From: Oakland Tribune
By Matthew Artz, 7/30/14
OAKLAND — A police officer fired for throwing a grenade into a crowd of Occupy Oakland protesters who were tending to a wounded comrade got his job back Wednesday.
An arbitrator ordered Oakland to reinstate Officer Rob Roche with back pay, his attorney Justin Buffington said.
The arbitrator, David Stiteler, determined that Roche was following orders when he deployed the grenade, which makes a loud sound, emits a bright light and releases a gas irritant designed to disperse crowds, Buffington said.
Roche was caught on camera throwing the grenade in the direction of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was lying on the ground moments after being struck in the head with a lead-filled bean bag fired by another Oakland police officer.
Roche was placed on leave after the Oct. 25, 2011 incident and fired in August 2013. He appealed the firing, which went to arbitration. City officials said they could not release the arbitrator’s ruling because it involved a private personnel issue. Buffington said he also had not gotten authorization from Roche to release the ruling.
Olsen sustained a fractured skull and brain damage from being struck by the lead-filled beanbag. He received a $4.5 million settlement from the city earlier this year.
“I’m really saddened by this ruling,” Olsen’s attorney Rachel Lederman said. “This was an extremely outrageous incident. It shows the need for continuing oversight of OPD.”
Olsen was hurt during a mass protest following the eviction of an Occupy encampment outside City Hall. The incident generated outrage and turned many city residents against the police and the decision by city leaders to evacuate the Occupy encampment.
Footage showed Olsen injured on the pavement with demonstrators rushing to his aid when Roche threw the grenade in their vicinity, forcing them to scatter.
Buffington said that Roche was the only officer fired in connection to an Occupy protest, and that the incident stemmed from the department’s failure to assign enough officers to deal with the protest.
“He was clearly the soap that the OPD command staff used to wash themselves clean of their sins,” Buffington said.