People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Rapping Back #59
Dear readers of the People's Police Report:
Rapping Back has been dedicated for 20 years to reprinting and responding to the Portland Police Association (PPA)'s newsletter, the Rap Sheet. In the past several months, there have been very few articles posted to the Rap Sheet's website and Facebook page. We hope members of the Bureau will continue to submit information to give insight to the general public how police officers think.
n the February Rap Sheet, President Daryl Turner announced the decision by Judge Michael Simon to allow the PPA to intervene in the lawsuit by the Department of
Justice (DOJ) against the City of Portland (article). Turner reassures the membership that the "union" has always argued that changes to the way the police are trained and to their policies will undermine their rights regarding "officer safety, discipline standards, workload issues and compensation." We're not really sure where there is information about compensation in the proposed settlement Agreement, but, whatever, it's his job to say so.
Turner specifically argues that any changes to Use of Force and Taser policies are safety and discipline issues, assuring the rank-and-file that PPA leadership was not party to the discussion before Chief Reese published his "final drafts" in mid-February. Interestingly, Turner's complaint echoes that of many in the community: that their "input has been completely ignored." It's odd to feel in the same club as the Police Association, albeit for different reasons. Turner calls Chief Reese "incorrect" (what's that a polite word for?) to say the process was "collaborative," hammering home his point that "flawed [policies] will place officers at a safety risk and at risk for baseless discipline."
In the January Rap Sheet, Turner cautioned members about disclosing too much about themselves on line. "With the continued disclosure of the [sic] personal information, it has become necessary for all law enforcement officers to protect their privacy on line." The gist of his piece is that social networking is dangerous. Before social media, he says, release of personal information online led to threats, harassment and surveillance of cops, calling such information being published "a threat to you and your family." We don't need to see their exact addresses, but we do want to see movement toward more cops living in Portland; we hope that such statistical data remain public.
In March, posted on PPAvigil.org (the PPA's main website, that links to the Rap Sheet), Turner put in a few words about the most recent shooting, in which Santiago Cisneros allegedly fired a shotgun point blank at two cops, missed, and was killed by the officers (article). In sum, Turner says that police face dangerous circumstances and individuals who put them into situations in which they "must act quickly and heroically to save lives." Most instances of heroism don't end in someone being killed. Turner is relieved that the officers are safe and asks the readers to support the cops who shot Cisneros. While he acknowledges that each such incident is "tragic," there are no words of comfort for the dead man or his family.
Turner also took up his pro-union stance again (PPR #53) in the March Rap Sheet, reminding those who union-bash about the struggles for fair wages, benefits, paid vacations, five- day work weeks, health plans, and "pensions for working all Americans [sic]." Interestingly, he doesn't mention how often during the struggles for those rights the police did the bidding of management to bash unionists' heads.
A long article recounting the story of a maintenance supervisor in Concord, CA at first seems out of place in the March Rap Sheet. But its title: "Protecting Public Employees from Illegal Actions by Overbearing Superiors" and conclusion indicate exactly why it has been chosen. In the end, despite the maintenance worker being ordered back on the job, the City eliminated his position and tried to avoid paying all his back pay. Ultimately, a lawsuit led to his being reinstated and receiving back pay, plus a $200,000 settlement. "Sometimes," writes "reisenreich1," of Rains, Lucia & Stern PC, "'binding arbitration' is just the beginning of the fight."
Clearly, this is a commentary on the ongoing battle to keep Officer Ron Frashour from being reinstated. (In fact, it was originally published in November 2012). It's interesting hyperbole that the author claims cutting off the worker's job instead of coaching him how to do better was like "the economic equivalent of capital punishment."
Just as his predecessor Will Aitchison used to do occasionally (PPR #52, e.g.), PPA attorney Anil Karia used the March Rap Sheet to remind the rank-and-file of their right to have representation when being questioned by Internal Affairs (IA). Karia's mantra is to prepare for the investigation by rehearsing, and in cases of force complaints, "prepar[ing] to explain why your use of force is justified in the totality of the circumstances." Karia also emphasizes that officers should read their police reports relating to the incident-- as well as the reports of other officers on the scene. This kind of preparation is not extended to a civilian lodging the complaints, though-- we ordinary folk have to pay $10 (or more) to get a copy of any police report, and usually are unable to access any testimony of other witnesses to incidents of police misconduct when those witnesses are not friends or relatives.
In an article reprinted from the Wyoming Eagle Tribune, the Rap Sheet actually puts forward some good ideas on psychological support for officers. Noting that in 2012 there were 129 on duty officer deaths, plus an alarming 126 suicides by law enforcement in the US, the article talks about how three agencies are working together so that officers can talk to peers who aren't necessarily in their department. This helps reduce the stigma of seeking psychological help, or as police psychologist Jack Digliani put it, the "secondary danger that asking for help is somehow equivalent to being weak."
The January Rap Sheet reprinted an article from NBC about Jon Swartz, who was arrested after "flipping the bird" to a radar-toting police officer over the roof of his car as his wife drove him by the cop. After pulling the couple over and calling for backup, the officer told them they were free to go. Swartz wanted to talk to the cop, but other officers blocked his way. Swartz muttered something about "like an ass" and was then arrested for disorderly conduct. Swartz sued for malicious prosecution after a judge ruled that his extending his middle finger was not reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Though this happened in 2006, a higher court recently gave Swartz the OK to pursue the lawsuit. The police, for their part, claimed they pulled the couple over because seeing the man gesture that way made them nervous for the wife's safety.
The PPA's website is: www.ppavigil.org.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.