Rapping Back #33
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes
SPECIAL TREATMENT: Police help one another, the public should join in or go awayAn article in the April Rap Sheet written by Portland Officer Andy Shearer (#27242) for "uslawman.com" covered "Professional Courtesy." This article asks cops to watch out for one another, including doing special favors and not ticketing one another. Shearer does warn that "professional courtesy is not diplomatic immunity," citing limitations such as the need to prove to a court the reason you are dismissing a ticket. He also lists "if you're drunk and end up causing a three-car accident with injuries,...doing 75 in a 25-MPH school zone... [and] when a spouse signs a domestic criminal complaint" as examples when officers' "hands are tied" on professional courtesy.
Shearer ends by extending courtesy to military veterans, claiming he has "never, and absent extraordinary circumstances, would never give a minor summons to a veteran." Clearly, Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law only have so much meaning on the mean streets of Portland.
In another call for special treatment, Carol Hawkins wrote "Behind the Blue," an article about the lives of police families (May Rap Sheet). Her husband, Portland Officer Robert Hawkins, was involved in shooting Charles Harbin in April, 1992. Her husband was also present as other officers accidentally shot 12-year-old Nathan Thomas when they killed the man who had taken him hostage in January of '92. Even though Hawkins did not shoot, other school kids teased the Hawkins' child saying "Your dad shot a kid."
After the Harbin incident went to court and the police prevailed, Carol Hawkins writes, her family could "have their lives back." She looked on the internet to find more information and stumbled on the Portland Copwatch and other sites she calls "antipolice." She asks 8 questions, wondering why "critics" want to believe the worst about cops, and asking "Do those who were shot by officers bear no responsibility for their own behavior? Why are perpetrators held up as paragons of virtue while the police are vilified?" and finally "When did individual rights completely trump public safety?"
She also notes that "Policing is difficult and stressful work, and doing it for a public that increasingly hates you and randomly accuses you of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. is making it an impossible task." Perhaps Ms. Hawkins has never met with a survivor of police misconduct, or taken a workshop in cultural sensitivity.
But asking for support does not mean the police will respect the community in return.
Officer Jason Lobaugh writes about officers decertified from being on-the-job trainers ("coaches") for new recruits in the July Rap Sheet. Lobaugh says two coaches were decertified for missing deadlines to file reports.
One, Joe Luiz , was angry at being cited because he was on the Early Warning System (also see EWS sidebar). Says Lobaugh: "I want to say something about anger. We deal with the lowest of the low out there. Sometimes officers get angry. As much as some idiots want to say we are dealing with 'Customers' we do not work at Nordstrom's. We do not fold pants in our spare time. As long as the anger is controlled it is not a bad thing. This is for all you knuckleheads looking for police misconduct around every corner-- Go back to smoking your weed, eat some ho-ho's and stay out of our way."
CITIZEN SAFETY: Officers' Third Priority
Sgt. Karl McDade writes in his June column that if police used their training from 30 years ago, James Jahar Perez and Kendra James would not have been killed at traffic stops. That's because police were trained back then to engage in hand-to-hand combat, he says, using "sap gloves" and "saps," as well as heavy flashlights to hit suspects until they complied. The police back then, he says, were "large athletic working class men."
McDade complains that saps were replaced with batons, and directives limit where an officer can strike a person "under penalty of discipline... firing, civil suits and indictment." Now the gun is emphasized as a tool for control. 33 years ago, he says, police were taught only to draw their gun when they "had a legal reason to kill someone and intended to do so." McDade believes new training and policies have increased the use of guns 1000 fold, and thus the number of shootings. Meanwhile, the ratio of police killed to citizens has changed "significantly in favor of the police."
Officers back then expected to suffer injuries as others in working-class jobs, says McDade. But now "officer safety" is stressed above all else, and McDade reports that in-service training at the PPB teaches "the priorities of a police officer are first his own safety, second his partner's safety and third the safety of the citizens."
According to McDade, who runs Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trainings in Portland, all officers on the San Francisco Police Department receive the full 40 hours of CIT training (de-escalation for suspects in emotional/psychological crisis). He recommends this for Portland, along with holding one-on-one meetings for officers and "minority" community members, working on social projects in the 'hood, and creating cadet programs.
He then oddly claims that by doing all these things there may be more injuries to police and more crime, so the community has to pay a price for changing these policies. This speculation, however, is not backed up by a single example or statistic.
To show how saps could save lives, McDade uses the example of the death of Peter Gilbaugh in December, 1998. Describing the situation in which Gilbaugh pinned down a female officer (Stephanie Rabey) and grabbed for her gun, and then was shot in the head by her partner (William Balzer), McDade says that Gilbaugh would still be alive if the officers had used hand-to-hand combat.
Rabey responded to McDade's column in the July Rap Sheet. She found his article upsetting, "putting it mildly." She hints that his reminiscence of large working-class male cops implies disdain for female officers.
She describes the situation with Gilbaugh, recollecting that he slammed her head into the wall twice and somehow managed to pin both officers down at the time Balzer decided to shoot. Her conclusion: "I will agree with Sgt. McDade on one point. Had Officer Balzer used a sap or sap glove on the suspect, he probably would still be alive. There would just be two dead police officers." We raised a series of more practical questions in People's Police Report #17, including, if Balzer was, as reported, on top of Gilbaugh and Rabey, why didn't he grab the hand that was reaching for her gun?
Officer Daryl Turner wrote about cops criticized for recent incidents in his July column. "To those who believe that our training is flawed and that we are trained to be fearful of the community, come walk in our shoes for a while before you run back to the safety of your nice cozy coffee shops, lunch hangouts and artsy stores." Like McDade, he claims crime will get worse if police change their way of doing things.
(See more on McDade and his ideas about racism in sidebar)
PORTLAND POLICE'S #1 FAN and Retired Cop On Perez Shooting
Juanita Downing of the St. Johns Neighborhood Association got a front page piece in July's Rap Sheet, speaking up for police she saw "under attack" after the Perez shooting. She refers to Officers Sery and Macomber as "Jason" and "Sean," describes the t-shirt she wore to the public inquest ("America supports its police officers"), and, promoting National Night Out ("I plan on dedicating my party to our heroes in blue"), gives her email screen name: copsrtops.
Downing wrote a letter to Chief Foxworth asking him to rescind the directive that restricts police from accepting gifts. Two other letters she wrote supporting Officer Sery blamed training for the Perez' death and called for citizens to be trained about behavior at a traffic stops.
Sometimes we are accused of being too critical in this newsletter, but blind support of the powers-that-be is not the same as national pride. We hope Ms. Downing has taken a close look at the actions of some Portland Police officers in the last decade, including stealing drugs from the evidence room, "playfully" shooting a spouse with a shotgun, and beating up a man off-duty after a bar argument. Are all cops bad? No. Are any cops perfect? Probably not. Is it better to keep an open mind, regardless of your political beliefs? Yes. While we occasionally praise officers who "do the right thing" (including Sgt. Michael Barkley, see Quick Flashes), we wonder whether folks like Downing ever admit that wrongdoing happens, too.
More defense comes in the May Rap Sheet, where Bob Gross (retired), writes "Rank and File Under Attack." He complains about the community reaction to the Perez shooting, stating "Based on statements from the self-appointed leaders of the African-American community, the Portland Police Bureau is inundated with racist white cops and there is a vigilante subgroup within the bureau whose sole purpose is to assassinate young black males."
Gross flatly states that Perez is dead because he had drugs in his system, giving zero responsibility to the police.
Gross continued his tirade in the June issue, demanding the community "walk a mile in our shoes." He criticizes "naysayers, who had already made up their minds that Officer Sery is a loose cannon and should be tried for murder, hemmed and hawed and repeated their calls of racism, but their comments were turned to empty rhetoric by the conclusion of the inquest." (Our experience differs--see Perez article).
Gross takes offense at the suggestion that officers stop using pretext stops to pull over drivers they think are suspicious. "You know, as well as I do, that crooks are lazy. They don't walk from point 'A' to point 'B' to commit their lawbreaking deeds. They drive!...Portland's Liberal Left, Copwatch, that wonderful group Arissa, which calls for violence against police officers, and the self-appointed leaders of the African- American community are going to get what they want; a hands-off directive from City Hall."
IN PERSPECTIVE: A Cop Who Lived in 'Felony Flats'
Officer Chris Davis writes about how when he first moved to Portland from Phoenix in 1998 he bought a house in the area of Southeast known as "felony flats" (July Rap Sheet). He relates the perspective of living in the neighborhood as someone who saw abandoned vehicles, car chases and speeding. He makes a good argument (which we hope is true) that when he responded to calls in his neighborhood ("Hey, I can see the tree in my front yard from here...") it changed his perspective on how he handled things. This feeling for his particular neighborhood may explain why, in 2001, when he entered a psychiatric facility with a gun and was confronted by a Mexican man who was brought there mistakenly, that man, José Mejía Poot, ended up dead. In any case, it contrasts with the swelling pride he describes watching an anti-hate crimes march go past his house after a Jewish cemetery was vandalized.
While the Portland Police Association does not set policy, since some PPA leadership and officers express such negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their newspaper, these ideas may spread throughout Portland's rank-and-file.
The Rap Sheet is available from the Portland Police Association, 1313 NW 19th,
Portland, OR 97209.
People's Police Report
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