coming out in "Darth Vader suits" (their words, not mine) and full riot gear.

But this is all very interesting when contrasted with a press release issued by PERF today, after last week's reports that PERF, local police chiefs, and mayors participated on a number of conference calls about OWS:

Over the last few days, the Police Executive Research Forum has been the subject of several false articles and blog postings alleging that we have been coordinating police crackdowns on Occupy protests. This is not true.

All of this, by the way, was the inspiration for the PERF website takeover and doxing of Mr. Wexler by Anonymous this weekend.

Related reading: Bob Ostertag in the Huffington Post on the militarization of campus police.

(via @timeoutcorner @heratylaw)


  1. After reading through this publication, I hope that this agency is getting involved! The sections in there strongly support non -violence on the part of police and basically tell them to suck it up.

  2. I don’t see this as contradictory. A group can “participate on a number of conference calls” and have a report “used as a guide” without actually “coordinating” anything. Coordinating implies directing or having power. I’ve been on conference calls and written guides that were used, but that doesn’t mean I “coordinated.”

    1. Yup. The two statements aren’t at all contradictory.

      OTOH we aren’t being invited to do anything other than contrast them.

      Don’t know why really. Perhaps it’s just a way of mentioning the existence of the PERF document, interesting enough in its ‘don’t go bad-ass’ approach? Except that such a document would be ‘news’ only if it proposed the methods actually being used in the field.

    2. “Coordinating implies directing or having power.”

      It can also refer to where someone isn’t directing, and and is helping other people, groups, etc. keep in touch and keep from working at cross purposes.

    3. Coordinating implies directing or having power. 

      In my experience, no person with a title that includes the word “coordinator” has ever had any power to speak of.

  3. It’s quite common for subject-matter experts in any field to be asked to sit in on conference calls, review data, advise in court cases etc.  They are usually paid a consulting fee for their time and that’s it.  I myself have been paid to sit in on conference calls for up to several hours without ever actually participating in the conversation simply because my expertise turned out not to be needed.  And even when it has been needed I simply provided an expert opinion and often never knew if it was taken into account in the final decision-making processes or simply round-filed.  (Given the stark contrast between the pamphlet and what played out in reality I’d say round-filed in this case.  :)

       At any rate, unless somebody can come up with a heck of a lot more interesting/scary boogeyman to investigate there is literally no story here…

  4. Yeah, I’m not seeing the contradiction here, either.

    They appear to be acting in an advisory role only, not a leadership role (so they’re not coordinating), and their advice appears to actually be good.

    Let’s turn this around… let’s say that Boing Boing posts an article about how to defend oneself against tear gas in the Occupy protests. Should an anti-OWS blog post that Boing Boing is coordinating the Occupy protests?

  5. The BoingBoing commentariat has given this revelation the royal “meh”.  This thread is my answer the next time someone accuses BB commenters of being hysterical bandwagoners.

    Also, that snow owl is sweet.

  6. It’s interesting to compare how the Vancouver police approach their role: “We are here to protect your right to protest. We will stand in harm’s way to protect your right to protest” (managing events pdf, chapter 2) with UC Davis — We are ordered to obliterate you and your right to protest.  We will use our power to harm you and punish you for having a voice.  

  7. The story is that this PERF bunch created and advocated a guide and proudly publicised its usage, to then back off when things got ugly.  It’s a story of PR emergency, reverse back-pedal.

    In the mud-slinging that ensues, it seems the firm is wont to evade any sticking of ick to itself, and unable to declare itself nothing to do with the problems, has said it hasn’t been co-ordinating the police behaviour.

    So the guide they wrote is not being adhered to – as generally happens to weak-willed and non-backboned things – and they’re being implicated in the monstrous collusion resulting in ruptured spleens and pepper-sprayed students.

    They don’t want to say everyone’s ignored their guidelines, as that will annoy their customers (the police! right?!).

    But their guidelines are clearly being tossed aside, or were never even looked at.  Such was the passion of presentation and persuasiveness of content.

    So in the end, they look like a wilting flower.  Such is life in the hot sun, sitting on the fence with a small and squeaky voice.

    Surely they should in all moral conscience be standing best foot for’d and denouncing the brutality and ignorance of the police?  Just wondered, y’know.

  8. I feel the lede may be slightly buried here.  That Bob Ostertag post at HuffPo is fairly essential reading.  He’s Professor of Technocultural Studies and Music at UC Davis, so he definitely has an opinion on what went down at Davis this weekend.  He includes contrasting photos of a Columbia University campus cop (armed with, apparently, a windbreaker and a whistle) gently arresting a cocaine dealer, next to the riot-geared squadron of batons and helmets and toxic aerosols bravely facing down the students who were, in Ostertag’s words, “defending public education.”

    Do read that article when you get a chance.

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