People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Rapping Back #72:
More Positive Spin, More Local Focus by Police Association
The Portland Police Association (PPA) now has three platforms we check for this column: The Rap Sheet, which once was their official newsletter but now acts as an aggregate Facebook page, the actual PortlandPoliceAssociation Facebook page, and PPAvigil.org, the home site of the "union." Quite a number of articles on the PPA Vigil site are members-only, so all we can let you know about are headlines that exist publicly. From mid-April to mid-August we looked at 80 pieces posted across the platforms. 28 were positive spin pieces, 20 were about the Bureau, 8 about the PPA, and 6 about officers in general-- mostly about those who lost their lives. Four were about mental health (including two focusing on Bend) and three were about other topics in other jurisdictions. One post was about the "48-hour rule" (article). The PPA revealed they helped start a new national organization called the United Coalition of Public Safety (UCOPS), whose mission is to promote the "exceptional" work of law enforcement (April 21). Yet PPA's focus shifted from previously sharing about 1/4 of the articles from out of their jurisdiction to just about 6% (five total). Below we report on some of the recurring themes, including mental health, the search for a new chief, protests, and some sponsors of their annual golf tournament.
On July 5, PPA President Daryl Turner, who is African American, posted an essay about officers responding to community members in mental health crisis, using Charleena Lyles, who was killed by Seattle Police in July, as an example of "the untenable position of dealing with persons with untreated mental illness who turn violent." Rather than join the community in expressing outrage and concern that Lyles (who was also African American) is just another notch in the collective national police belt, Turner opines "No matter how hard an officer tries to de-escalate, no matter how many other force options an officer may have available, an officer may have no other choice but to protect life by using deadly force." After five years of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) trying to get the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to use less force against people in mental health crisis, these words are troubling.
Turner notes (accurately) "every day, officers successfully resolve those matters through verbal de- escalation techniques." What he leaves off is that virtually every day, a person in mental health crisis is shot and/or killed by American officers. As is usually the case with this kind of rhetoric, Turner adds "training and reliance on officers to provide mental health services do not resolve the underlying, systemic failure of our mental health system." To his credit, he says "the vast majority of people with mental health issues are not violent." But, ignoring possible tactics like retreating to a safe place, making time to defuse a situation, or calling in trusted voices to connect with individuals, he asserts "Guns and knives are no less dangerous because they are wielded by an individual in a mental health crisis."
On May 16, reacting to the City's job description for a new Chief, Turner complained the Mayor
made "no mention of the PPB Behavioral Health Unit [BHU]'s recent national recognition for
their ground-breaking efforts in working with citizens with mental illness or in a mental health
crisis." PCW isn't arguing the BHU is all bad, but its efforts are mostly shared with and guided
by a non- public Advisory Committee which doesn't communicate well with the broader
community. Furthermore, even though the City has not yet completed its promises for reform
under the 2012 DOJ Agreement, the BHU and the BHUAC were recognized by the Oregon US
Attorney's office in a ceremony on April 27. A video posted on YouTube by the PPB (linked to by
the PPA) shows US Attorney Bill Williams apologizing for not presenting the award in January,
which was the month the City dismantled the Community Oversight Advisory Board, the public
body supposedly looking at the DOJ Settlement (article).
Two other pieces indicate that Bend, OR has been focusing on the mental health of first responders themselves (July 18) and held an art show around persons with mental illness (May 9).
How Do You Really Feel About Chief Marshman?
On the subject of the Chief search, the PPA laid all its cards on the table over the final months. On April 27, they published the results of a survey filled out by 712 of their 849 members. The results show 94% supported Mike Marshman continuing as Chief, with 90% thinking Marshman improved morale after Chief O'Dea resigned under a cloud last year (PPR #69). 88% said a national search was not the best option, with Turner calling such a search a "misguided endeavor."
In his May 16 statement about the City's job announcement, Turner complains they focused too much on the history of institutional racism in Oregon and Portland. He felt the Mayor should have mentioned the "strength of our rank and file who work diligently to meet the changing and evolving needs of our diverse community, embrace community-policing concepts, and continue in steadfast dedication to build trust in all the communities we serve." Given the ongoing disproportionate stops/searches (article) and shootings (article) of African Americans in Portland, Turner obviously turns a blind eye to those "evolving needs."
To bolster their argument, the PPA posted "Rank and File Question Dubious Hiring" by Los Angeles Airport Police Sergeant George Holt (from American Police Beat on May 23). The gist: hiring a chief from another agency hurts officer morale, outsiders rarely stick around long- term, and in this case they don't know specifics of what airport police do. Undercutting his own argument, Holt wrote: "What conclusion might you arrive at if these 'nationwide' searches always seemed to result in locals with ties to the current leadership being selected?" On August 7 when Danielle Outlaw was named Chief (article) the PPA posted its thanks to Marshman. On the 11th they welcomed Outlaw.
On May 9, the PPA posted the comments made by Officer Turner at the annual memorial for fallen police officers held at an engraved wall in Waterfront Park. Turner opened his remarks by referencing "anti-police rhetoric of the media that for the past several years has produced misinformation and untruths regarding controversial encounters between law enforcement and members of the community." He blamed the media's drive for ratings for negative stories which "incite those who have an anti-police agenda." Presumably referring to people who are calling for police accountability and the end of racist murders by law enforcement, Turner added: "Today we rise above the police hate groups who, instead of trying to find ways to bring together communities and their police, their agenda is to widen the gap between that relationship with disruptive protests that destroy property, disrupt mass transit, and stop citizens' ability to move freely as they work, recreate and travel." Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent marches effectively disrupted mass transit and people's ability to move freely, a point which must be lost on Turner.
To contextualize why Turner opened his eulogy for dead officers by slamming protestors, the memorial was held days after May Day, when police pulled a permit for a 1000+ person march because a few people threw objects at them (article). Turner added: "Today we rise above riots that disrupt peaceful protests endangering citizens and law enforcement with the throwing of rocks, bottles, lit flares, and, in some cases, Molotov cocktails." The day before the memorial, the PPA posted an Oregonian article saying "Portland has a riot," referring to May Day and showing a BikeTown station with the words "Kill Cops" spraypainted on it (May 8).
A separate piece called "Protests and Politics" on the PPA Vigil site from June 27 is not accessible to the public. The only visible excerpt says "Over the last year we have seen a significant shift in the exercise of free speech protests nationwide and, especially, in the City of Portland."
The PPA continues to engage in "blue-washing," that is, highlighting only positive stories about the police in an effort to counter the stories of corruption, brutality and racism. Finding examples in recent months became painful. The Somali American Minneapolis officer accused of shooting an Australian-American woman who called police for help extended his condolences to the family, something we have never seen in 25 years as an organization. Thus, the stories about officers buying new tools for a man who had his stolen (via the Oregonian, June 30), hanging out with Oregon's bisexual Governor at the Trans parade (June 23), getting notes from kids thanking the police (June 5), and playing basketball with young people and immigrants (May 22 and 23) just seem like propaganda.
In fact, we wonder whether officers pay attention to cultural norms when we read these stories:
(1) Officers went to meet refugees arriving at the airport. Frequently, refugees are coming from more openly repressive countries than the US, and might just freak out seeing people in uniforms with guns greeting them in their new land (June 9). (2) A local Rabbi asked officers to enter Jewish homes during Passover to make sure food banned on the holiday was removed. "Central Officers knocked on a few homes within the Jewish community asking the children if they had found all of the leavened bread within their houses and had a great time talking with the families" (April 15). Somehow the concept of gun-toting officers entering only Jewish homes seems creepy.
Additionally, the police boasted about the 255 students who attended Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT), and received "a certificate and T-shirt (and pizza!)." The Bureau expressed hope that "the kids realize they now have a connection with a Portland Police officer, who they can turn to if needed" (also April 15). Unless of course their peers are beaten (Thai Gurule--PPR #65), shot (Juwon Blackmon--PPR #57) or killed (Quanice Hayes-- PPR #71), then what?
Finally, a video produced by FreeArts NW purports to show what to do when stopped by police (Rap Sheet, July 15). The video features PPB Officer Trevor Tyler rolling up on two young people and asks them to take their hands out of their pockets. When they don't, he cuffs and detains them. The tape rolls back and in an alternate version, the people obey his orders and let him look in their backpack. While it is good to take your hands out of your pockets when you see police, there's no reason to teach people to give up their 4th Amendment rights by consenting to a search without a warrant.
And Now a Word from Our Sponsors
The Portland Police Association often lists the sponsors of its annual fund-raising golf tournament. PCW doesn't always write about it. This year, since the Mounted Patrol was dismantled (article) and bemoaned as a loss by the PPA/PPB (June 30), it is striking that Reserve Officer Bob Ball, who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the horses, has so much money to burn he also sponsors the PPA. Another sponsor, Extreme Products, uses the slogan "One shot. Make it count" (June 24). Yikes.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.