A PERF-ect Storm

How a nonprofit led by Boston's finest peacemakers was blamed for the Occupy crackdowns
By KHADIJAH BRITTON  |  November 26, 2011

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UNFAIR COPS As Occupations in Portland (above) and Oakland faced violent crackdowns, some wondered if the attacks were coordinated.

In recent weeks, Occupations in cities across America have seen brutal crackdowns by local police forces. Left-wing pundits have speculated that these attacks were coordinated — that they were too tightly synchronized not to have someone directing them.

The conspiracy theory was shored up by two news reports: one from the BBC, in which Oakland Mayor Jean Quan made vague reference to a conference call with other cities to discuss how to handle their Occupy "situation." The other, an Associated Press story, quoted Portland Assistant Police Chief Larry O'Dea saying that he had made a conference call to other Occupy cities' police forces.

The timing on these two conference calls seemed suspicious. Quan's came only a few days before her police force's violent assault on Occupy Oakland. At the time, Quan was in Washington, DC, home of PERF headquarters, leaving her deputy mayor, Sharon Cronu, and legal adviser Dan Siegel to handle affairs back home. Both quit the next day. The second call, requested by Portland Police Chief Mike Reese, occurred on November 4 — 9 days before the Portland police violently shut down that city's Occupy encampment.

>> READInterview: Police Executives' Research Forum Director Chuck Wexler <<

Last week, the San Francisco Bay Guardian tied it all together, reporting that both conference calls were hosted by a nonprofit, nongovernmental agency with strong Boston ties, called the Police Executives' Research Forum (PERF). Finally, Occupy supporters across the Internet felt they had their suspect. The hacker group Anonymous shut down PERF's Web site Sunday, released three caches of files and documents, and spread word that this organization was the glue holding together the new police state.

But what is PERF? And what role, if any, did it play in the police actions? According to PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler, not the one he had hoped.

His organization is more concerned with improving police practices and policies, he said. He cited a report PERF published in June, which gives advice that runs exactly counter to how Occupy has been handled in most cities — emphasizing communication, respect for the First Amendment, and avoidance of violent methods at nearly all cost.

"Over the years, we've taken on racially biased policing, violent crime, the Gates-Crowley thing in Cambridge," he said. "It's not always pretty, and it's not easy, but I think we owe it to the public to identify best practices."


THE SUSPECT

For 34 years, PERF has described itself as a national membership organization of progressive police executives. Founded in 1977, the organization currently performs research funded mainly through government contracts with the Department of Homeland Security and donations from companies such as Motorola and Lockheed-Martin. PERF runs its police executive training course, SMIP, on the Boston University campus each summer, with professors from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government teaching courses in leadership, crisis management, and organizational theory. Its board of directors includes police chiefs from across the country.

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Related: From Seattle to Oakland, Occupy efforts are fighting back at establishment brutality, Interview: Police Executives' Research Forum Director Chuck Wexler, ‘#Occupy’ at Yellow Peril; Roger Shimomura at RIC, More more >
  Topics: News Features , protests, Police Brutality, Occupy,  More more >
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  •   A PERF-ECT STORM  |  November 26, 2011
    In recent weeks, Occupations in cities across America have seen brutal crackdowns by local police forces.
  •   INTERVIEW: POLICE EXECUTIVES' RESEARCH FORUM DIRECTOR CHUCK WEXLER  |  November 23, 2011
    In this week's Boston Phoenix ,  Khadijah Britton reports on PERF , a non-government, non-profit police agency that has been accused of coordinating national police responses to the Occupy movement.

 See all articles by: KHADIJAH BRITTON