People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Rapping Back #75:
Police Association Gets Media Attention for Negative Comments, Not Theft of Public Funds
As mentioned in our article about the PPB and Portland's houseless population (article), the Portland Police Association (PPA) made a big splash by calling Portland a "cesspool" and complaining the Mayor is "blaming" the disproportionate arrests of unhoused persons on the police. In this column, we examine the various posts to the PPA's online media resources, the Rap Sheet and their Facebook page. PPA President Daryl Turner devoted no fewer than five posts out of 56 we examined since mid-April to expound on his ideas. The initial July 16 post references, internally and in a pull-quote, the alleged "insufficient resources" being given to the Portland Police to address the homelessness crisis. It doesn't mention what pops up in four other posts (from April 17 and 30, May 4 and 10)-- that the PPA urged its constituents to join them in lobbying City Council to give them about 50 new officers. They succeeded. They also casually forget to mention that they took taxpayers for everything they could in October 2016, when they asked for raises adding up to over $9 million in exchange for dropping the "48-hour rule"-- which they knew wasn't being used properly anyway (PPRs #70, #71, and #72). They do bring up the pay raise in a June 27 post which starts out seeming like a worker solidarity rebuke of the Supreme Court decision limiting donations to public sector bargaining units, but brags about how the 2016 contract will add up to "18% and perhaps closer to 20% wage increases over a 3-year period."
The follow-up posts to the original "cesspool" comments boast that 95% of people who took an online poll at KGW-TV agreed with Turner (July 22 and 23). Never mind that is not scientific and mostly restricts itself to people who happen to watch that news broadcast. They say thousands of people wrote and called the PPA in support, claiming their analysis is driven by the rank-and- file's ability to see what's going on out on the streets. Regarding solutions, Turner again raises the idea of warehousing houseless people at Wapato jail (PPR #73) and tells people to contact elected officials, business and neighborhood associations to advance their anti-houseless agenda. On July 21, Turner wrote, "When community members complain that they cannot use their parks and public spaces without navigating around people living there, or business owners report that someone has defecated in their doorway, they do not call the health department or social services, they call the police." Why isn't one solution having 911 or the non-emergency police number redirect people to these other agencies? Oh, because that won't help line the PPA's pockets so they can support candidates to scratch their backs.
Perhaps realizing the media attention meant being more measured, Turner's July 30 post urged that any solution means helping get people into stable housing. Without acknowledging how much money is wasted on over-policing houseless persons, he wrote about how $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars went to "cleaning up" campsites in 2017-- sometimes the same sites being targeted repeatedly.
Side note: The June 27 analysis of the Supreme Court ruling assures its rank-and-file readers that the PPA will continue to "expose false narratives and anti-police rhetoric by pointing out the exceptional service you provide."
Other Topics Familiar: Officer Friendly, Cops Dying in the Line of Duty
Now that we've looked at ten of the 56 posts, what else was on the minds of the Police "union" in the past several months? The highest number of posts, not unusually, are feel-good stories about officers, at 24 posts (43%), followed in a far second by 10 stories about officers who died in the line of duty, mostly revolving around the annual memorial service held in May (18%).
"Officer friendly" stories include cops hobnobbing with children, letting them play with patrol cars (April 24 and June 22) and giving them bicycles (May 12 and June 2). Also, contrary to the tone of Turner's cesspool comment, they high-light officers giving out food to veterans and houseless persons (May 23 and July 12). Quite a few center around animals-- rescuing a runaway chicken (June 4), negotiating the return of a lost dog to its human companion (May 7), and the PPB's unique "all-female" K-9 unit (May 10). There are five posts from Gay Pride week, and two feature pictures of both Turner and Chief Danielle Outlaw. One is a group picture, which the PPA made its cover photo for a while (June 21); the other shows Turner walking a few paces ahead of the Chief during the Pride Parade. The Chief smiles and waves to the crowd as Turner looks serious and stares straight ahead (June 17).
A few others focus on diversity in the Bureau. One follows Officer Adi Ramic, who is apparently Muslim, to the Iftar dinner breaking Ramadan fast at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (May 29). Though it fails to address what will happen the next time the PPB helps entrap a member of the Muslim community in an FBI sting operation (PPR #52), it is refreshing to read about Ramic joining the participants in prayer. An interview by Oddfellows Lodge #128 of Officer Cuong Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee (July 4), shows the police welcome people from diverse backgrounds. It also illustrates how the institution absorbs that diversity and turns people "blue," as Nguyen is quoted complaining how media do not understand what police officers do on a daily basis.
The last two worth mentioning are: an Oregonian op-ed by a man from Cedar Mill-- an unincorporated area not technically part of Portland*-- who praises an officer for treating with dignity a man injecting himself in public (June 1), and a mildly amusing photo gallery of National Donut Day (also June 1).
When it comes to memorializing officers killed in the line of duty, both the Portland Police and the national group which tracks figures rarely point out that there are far fewer officers who die at the hands of suspects than one would think. The full list of officers posted on Portland's memorial wall ranging from 1867-2002 (and a T-shirt featured in a May 16 post) shows nine officers killed by gunfire** one by assault and one in a vehicular assault, so at most 11 of 28 (39%) of Portland officers were deliberately killed. Other deaths included vehicle crashes or being struck by vehicles (12), health issues (2) and a fall. The most recent deaths by gunfire were in 1997 and 1998 (PPRs #12 and 14), with Officers Jeffries and Waibel honored in posts from the national memorial (May 16 and 19). While we still remember people killed by the PPB in the 1990s, there are far more recent examples the community raises when listing the names of the dead.
In his published remarks from this year's memorial (May 15), PPA President Turner contrasts his description of Portland as a cesspool by claiming the officers who died "cared about the most vulnerable among us." He soured the tone by talking about "elected officials pandering and those with anti-police rhetoric seeking to promote their own agendas which [have] created an us v. them mentality fed by misinformation and miscommunication." He also told people at the memorial that the amount of scrutiny police are under is "paralyzing" while homelessness and crime are on the rise. Interestingly, Turner notes that from 2001-2016, 1865 Americans died fighting in Afghanistan, and in the same time 2686 officers were killed in the US. Ignoring the above analysis that most of those probably did not die by violent attacks, this pales in comparison to the documented 1000 civilians a year killed by police, so likely 16,000 Americans died at officers' hands in that time frame. (Not to mention over 30,000 Afghan civilians.)
One final note on this topic: The PPA has a fund for officers who are harmed in the line of duty, including those who die, called the Cover Foundation. The Rose City Coffee Company apparently created a "Blue Line Blend" to support that cause (May 14 and 26). It is unclear whether the same merchants set up memorial funds for Dickie Dow, Kendra James, James Chasse, Aaron Campbell, Keaton Otis, John Elifritz or any other civilians who lost their lives.
Turner vs. Mayor Wheeler
Following accusations that Mayor Wheeler failed to protect ICE agents during the "Occupy" protests (article), Turner opined that "there is no place for personal, political bias" in policing (August 2). Institutional biases are just fine. "Whether you are a soccer mom, an off-duty police officer, a CEO or homeless," Turner says you deserve the same protection from police. Apparently this does not extend to protestors opposing racists, who bore the brunt of police violence on August 4 (article). Turner contrasts that protest to those of Martin Luther King, Jr. (August 7), ignoring the parallel that King and his followers were often attacked violently-- by police.
*- he refers to the Bureau as the "Portland Police Department," a tell-tale
sign of someone who does not live in the City.
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 postings. We worry these ideas may spread through the rank-and-file.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.