[Rap Sheet Nov 04]

Rapping Back #34


Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes
the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet."

Telling tales of tainted treatment by those who turn in timecards to trap thieves


No Support #1: A Healthy Suspicion
In the September issue of the Portland Police Association's newsletter, the Rap Sheet, Sgt. Ron Alexander wrote that there is no support for the police from "self-aggrandizing special interest advocates, politicians, media personalities, and self-styled experts... A healthy suspicion of the police (of authority) is an essential element for the survival of democracy; however, knee-jerk condemnation of every police action... acts to significantly undermine the necessary authority and esprit of the very officers sworn to preserve the fabric of democracy."

Good and Bad News on the Psychology of Cops who Kill

Let's have a change of pace and start with the good news. According to John Anderson in the September Rap Sheet, officers involved in shootings now must visit mental health professionals four times, not just once. The first time, as previously required, before going back to work; the second time is now required 30 days after the incident; the third six months later, and finally one year later.

This is very important as such officers have had various reactions due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that have left them either on long disability leaves, turning to crime (such as selling drugs from the evidence room), or being involved in other shootings. An article from the October 16 Los Angeles Times notes that officers who have used deadly force are more likely to use it again. "Nearly 90% of the officers who have worked field assignments since 1985 never fired their weapons in the line of duty. But after a first shooting, an officer's likelihood of shooting again rose sharply -- from 1 in 10 to 1 in 5. Those with two shootings had a nearly 1-in-3 probability of becoming involved in a third."

[Warriors and On Combat] It's also good news that retired cop (and former Rap Sheet editor) Loren Christensen has included information on PTSD in one of his two new books which are prominently featured in the September issue. The first book, whose principal author is Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, is titled "On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflicts in War and in Peace." It follows the development of a psychology that allows humans to kill one another. The chapter on PTSD (which he spells out as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome..PTSS?) talks about how to "heal from horror" and reminds the "warrior" to "fight for justice, not vengeance."

Now the bad news. This book also "presents new and exciting research as to how to train the mind to become inoculated to stress, fear and even pain." The other book, "Warriors: On Living with Courage, Discipline and Horror," features a chapter about "Politics and the Warrior," with its subheadings "Chimps with Nukes" and "Baby Killers" (probably products of Christensen's notoriously morbid sense of humor). For this book, Christensen defines a warrior as a person "accepting the limitations of peace."

Along these lines, Officer Scott Westerman explains that "Officers shield community from harsh realities" in the October Rap Sheet. He decries critics who don't offer viable alternatives to police shootings.

In Clackamas, a deputy shot a woman who had psychological problems (see "Other shootings" article). Westerman, who himself shot a distressed woman in 1996 at close quarters (see PPR #14), described the woman in Clackamas as a "violently aggressive mentally unstable woman," which, by its lack of empathy seems like a way to strip away her humanity.

Westerman also shot a man in emotional distress in 2000 (see PPR #22). I've talked with Westerman, and although he seems confident that he did the right thing in both cases where he shot and killed citizens, I believe he is still bothered by the incidents. In his article, Westerman says the cops can "take comfort in the fact that the people we serve don't really have an understanding of what it's like to deal with a person who is trying to kill them." Because of the police, the vast majority of the public has never "had to shoot the person standing right next to them."

No Support #2: I Don't Want the Bad Officers

In the September Rap Sheet, Pam Ballantine (presumably a civilian) writes about "Our community's quiet soldiers." She thinks people are "called 'by God' to be police or [rather,] Peace Officers." She tells a story of how her 18 year old son wants to be a cop, but a current officer advised him to "do something else...[or all you get is] pain from a community that doesn't believe or trust his profession." She thinks the PPB is "very honorable" but notes there are good and bad people in all jobs: "I don't want the bad officers...as much as the community doesn't want them."

How the System Really Works

Greg Pashley, the assistant Public Information Officer (PIO) since January, writes in November's Rap Sheet about how to get the police's side of the story out, since "any story is best told from the source." (Never mind that often it is an arrested or injured person, or even a crime survivor who are actually the ones with the stories police tell.) Referring to the media, Pashley says "They come to us because it is easy for them. That's good for business, remember those millions spent by campaigns to get the message out?...If we play along we get to put our message out for free." Using the media, he says, can make a "valuable contribution to our public image."

In another surprisingly candid piece, Rap Sheet editor Peter Simpson imagines all members donating money to the PPA's Political Action Committee, which would give the PAC $75,000 a year (November issue). He suggests they could use that money to support "candidates that will give special interest anti-police groups their 15 minutes but won't let them dictate policy," will have open doors to the PPA and "will answer our calls." But really, folks, campaign donations aren't about influence or access to politicians.

No Support #3: Humanity Means Never Having to Tend One's Wounds

PPB Assistant Spin Doctor Greg Pashley wrote to condemn an August 10 Oregonian editorial, which was titled "Kendra James Deserved Better." Noting that the officers who allowed James to quietly bleed to death because they didn't know Officer Scott McCollister's bullet, fired at close range, had hit her, the editorial criticized the Bureau's current directive on medical assistance for suspects. Pashley was particularly upset because the editorial questioned the humanity and tactics of police. He wants the Oregonian to cover hero stories, of cops holding a wounded man, rescuing a woman held hostage by her own daughter, saving a suicide victim, offering rides home, or talking down a guy with a knife. But for daring to call for police accountability, Pashley has just five words for Portland's daily paper: "Shame on them. Shame. Shame" (September Rap Sheet).

[Kroeker in Liberia]

Where Are They Now?
Chief Kroeker and Friends in Liberia

Former PPB cop Howard Joe "Doc" Savage writes of his experiences working with Portland's former Police Chief Kroeker and recently retired Captain Scott Anderson in the international police force in Liberia. In the three days before he wrote, they "had to deal with eight demonstrations, and half of those were full scale riots." Nobody brought guns to these "riots," just rocks, bottles, and clubs. Savage was proud that they "dispersed all the miscreants without any injury to our own (the bad guys didn't fair [sic] so well)."

He describes the Liberian government officials as "bribe taking, arrogant, self serving, abusive slobs." Maybe they have achieved American style democracy (November Rap Sheet ).


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.
The PPA's website is at www.portlandpoliceassociation.com


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