People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Mediation: Face to Face with the Cop who "Biked" Me
I was assaulted by the PPB during the May Day march. While biking, I stopped to film a dog pile arrest. As I straddled my bike and filmed, Sergeant Jeff McDaniel crept behind me and yanked my bike tire off the ground, sending me toppling over my handlebars. As I picked myself up and attempted to reorient myself, Officer Benjamin Labasan approached me and began striking me with his bike. He slammed his bike's chain ring against my shins, breaking the skin, and backed me against a van. He threatened to arrest me before I stumbled onto the sidewalk.
After a few days, as my leg swelled and the bruise darkened, I filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) against both McDaniel and Labasan. After several phone calls, emails, and letters, the IPR informed me that both officers had acted entirely within PPB policy. Then I received another email offering me an opportunity to engage in mediation with one of the officers, which I accepted.
On October 25, I met with Officer Labasan and Louise, our mediator. I told Labasan my story. He responded that he was "just following orders" and looking out for his partners. He went on to tell me what it is like to work every day thinking that every person you interact with could be about to shoot or stab you. While I understood his reasoning, I realized that his logic -- by assuming the potential guilt of all citizens -- effectively rationalized preemptive attacks.
I told him I thought this behavior was inappropriate. How much longer would it have taken to allow me to gather myself and respond to his commands, rather than enforcing them with blows from his bike? I informed him that I have been trained in the use of de-escalation and have been using it in my workplaces for years.
He came back with more of the same, but this time more heated. He called me self-righteous and sarcastic. He yelled at me for being in the street in the first place. He informed me that the way he was using his bike "as a fence" is an approved crowd-control method -- that, in fact, he had been trained to do just that. "Even if the bike swings violently and cuts someone's leg?" I snapped. Here Louise stepped in, slowing the conversation.
I was almost done, though it was clear Officer Lasaban wasn't listening. I had two more objectives. I showed him the video that I had taped from that incident, then I showed him the nearly 6 month old scars on my left shin. He scoffed, "those little things?"
I responded that was the exact mindset which leads to the divide between PPB and the community. Officers demean citizens, devalue their experiences, and cling to inhumane training and policies -- policies that allow officers to traumatize and violate the citizens they claim to be protecting and serving. I added that in my job, I work with parole and probation officers and respect the work they do, but his actions that day were unprofessional.
At this point something happened. Officer Lasaban was silent for a moment. Then he told me he would rethink our incident and the conversation that we were having. He explained that he wasn't a bad guy, that he didn't become a cop to push people around. He mentioned that he had even been curious about activism when he was in college. He insisted that he'd give the extra second before striking a civilian again, and he apologized, both for what he had done to me on May Day as well as for not validating my experience when I showed him the scar on my leg.
I next saw Labasan while marching at the November 3 (N3) protest. Rather, he saw me first. He shouted a greeting and extended his hand for a handshake. This relationship building can help mend the break between our police and our community. I wish that more officers could have observed our mediation -- perhaps it would have prevented them from pepper spraying the high schoolers at the N3 March (see article).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.