UPDATES-People's Police Report #15-August 1998

Dons follow-up

Whatever happened in the case of Steven Dons, who allegedly strangled himself with a bedsheet in jail while paralyzed from the waist down due to a police bullet? Nothing. Since our last issue was devoted almost entirely to the Dons case, you'd think the public and media would have more than a 15-minutes-of-fame attention span on this case.

However, the only inkling of a further investigation came in the May 8th issue of PDXS. In their editorial space, they printed a lengthy analysis of the so-called suicide, outlining such issues as: the lack of fingerprints on either the remote control cord or the tape Dons supposedly used to keep the "up" button depressed, and a security overview that stated that "no access [was] available to any outside law enforcement agency member," but doesn't explain what kind of access the "insiders" had.

High-Powered Assault Rifles on the Streets

Last issue, we urged readers to contact City Council about a proposal to give the Portland Police $310,000 for AR-15s, semi-automatic assault rifles which are cousins to the military M-16. Well, you need not fear, City Council took the money for these guns out of their 1998-99 budget. Why? Because the police somehow miraculously found the money to pay for the guns from their 1997-98 budget. We're not sure why the Portland Police had $300,000 lying around, but we do know these guns are scary.

In a Sunday, April 19 article, the Oregonian's Tom Hallman writes that "The AR-15 reveals the inherent tension between the dream of community policing‹removing barriers between police and the people they serve‹and the reality of the street." Again, the Los Angeles bank robbery gun battle was dredged up as a reason police need to be more heavily armed, as were the deaths of Thomas Jeffries (who was not shot with an assault rile) and Colleen Waibel (who was shot through a closed door and whose life wouldn't have been saved no matter what weapon she carried).

The article raises some important questions, though, such as: "Is the gun, designed for military operations at distances of 100 yards or more, appropriate in an urban area where studies show the distance of most officer-involved shootings is less than 7 feet? And ultimately, will heavily armed cops be seen more as soldiers than fellow citizens?"

Unfortunately, Hallman also states that "the lack of community opposition to the rifle seems a clear indication that Portland residents have no qualms about arming their police to the teeth." He goes on to describe the fears raised when police started to carry shotguns in the 1970s as "absurd in hindsight." He describes the public's "naivete and hostility toward police in the 70s" giving way to a sense that "police are the last line of defense."

He refers to a 1991 shooting in which police shot suspected drug dealer Leonard Renfrow 22 times.* "Dead is dead, whether it takes two shots or 20, seemed to be the attitude."

He quotes Karl Klockers, a criminal justice professor at the University of Delaware, as saying that SWAT teams might need the guns, but not patrol officers.

Ultimately, the article ends with a "tut-tut, the world is a much more dangerous place, and this is reality" kind of feeling.

The "ordinary" people we know here at Copwatch are worried about the guns. Aren't you?

Hella-Copters Update

In the special supplement to PPR #14 (what, you didn't get one? Subscribe to the PPR and we'll send you one right away!) we wrote about the current campaign for police helicopters being organized by retired Portland Cop Mike Martin. According to an article in the Oregonian by Michele Parente, the Mayor was "shot down" by Commissioners Hales and Francesconi when she sought nearly one million dollars for a helicopter. Currently, the police bureau leases a helicopter. Rental figures were not given in the article.

Apparently, Hales and Francesconi's concerns that the helicopter as a priority signalled a "tactical change in police policy" caused the Mayor to withdraw her proposal, which was in the form of a note asking for the police to continue evaluating the purchase.

Martin, the retired cop who has been going around the city propagandizing in favor of police helicopters, informed the Rap Sheet in a letter (July, 1998) that postcards were flooding into City Hall. Martin wrote that he felt he had swayed the minds of many citizens as he made presentations to neighborhood associations. Too bad for him city council called it "not a priority"

Indicted Shooter Cop Barkley's "Bad Acts" to be Presented in Theft Trial

Sgt. Michael Barkley, who has been on unpaid leave since December 1995 awaiting trial on accusations of theft (see PPRs #8 and 13), was in the news again on April 19. According to the Oregonian, his lawyers agreed to allow evidence showing other "bad acts" Barkley allegedly committed against his former friends who are now charging him with the theft of over $15,000. As we have mentioned before, Barkley was involved in at least four shooting incidents, in most of which he nearly emptied his gun by firing numerous bullets at civilians. Perhaps the "bad acts" Barkley committed against these other people will be brought up in court as well.

McMinnville Stripsearch Students Settle

Twenty-five out of 35 families whose daughters were strip-searched at McMinnville High School in January (see PPR #14) have accepted a $5000 settlement from the city and the school district. The settlement includes an agreement that the families not sue McMinnville. Four families rejected the offer, and nine had, as of Mid-May, not decided what to do. The male cop who ordered the search was suspended for 30 days and had his pay scale decreased; the two non-sworn females who conducted the search were put through special counseling (Oregonian 4/16 and 5/15/98).

More Targeting "Youth Crimes"

Just a few days after PPR #14 went to press, Portland Police instigated the "Street Youth Mission," an operation to find "truant youths" downtown. According to the April 18 Oregonian, 52 youths were "rounded up" ‹but only 6 were charged with drug crimes or arrested on outstanding warrants while the other 46 were sent home. This raises the questions, what right did the police have to "round up" these young people, and, was sending them home more harmful than allowing them to stay where they were?

These incidents are part of a larger pattern of the criminalization of youth, homeless youth in particular. As a traditionally oppressed group, homeless youth in the U.S. are being warred upon by the police as demonstrated by the increase in laws against loitering, curfews, the targeting of "gangs" (mostly youth of color), and generally behaving as though young people have no rights. Unfortunately, with cutbacks for homeless shelters and a general lack of resources for young people, there really are no rights for the young.

Capt. Garvey Sues City for Discrimination

On June 2, the Oregonian reported that Capt. (former Commander) Mike Garvey filed a lawsuit against the City for discrimination based on his sexual orientation. Garvey, the highest ranking openly gay male police officer in Portland, was demoted last year while investigations were going on into whether he had hired male "escorts" for sex. The only thing he was found to have done wrong was misuse his cellular phone to work on his personal for-profit clothing store business.

Garvey says Moose has done more than demote him‹he has done such things as release the telephone numbers of his personal calls to the media, and pulled him off the honor guard that marches at events such as officers' funerals. Katz and Moose trotted out their support for gay rights in a news conference the same day.

Meanwhile, because the Internal Affairs Investigation is tied up in the court proceedings, Portland's Police review board PIIAC, charged with auditing Internal Affairs, still hasn't been able to see the file to determine if the Police acted unfairly in investigating Garvey.


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