By Mary Slosson
(Reuters) - One year after anti-Wall Street protests began rocking the streets of Oakland, police said on Friday they had fired or suspended 17 officers after the demonstrations led to a record number of complaints against the department.
The Oakland Police Department came under intense scrutiny for its handling of the Occupy Oakland protests, with a federal judge in May calling for officials to deal with the backlog of complaints over police abuse or face sanctions.
Oakland police received 1,127 complaints, most of them stemming from three massive confrontations between police and protesters over the course of the Occupy Wall Street protests, according to a report by the department's Internal Affairs Division.
In a given year, the department receives a total of roughly 1,000 use-of-force complaints, said City of Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd.
Roughly a third of the use-of-force complaints occurred at a demonstration where a former Marine and Iraq war veteran, Scott Olsen, was critically injured after an Oakland police SWAT team member fired a beanbag round that hit him in the head, according to an independent report on the incident.
Protesters have said Olsen was hit by a tear gas canister fired by police.
Forty officers have been disciplined by the department so far, with two officers fired, 15 suspended and others receiving a mix of written reprimands, more training and one demotion.
"We are managing a delicate balance between protecting the first amendment rights of protesters, and protecting life and property when small groups of protesters engage in vandalism and violence," Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said in a written statement.
An independent review of the events published in June complimented Jordan for making improvements to the problem-riddled police department his highest priority.
Oakland police officials announced in April that the department was making significant changes to how it trains officers to control large crowds following criticism of its handling of the Occupy protests.
(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Dan Whitcomb)