Local Police Ask Each Other How Do You Solve a Challenge Like OWS

WNYC has confirmed that the Police Executive Research Forum, a DC-based non-profit that has 1,600 police department as members, held two conference calls with 40 different cities looking to compare notes on how best to deal with their versions of Occupy Wall Street.

The calls happened last month, and a follow-up conference call occurred week ago, according to Chuck Wexler, the Forum's executive director. The NYPD confirmed its participation in the calls.

Wexler said the consensus on the calls indicated that, in general, the municipal departments were finding policing the local iterations of OWS an increasing challenge.

Deputy Mayor of Operations Cas Holloway said on Wednesday the cost of policing Zuccotti park for the NYPD has been $3 million a month.

While the local police officials found some commonality between their OWS protests, Wexler added they also varied widely.

"You have the dynamic of policing of what has become a city within a city," said Wexler. He said the issues of ongoing sanitation, food and public safety required the police try and coordinate with the protest leadership as best they could identify it.

Wexler said it is difficult for police to know how to work with groups that have amorphic leadership structures. He said police can do a better job with demonstrations like non-violent disobedience action when protesters are well organized and make their intentions clear.

"Once they told the police they wanted to be arrested that was fine. You did not have to bring in the dogs, spray them, or hose them or anything like that. They simply wanted to be arrested. And there was a way to do that peacefully, there was a win-win."

Wexler said the one commonality the local departments were all facing was how to deal with the budgetary impacts of how to deal with the protests in a time of prolonged austerity.  "They don't want to pull officers from other areas so they wind up having overtime run the clock up and this was an unanticipated expense," Wexler said.