The Occupy movement has been interesting, yet challenging to deal with as police chief. Group members truly believe in their cause and want things to change. Most of the members have been good to work with. A few members are very challenging and feel that the only way to further their cause is to force confrontation and be arrested. The unfortunate thing is the City has worked in earnest to get them compliant with City ordinances, but yet they do not appreciate that.
Myself, other police chiefs and city officials around the country have found working with a "leaderless group" is difficult. Some members of the group feel they have been misled by the police department. While our message was consistent after we learned the plan was to make this a long term protest, we found that unless things were written down the message often got lost or misinterpreted. I talked to two group members who were very understanding of the need to follow City ordinances, but these guys had just gotten involved in the last few days.
I have been told by many group members about the problems of homelessness and how it needs to be a priority of government. A few were surprised when I told them about our efforts in collaboration with CHUM and out reach workers to help find homeless supportive housing. We have a couple of officers who spend a fair amount of their time on this effort as it reduces crime and increases the quality life for everyone. They did not know Duluth was leading the way in this effort and has been awarded State grants based on our success. I discovered just as many of the group members think we don't know about their underlying reasons for protest, they don't know what the police department's efforts are to make this a better place for everyone. Several of our initiatives surprised them and it made me realize we need to do more to let people know the police of today are a lot more than just crime prevention and arresting crooks.