Knock! Knock!

Who's there?

It's the Marijuana Task Force and they've come to violate your rights.

Just ask Michael Jonathan Powelson, one of the growing number of Multnomah County residents victimized during one of the Task Force's "knock and talk" raids. Increasingly suspect in the eyes of the community, the Task Force's unscrupulous methods have finally drawn the attention of the courts.

On June 10, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling that in 1996, Portland Police violated Powelson's rights during a knock and talk raid (PDXS, June 26, 1998). On February 12 of that year, two Portland police officers arrived at Powelson's home, informed him that he was suspected of growing and selling marijuana, and asked for permission to search Powelson's home. When he refused, Powelson was told by police that unless he consented he would be detained, possibly even taken to a jail cell, while a search warrant was obtained. Powelson then consented to the search, which yielded both marijuana and cocaine.

However, when Powelson's case went to trial, the court suppressed the evidence seized by police, ruling that, "unlawful police misconduct affected defendant's state of mind so that his consent was not a voluntary act of his free will."

The Portland Police Bureau has continued to deny accusations that they use intimidation tactics to violate citizens' rights and gain warrantless access to search homes. Despite police denial, both courts' rulings in the Powelson case support accusations of police misconduct.

This disturbing discovery of police misconduct is not an isolated incident. When one Portland resident (who wishes to remain anonymous) refused the Marijuana Task Force access to his home to conduct a warrantless search, he was promptly, forcefully, and illegally removed from his home, handcuffed and taken into custody. Although the Task Force clearly violated his rights the moment they reached across the threshold of his residence without a warrant, he chose to accept a plea rather than fight the Task Force in court.

"The Marijuana Task Force entered my residence without a warrant. They took me from my home without a warrant. They lied to me and they lied to the court in order to obtain a warrant. They lied about the amount of marijuana seized, claiming much more was confiscated than actually existed. Of course that can't be proved because some of the seized marijuana conveniently disappeared from evidence, which, according to my attorney doesn't prove police dishonesty-- it only proves sloppy police work. So of course I didn't fight them in court! The Marijuana Task Force has lied about my case from the get-go. Do you really think they'd start telling the truth in the courtroom? And who's the judge going to believe-- a police officer, or a pot grower?"

It's become apparent that for some time, the Marijuana Task Force has been breaking the very laws which they have sworn to uphold. Both courts' rulings in the Powelson case should send a clear message to the police that this misconduct will not be tolerated by the citizens of Multnomah County.

This article was written by Kristin Valinsky
For more information see PPR #14,
and/or contact the American Anti-Prohibition League at 235-4524.


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