People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Jeffrey Ristvet, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Sergeant accused of beating cab driver Dennis Poe in July, 2000 (see PPR #22), was convicted of harassment and official misconduct on May 17. Harassment can mean physical attack not rising to the level of assaultin this case Ristvet's admittedly slapping Poe while he was strapped to a restraining board. Ristvet testified that he hit Poe for his own good: "I needed him to stop becoming more agitated...for his own safety...I slapped him in the face" (Oregonian, May 16). He was afraid Poe would "succumb to a condition known as sudden restraint-related death" (AKA, being killed by deputies in jail).
The May 11 Oregonian reports testimony that when Poe asked for a supervisor, Ristvet pulled Poe's hair, pointed to his sergeant's stripes and said, "I'm in (expletive) charge."
In addition to Ristvet's own words, the conviction was partly based on testimony from another inmate, two deputies, and an intake counselor, who initiated the complaint against Ristvet.
Ristvet received 15 days in jail and two years probation on July 10.
Days earlier, Clackamas County Sgt. Daniel McLean was convicted of assault for using a taser against a mentally disabled inmate. McLean was also convicted of harassment and official misconduct (Oregonian, July 4). On July 12, he was sentenced to five months in jail, four years probation, and anger management counseling.
In our nine years Copwatching, these are the first cases we can recall in which Portland-area law
enforcement officers have been convicted in criminal court for excessive use of force.
Three African-American families had their homes raided by Portland Police at the end of May. The raids were conducted as part of a police "investigation" into the alleged assault on two off-duty police officers at the Greek Cuisina downtown in the wee hours of May 26th. Northeast Precinct officers Chad Gradwahl (#35226) and David Michaelson (#23060) were reportedly knocked unconscious and stabbed, respectively. Oddly, this attack on some of Portland's finest was not reported in the media until the June 1st Oregonian, nearly a week after the incident.
By that time, the police had straightened out their story. Not mentioning whether the officers themselves were drunk, the police asserted that former gang members recognized the off-duty cops and started a fight. Sgt. David Foster, who is investigating with anti-woman cop Sgt. David Howe (see PPR #22), told the Oregonian the officers "did not do anything to precipitate the assault."
Three African Americans were arrested on June 1 and 2: Ronald Cunningham, Tyrone Thurman, and Domanick Campbell. Police are searching for three others, Jerrin Hickman, Dante Porter, and Damon Cunningham.
Shawna Cunningham, Ronald's sister, took her story to the Skanner (June 6). Her grandmother's house was raided three hours after Ronald was in custody. SERT officers fired projectiles through the second-story window of the North Portland home as a "diversion" as they broke the door down seconds later (Oregonian, June 3). The police claimed they used "beanbags" but witnesses say pellets left tiny holes in their walls. Officers held Shawna's grandmother and two young men at gunpoint while they searched the house, eventually showing a search warrant. Two other homes, including one in Gresham, were also raided.
Family members report police harassment has stepped up since the suspect list was announced. The three remaining suspects fear being beaten or shot and are trying to coordinate a very public surrender when they feel the time is right. Even though a number of the men do have criminal records, they are all working to turn their lives around.
On July 3, the Portland Tribune reported that the NAACP's local chapter was investigating the home raids.
Several of the families have circulated a flyer asking for witnesses and other help.
Photos of Matthew Jansen published in the June street roots show bruises on his face and leg. Pulled over on a traffic stop in November, Jansen says police got riled up when he couldn't produce his driver's license. He says Officer Philip Maynard (#34675) punched him in the face, emptied most of a can of pepper spray in his face, and was joined by Officer Michael Strawn (#33523) in beating him with batons on the back, legs and chest. The officers claimed that Jansen was trying to resist arrest and was being verbally and physically aggressive.
Jansen's original charges of "Fail to Display, Attempt to Escape Vehicle, Resisting Arrest, Reckless Endangering, Driving While Suspended and Unsignalled Turn [sic]" were all dismissed by juries, with only a charge of Escape II remaining, according to Street Roots.
In a separate incident, Antonio Atencio, 16, was arrested by police at the Harrington Square apartments in mid-May, when the police restrained him, put him on the ground, and beat him (KATU-TV Channel 2, May 16). Antonio had been fighting with another teen and allegedly trying to break into an apartment in the complex where he lived. Police say he was "belligerent and resisting arrest" and that "When that happens, sometimes people see the ugly, but necessary, side of policing."
"If you're not used to seeing that, it can be alarming to someone," Lt. Bob Baxter told Channel 2. The underlying message about police brutality here is, "Get used to it."
Atencio was charged with assaulting an officer, attempted burglary, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
Perhaps the most outrageous crime was committed by DJ Seiss, who was stopped by police for putting posters up on phone poles on April 4. In May, Mayor Katz ordered a city-wide "pole graffiti eradication experiment," using inmate labor to strip clean the city's free speech venues for music, political, and yard sale signs (Oregonian, April 27).
Seiss told Copwatch this story: When he was ordered to stop postering, he informed the officers he was unaware that it was illegal. After he continued his activities, they said they would give him a ticket, which he said was fine with him. Then he refused to let them look in his bag--so the cops told him he was interfering with an investigation. "You're investigating me putting up this poster?" asked Seiss.
According to Seiss, the cops then dumped his bag out on the street, and four of them slammed his head to the ground.
At the jail, one officer put on Seiss's "Buddy Holly" glasses and joked, "I can see Europe." Then he wrote Seiss's phone number on the back of his hand.
Seiss was charged with interfering with an officer and resisting arrest (the charges were later dropped). Clearly, the initial reason he was stopped--putting up posters--did not tick off the cops as much as his standing up for his rights.
Seiss's story was covered in the Mercury (May 10), the Portland Tribune (May 15), and the Willamette Week (May 16).
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The cops claim that these two slightly built, unarmed men attacked Sgt. Michael Fort (#26379), dragging him into the house and beating him--an implausible story, to say the least.
Many people see this incident as just the latest, most aggressive manifestation of an on-going campaign of police harassment against counter-culture youth, especially those they view as "anarchists." Reports of the cops stopping, questioning, and sometimes photographing kids in black clothing have been increasingly common during the last two years, with a sharp increase over the six months preceding the party raid.
There is also some indication that this effort is being coordinated as part of a larger intelligence- gathering operation. On April 2, the day of Hapshe and Einersten's arraignment, members of Copwatch observed plainclothes police videotaping and photographing everyone who entered the court.
We were also on hand afterward to see two plainclothes officers detain a woman for jaywalking as she left the arraignment. When approached, one officer initially claimed to be off-duty. The other repeatedly refused to identify himself. Under the orders of a Lieutenant, they then produced business cards identifying them as James Stradley (#16129) and Detective Sergeant Neil Crannell (#7263). Both are members of the Gang Enforcement Team.
This is not the first time the PPB has labeled political dissidents as "gangs": some readers will remember the "anti-gang" campaign against anti-racist activists in the early 1990s.
Luckily, the community isn't taking this attack lying down. They've been fundraising for legal defense and organized a brief conference in early June. The conference featured a Copwatch Training, a first aid training, and an anti-racism discussion.
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office is hoping to charge convicts $60 a night for their time in the pokey. Undersheriff Mel Hedgepeth reported in March that the proposed program would bring in as much as $1.5 million a year (Oregonian, March 10). Hedgepeth expects that about 20% of convicts will be judged able to afford to pay for some portion of the $100 a day it costs to keep them in jail.
In a separate budgetary move, the County Commissioners agreed in early July to a version of Sheriff Dan Noelle's plan to have inmates clean County buildings. Inmates will work as landscapers and janitors in Sheriff's Office buildings for $1 a day and a promise of early release. The four land- scaping workers being replaced (represented by AFSCME) will be reassigned to other work. About 20 of the County's contract janitorial workers (who aren't lucky enough to be represented by a union) will be replaced with prisoners, while SEIU-represented janitors who now clean the Sheriff's Office Buildings will be transferred to other locations.
On June 11, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a thermal image scan of a home constitutes an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment. In a case that originated in Oregon (Kyllo v. United States), police used a thermal imaging device without a warrant to detect if marijuana grow lights were being used in a home. The Court repeated its prior views that the interior of a home deserves heightened protection from warrantless searches. The Court ruled that if the information about the interior of a home gained through technology can otherwise only be learned from physical intrusion (i.e., it is not in plain view from the outside), then the use of that technology requires probable cause and a warrant.
Copwatch congratulates local attorney Ken Lerner on his national victory in this case.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.