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Interview: Police Executives' Research Forum Director Chuck Wexler

PERF’s Boston-connected leader discusses role in Occupy conference calls
By KHADIJAH BRITTON  |  November 23, 2011

In this week's Boston PhoenixKhadijah Britton reports on PERF, a non-government, non-profit police agency that has been accused of coordinating national police responses to the Occupy movement. Here is the full transcript of Britton's interview with PERF executive director Church Wexler, a Boston native, Boston University graduate, and former operations assistant to three Boston Police Department commissioners who currently serves as an appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

MUST HAVE BEEN A HARD WEEKEND. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, after a while you think, "well, there's so many people saying this stuff about me, it must be true."

We're getting wacked from the other side, we got wacked for our role in the AZ law – they came out of the woodwork and sent threatening letters. That's what it is when you try to make a difference. Organizationally, we've always tried to what's right and make sense of conflict.

JUST TO CLEAR THE AIR, WHAT WAS PERF'S ACTUAL ROLE IN COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN OCCUPY PROTEST CITIES' POLICE CHIEFS? THEIR MAYORS? HOW WAS IT INITIATED, WHICH IS TO SAY, WHO CONTACTED WHO? It was very straightforward. This happens all the time - people will say something's going on in this part of the country - PERF's reason for being is to take on difficult issues and try to make sense of them and discuss them. When Occupy emerged, a couple of chiefs said "let's have a conference call and talk about this." We set up a line and let people talk to each other. What's going on. Not everybody came on, some people did. There was no agenda. No purpose aside to simply exchange information. We didn't really make much of it, it was just an opportunity. Different cities have different issues, different structures. There wasn't any common theme at all. If you look around the country, it's very idiosyncratic. It wasn't specific, it was like we have a few hundred people here, they're living in tents. It was not tactics or anything.

The second call was November 4th, I was at Harvard. The police chief in Portland asked that we set up a second call. And again, this was very much similar, only now some things had become contentious. Our role was just setting the call up, stepping back and letting everybody talk to each other. They wanted to kind of get a sense of what cities are facing and how they're dealing with it. Issues of sanitation, marching and blocking streets. One city said "The police aren't even involved at all, they have health and sanitation involved."

The reason this whole thing came about was because an AP reporter was talking to a police chief in Portland. AP reporter called me and I said, yeah. People interpreted having this call and sharing this information, could you imagine thinking that someone could tell these people what to do? We don't have the expertise to tell these cities what to do. It would be presumptuous to even think that.

You could talk to Ed Davis in Boston and he could tell you, this was just information sharing.

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Related: Photos: Occupy Boston on the National Day of Action, With support among police quietly growing, can Occupy cross over the thin blue line?, Portland group asks city to create free-speech zone, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Police, BPD, freedom of speech,  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.
    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

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