Officers disciplined for name-covering episode
Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer Wed, Jan 11, 2012
An Oakland police lieutenant has been demoted and an officer has been suspended for a month because the officer was captured on videotape at a recent Occupy Oakland protest with the name on his uniform covered in black tape, sources said today.
Officer John Hargraves covered his first initial and last name while providing security at Oakland police headquarters during the Nov. 2 general strike, according to a video shot by a citizen. In the video, the camera operator tells Hargraves, "It's kind of weird that you actually are not showing your name. Why is that? Simple question."
Hargraves does not respond. The videographer then approaches Lt. Clifford Wong, who is standing with other officers outside the building on Seventh Street downtown. After an inaudible conversation between Hargraves and Wong, Wong removes the tape.
After an internal investigation, Hargraves was suspended for 30 days, and Wong was demoted to sergeant for failing to report the incident to internal affairs, sources said.
In court papers, Hargraves wrote that he had covered his name moments before the video operator had come up to him. Hargraves said a watch commander had reported a day or two earlier that an officer from another agency was videotaped by Occupy protesters and that the officer's name, home address and names of family members were posted on the Internet.
"The video involving that other officer also called for violence against the officer, including burning down his home," Hargraves wrote. "This caused me great concern for the safety of my family."
But civil rights attorney Jim Chanin said today, "That's like saying that you can steal from a store because you're poor. If you take that to its logical conclusion, every police officer every day faces possible exposure and danger because their names are on their badges. Officer Hargraves could have asked to get an undercover assignment. He could have asked to be taken off duty that day. Instead, he decided to go and get his pay and violate the law. There's no excuse for that."
Chanin represented civil plaintiffs in the Oakland "Riders" police misconduct scandal that led to a $10.5 million civil settlement and a federal consent decree mandating departmental reforms. Chanin said the city should pay monetary sanctions because the name-badge issue shows "these reforms have yet to sufficiently penetrate through the Oakland Police Department."
Four officers in the Riders case were fired after being accused of beating up or framing suspects in West Oakland in 2000. Three officers were tried twice but never convicted. A fourth remains a fugitive.
Attorneys squabbled over the name-badge issue at a hearing Monday before U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco, who is overseeing the decree. City officials argued that sanctions were unnecessary because the officers had already been disciplined.
Henderson said he would issue a ruling on sanctions at a later date.