People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Rapping Back #73:
Detectives' Domain Dead? Disturbing Dishing Draws Down During Dramatic Drum for Dollars
Bluewashing, Staffing Woes, Homelessness, Militarism in "Union" Focus
Is the "Rap Sheet" dead? The longstanding newsletter of the Portland Police Association (PPA) had just one entry on its main page in mid-December: A tribute to 9/11 responders
that was posted... on September 11. The aggregating tool for Facebook posts seems to be gone. This leaves just PPAvigil.org, where only news releases are visible to the public, and the PPA's Facebook page as places to learn what the "union" is thinking. Of the 70 posts PCW analyzed since mid-August, the #1 topic was what we call "bluewashing." 22 posts were public relations articles about happy things police are doing-- including a few times they apparently talked people in mental health crisis out of suicidal situations (which is good). 13 more posts (including five at PPAVigil) were part of the Association's campaign demanding City Council divert more tax money to expand the PPA's ranks. This includes an elaborate info-graphic presentation from November 1 outlining why the City should hire 250 more officers by 2019. The third most frequent topic was houselessness. In addition to repeating two reasons Portland "needs" more officers are "livability issues" and homelessness, at least 7 other pieces echoed business concerns about houseless people. The last trend is how they equate police officers with the military and patriotism, including one video slamming football players for disrespecting the flag after the mass shooting in Las Vegas (we kid you not).
Officer Friendly Rides Again
Without delving into every article aimed to improve the police's image, suffice it to say the PPA continued its ongoing trends of showing support for charities (Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House, "No Shave November" for Cystic Fibrosis, the Bureau's Sunshine Division), hanging out with young people (the second "girl cops are awesome" day, a lemonade stand outside Central Precinct, safe Halloween tips), and parts of the job that don't involve shooting, tasering, tear- gassing, beating, or profiling people (assisting with wildfire security, the aforementioned mental health calls).
The PPA also professed support for the "No Hate Zone," the work of former Park Ranger (/former corrections officer) Sam Sachs. Sachs organized some kind of event in the summer (recap posted August 21) which provided food and backpacks to young people, while the police showed off how bomb squad robots work, a "SWAT" (SERT?) vehicle and a K-9 search. Making militarism and violence attractive to kids never gets old (and, thus, doesn't involve hate?). Sachs was the last chair of the Human Rights Commission's Community/Police Relations Committee (CPRC), which dissolved in early 2016. He's organizing bread-breaking with police in the CPRC's old meeting location of the Immigration and Refugee Community Organization's gym (posted October 11)-- in other words, doing the work of CPRC with no backing outside the Bureau or broad outreach to the community.
Another post featured a KPTV story from September 28 about a man who was racially profiled by police speaking with the officer who stopped him at an event organized by the Muslim Educational Trust. Though the headline says they talked about implicit bias, the article sounds more like the man apologized for being reluctant to be pulled over by the police because he is African American and feared for his safety.
Inexplicably-- perhaps it was part of the PPA's full-court press ahead of City Council's November 8 vote on the fall budget bump (see below)-- the PPA re-posted the April 2016 New York Times article about Portland's Behavioral Health Unit (PPR #69). A few "likes" to the Facebook post indicate people weren't aware the "news" was 18 months old when it went up on November 6.
Low Staffing Despite Promise of Lopsided Contract
In October 2016, the City got the PPA to give up the "48-hour rule" as its only concession in exchange for over $9 million in raises aimed at attracting more recruits (PPR #70). Even though the Association admits the Bureau has been rapidly hiring more officers, their campaign to ask for even more dominated their website and Facebook page. Infographics from their 18-page presentation were dribbled out over many days, including ones showing the population of Portland is up 20% while the PPB is down by 9%. They avoid data on violent crime, which has actually been relatively low in the last several years. They did post a news story from KGW on November 2 saying car thefts are up by 50%, but that is not a violent crime. An Oregonian story posted November 6 tied low staffing to "livability issues." In a KATU-TV story, former (?) Nazi- role- playing Captain Mark Kruger also called for more officers to help his Drugs and Vice Division's efforts to crack down (November 7).
One alarming statistic from PPA is that 30 retired officers were re-hired under a program which was part of the contract give-away (September 12). In other words, 30 cops who could have stayed on and only cost the City one salary are pulling down both pensions and a regular paycheck. Nice work if you can get it. The post says "dozens" of officers post-poned retirement when the pay went up, so we salute those cops for being more civic-minded than their retired colleagues.
The PPA wanted to talk to Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was in town about the "catastrophic staffing issues the Bureau is facing." But the main point PPA President Daryl Turner makes in his recap of the visit is that the City honored the diversity of Portland without thanking officers for their hard work (September 20).
Institutional Warehousing, Not Homes
The PPA used another fancy-graphic campaign in November, calling on County Commissioners to turn the mothballed Wapato Jail into a transitional housing and service center for houseless people. Never mind its remote location and the fact that it is literally a prison. The analysis, put out November 8 under the headline "our tax dollars not at work," includes a chart showing the homeless population going from 2918 in 2007 to 4177 in 2017. The narrative conveniently omits that number was 4655 in 2011. The PPA also calls to build more beds on the large campus, which they note has an industrial kitchen and laundry facility. AND BARS FOR BEDROOM DOORS.
While there are a few words of compassion for people without homes, the PPA repeatedly points to homelessness as one reason more officers are needed (Sep. 12&20, Nov. 1&7, Dec. 1). They show whose side they are on by reposting business-friendly articles complaining about homeless people: An Oregonian op-ed by Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle (Nov. 10), a jewelry store closing downtown due to "panhandlers" (KPTV, Nov. 16) and a survey paid for by the Portland Business Alliance saying people want to leave Portland because of visible homelessness (KGW, Nov. 6).
Let Your Blue Flag Fly, and Call in the Marines-- er, Police
Apparently nothing incenses the police as much as the Black Lives Matter movement. Their inability to admit what statistics tell us-- that American law enforcement disproportionately targets African Americans with deadly force-- keeps them riled up about perceived disrespect to police. When Sheriff (/former PPB Chief) Mike Reese had a "Blue Lives Matter" flag removed from a break room at the County, he noted a black-and-white rendering of the American flag (with a blue stripe representing fallen officers) violates flag codes. There was also some acknowledgment a County Commis-sioner found the flag offensive to commu-nities of color. The Oregon Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 posted a lengthy diatribe on September 2, bragging their complaint about this "politicization" of slain officers got 70,000 views on Facebook. They say Reese "betrayed" officers by removing the flag. At their national convention, they helped pass a resolution stating the Blue Lives Matter flag is "a symbol of peace, respect and honor and should never be interpreted as a symbol of hate or antagonism." This is the same logic being applied to the Confederate flag. They don't understand that what they want the symbol to mean doesn't erase the racial issues they are apparently unable to discuss.
A more shocking barrage came in a video produced in part with the support of the PPA, posted on October 12 by the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association. Under the title "Same Sunday, Different Knee," the video speaks about how law enforcement protected the people of Las Vegas during the mass shooting on October 1, but the football players taking a knee to protest police shooting of black people refused to acknowledge that fact. The video says the players were standing up for domestic violence, gun possession and animal abuse, showing images of African American players who have been busted for those crimes. They urge people to "stand for law and order," in a display of racism and militarism that would make Leni Reifenstahl happy.
Sarcasm Proves "48 Hour Rule" Fallacy
Former PPA attorney Will Aitchison, now of the Labor Relations Information System, posted a "plain language" recap of City Council's decision to compel officer testimony within 48 hours of shootings (August 26). The piece drips with sarcasm, blames the City for ignoring "science," makes fun of the National Lawyers Guild, and quietly threatens court action. Aitchison doesn't seem to understand his assertion officers should not be interviewed so soon after shootings proves the community's point-- that the PPA gave up nothing when the 48-hour rule was struck from their contract.
The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership, officers, and guest authors express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their newsletter. We worry these ideas may spread through the rank-and-file.
Other tidbits from the Rap Sheet, Aug-Nov 2017:
--Three articles relate to new Chief Danielle Outlaw, one of which-- a November 6 KOIN-TV news piece-- ties to the staffing issue (other posts October 6 & 19).
--Several pieces express concern for devastation in Texas after the hurricane there killed a police officer on his way to work (August 29 &30), yet there was no mention of Hurricane Irma hitting Puerto Rico.
--In 1998, the then-Rap Sheet editor, PPA President (and now State Representative) Jeff
Barker called out the People's Police Report for using the term "paddy wagon," an anti-Irish
term for a police vehicle. It was surprising, then to see the PPA post a "Throwback Thursday"
image of an 1882 "paddy wagon" on October 5.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.