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Chief orders investigation into forceful arrest of former councilman

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Oakland Police Department, Oakland, Calif.

Oakland police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick has ordered an internal affairs investigation into an altercation involving a former city councilman who was thrown to the ground and arrested at the Planning and Building Department offices last week, city officials said Monday.

Wilson Riles Jr., who served on the Oakland City Council from 1979 to 1992, had argued with city staff in a dispute over a sweat lodge on his 39th Avenue property for his Native American spiritual practices.

Riles said in an interview that as he was leaving the city office on Thursday morning, police officers confronted him, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him without giving any indication that they intended to arrest him.

Oakland city spokeswoman Karen Boyd wrote in an email Monday:

“(Riles) was detained following a 911 call regarding a city employee who reported a hostile man had chased a city inspector into the restricted staff-only area.”

Riles was booked into Santa Rita Jail on suspicion of battery on a police officer, and was released after posting $20,000 bail.

Boyd said:

“(The) unfortunate incident invokes two disturbing national realities that weigh heavily on us all — the use of force by police and black men as well as a heightened fear of workplace violence.”

She said that along with ordering an internal affairs investigation, Kirkpatrick has also encouraged Oakland’s Community Police Review Agency to conduct an independent investigation into the case.

Riles said a neighbor had initially complained about temporary structures that he used with friends and family in which they would pour water on hot rocks to create a steam room.

The neighbor complained to multiple city agencies and Riles said he submitted plans for the structures to the city, but planning department staff denied his application. However, he appealed the decision to the planning commission, which ruled in his favor.

The complaints continued though, and Riles said planning staff arrived at his home two weeks ago. He said when he went to the city office on Thursday, he argued that the structures were permitted under the city codes, but an inspector said he would call the police if Riles didn’t leave.

Riles said he asked to see a supervisor and met with him, then was blocked by officers as he tried to leave, and that the officers twisted his arm behind him and tripped him, throwing him to the floor.

Riles said:

“I am incensed, it’s not the relationship the city government ought to have with the residents.”

“I am frustrated and very concerned and ashamed of what’s happening in this city that I love.”

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