People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Chief Kroeker has spent much of his first 18 months performing triage on blunders of his own creation and blunders he inherited. On March 27, the Portland Tribune rubbed some of the low points in Kroeker's face: First, Kroeker set military-styled grooming standards, criticized within and without the PPB as antithetical to the amiable, woodsy mindset of Portland (see PPR #21). Under his leadership, the May Day 2000 Parade metamorphed into a violent police action. And he graced us, albeit unwittingly, with audiotaped bigoted and misogynous spare-no-rod comments (see PPR # 22).
We've thought of a few more highlights: Kroeker also helped form the PJTTF--which de facto criminalizes association with political organizations (see article). He opposes independent citizen review of police and prefers in-house investigations, which are biased, inadequate, and secretive. He even ignored a PIIAC finding that was sustained by City Council (see article). He lowered the educational standards of new hires. He's continued the militarization of what should be a serve-and- protect police department. Then there's the overtime scandal, and now, the SERT team hazing (see article). If George W.'s first 100 days represents a media cake walk, Kroeker's first 500 were a food fight.
Kroeker was snubbed while marching in his first Gay Pride Parade since his anti-gay remarks on tape were revealed to the public in November. "One announcer was blunt, telling Kroeker he 'should march in his own parade' as he walked past the reviewing stand wearing a smile and his police uniform" (Oregonian, June 18). Maybe he'd have fared better wearing just the smile.
As reported in PPR #23, the Portland Police Foundation, a private non-profit that funds police programs and activities, was inaugurated in March at the first formal ceremony and dinner for the Police Medal of Valor Program. That ceremony opened with a Christian benediction.
The Foundation was established by Kroeker and Robert Pamplin, owner of Christian Supply stores and local papers including the Tribune. Perhaps to emphasize Pamplin's "hands-off" publishing style, the May 11 Tribune quoted several critics of the Foundation.
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation President Eric Sterling points out that "federal agencies are legally barred from accepting private funds" and that "foundations can amass undue influence with police departments."
Dave Mazza of the Police Accountability Campaign (PAC-2002) notes that police funding from private sources corrupts the integrity of police departments. "It's not the way our system is supposed to work... We elect officials to prioritize how funding goes, and that prioritization is supposed to reflect the needs of citizens as a whole." The influence of this private funding clearly runs the risk of a conflict of interest wherein donors will get preferred treatment.
Such funding of government also undermines citizen involvement in a participatory democracy.
So far, the Foundation has only announced plans for language and cultural diversity courses (including sending police to Mexico to "learn"). Board member Carlos Rivera insists that the money will not be used for "water cannons and helicopters." However, unchecked, we could end up with Pepsi pins on Chiefs' lapels, Nike swooshes on riot helmets, or Wells Fargo stagecoaches emblazoned on the saddles of the Mounted Patrol.
Thanks to Kroeker, Portland is the newest member city of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), originally named the National Conference of Christians and Jews when it began 75 years ago. The NCCJ is based in Manhattan, and has 65 regional offices in 35 states "fighting bias, racism and bigotry through education and small group dialogue" (Tribune, April 3).
Kroeker was a fan of the L.A. branch, is now a member of the board of directors, and chaired Portland's April 7 walk. Of the 1000 walkers, 800 were Nike employees and their families. Most walkers wore Nike shirts (Oregonian, April 8).
Maybe there's something...Nike could fund the police via the Portland Police Foundation and the Chief of police would endorse a march that is largely a P.R. event for the Nike corporation... No, it can't be. That would be a conflict of interest.
We've had four thousand years of theories on social order. A sparse outline of some of the enduring authors includes: Plato, Hobbes, Durkheim, Marx, and Machiavelli.
Sweet Niccoló Machiavelli. Let's not bother to mince theories: this 15th century megalomaniac felt that social order is achieved through power. It's a world of domination and subjugation. And it's better to dominate than acquiesce. If domination is the goal, then all rules and ethics are shaped by that end point. Ideals such as liberty, democracy, justice, and citizen involvement should never interfere with the pursuit of power. Sure, play-act as though the government is framed by a system of just rules, but when it comes down to gaining or losing power, all is fair.
Chief Kroeker is just such a Machiavellian.
We have a police force groomed in military fashion, something decried by almost every voice, but which displays Kroeker's totalitarian-oriented control over the police. We have active use of riot gear and intimidating crowd control tactics, which citizens oppose. We have intense police presence and herding techniques at public gatherings, whether they hold legal permits or develop spontaneously. This police presence often includes harassment through enforcement of minor rules, e.g. bike lights; littering; blocking a sidewalk. Unpopular tactics, but they are very useful in extending police power over the citizenry. We have a chief who, on tape, has extolled corporal punishment, hatred of marginals (queers), and submission of wives and children.
Kroeker is also part of a systemic curtailment of liberties. He worked in conjunction with the FBI to form the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force (PJTTF), which revealed its intent to essentially criminalize all non-mainstream political action.
The PJTTF is not simply a "bad" program. It contributes to the overreach of the law by defining more behaviors as criminal, or at least within the domain of law enforcement. It also corresponds with the national trend of increased funding to police and corrections. This trend tethers our economy to the justice system and is therefore described as the prison-industrial complex.
Kroeker did not create the PJTTF alone, but it complements and reveals again his philosophy of social order: achieve and maintain power by any means that you can get away with.
Kroeker also opposes fully independent citizen review of police misconduct. He lets the people believe there is adequate investigation of misconduct while setting up a system of control to his liking.
This is not to say Kroeker is evil. He may very well believe that at least some of what he does is good for the community at large. Maybe he even thinks suppression of free speech (through intimidation and investigation, as well as direct dispersal, maiming, and arrest of people) contributes to something good, like the stability of downtown businesses.
None of this behavior is the result of an error in judgment. Kroeker treats all crime and anything deemed "deviant" by him (or the Mayor) as justification for increased police control. His only principle seems to be an increase in police presence, and all other principles bend to that. Mark Kroeker approaches social order with a Machiavellian bludgeon: physically control people, including underlings; subdue the public with force; and squash any interference, including citizen activism and oversight.
Independent citizen review of police policy and misconduct is one step toward countering Kroeker's Machiavellian mindset.
"Professor" Condon, a teacher of sociology and criminology, testified at the May 24 City Council hearing on revising Portland's police review board.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.