Rapping Back #35
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes
Portland's Po-Po Poo-Poo People Power
Right and Wrong #1: What If Clergymen Had Pepper Spray and Semi-Automatic Weapons?
CONTEMPT OF CITIZEN
In recent months, the Rap Sheet has shown that the PPA and its supporters hold civilians in contempt, with no consequences.
In a diatribe in the February Rap Sheet, Officer Stuart Palmiter chastises Multnomah County Commission Chair Diane Linn for spending money to remind "criminals" (aka suspects) to go to court. "What would you call, the phone booth along the streets of Portland? Because that is where the drug dealers and drug users are." Funny, we remember a number of cases such as a police chief's son, a deputy DA and a neighborhood involvement officer who were all busted for drugs (PPRs #13&34).
Palmiter lists the reasons suspects don't show up in court: "1) They do not want to go. 2) They are so high on drugs or too busy trying to get their next fix that they do not care if they miss court. 3) They are too busy committing new crimes to be bothered with going to court. 4) There are no consequences for missing court!" So much for innocent until proven guilty.
In the March issue, Sgt. Pat Walsh of Drugs and Vice describes how after Kendra James was shot, "angry citizens told us what they thought, and much contact was quite hostile." After police shot James Jahar Perez, Walsh says, the outcry was loud and "often turned to violent confrontations." I recall only one incidentin which officers pepper-sprayed a young man who crossed the police line trying to see what had happened to Perez.
On the bright side, Walsh says that sometimes officers took the time to talk to citizens about the shooting incidents and that dialogue helped defuse tensions.
Walsh praises officers who patrolled protests after the invasion of Iraq in 2003: They showed "professionalism and self control" in the face of "disgusting .. verbal abuse and pure hatred shown those officers." Looking at the videos of police pepper-spraying unarmed, nonviolent protestors makes me think otherwise.
Moving from the police to their supporters, #1 fan Juanita Downing, now a regular contributor to the Rap Sheet, titled one of her three March columns "Thanks North Precinct, you are the best." Referring once again to the public outcry surrounding the police shooting of unarmed motorist Perez, Downing writes, "it horrified and angered me to see the public and the media turn on the very people who are trying to protect them from the scum of society."
But she's not the only one comparing suspects to "scum." An article on "Testifying in court: A police primer" printed in the January Rap Sheet by John Fuller (identified only as "Preparation") includes some really good advice for police. He suggests to officers that they "ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH. Don't lie, exaggerate, omit, distort, overstate, or otherwise 'stretch' the truth."
It might, however, undermine the court case if officers disclosed the entire truth as seen by Fuller: "Predictably, the scumbag you arrested a few months ago will look like an investment banker when he arrives in court... Don't gloat or sneer at the defendant, his lying friends or his shyster lawyer."
Race and Criminal Justice
In the March Rap Sheet, Det. Mike Malanaphy responded to a January 24 Oregonian column by S. Renee Mitchell about racial bias in the justice system, complaining that she failed to use statistics to prove her point. "In this community, minority males commit serious crimes well in excess of their proportion of the population at large," Malanaphy writes--without providing any statistics. He refers to an Oregon Supreme Court report from a few years ago which "basically found the system racist, but curiously it didn't identify any racists." This logic is like saying you can't claim that beer commercials unfairly exploit women without identifying specific misogynists in the advertising industry--it's not the individuals' actions but the institutional behavior that is in question.
Malanaphy coins the term "bigophobes" for people who, in his estimation, believe the system is racist because they hate white racists.
In contrast, in a rare admission that racism exists, Daryl Turner, Vice President of the PPA, exposed a previously unknown sensitive side in his January Rap Sheet column. In defending the Police Association's refusal to oppose Ballot Measure 36 (which denied gays and lesbians the right to marry, affecting at least a few police officers), Turner, who is African American, revealed his feelings about discrimination. "I have dealt with racism in college, the military and as a cop and a civilian." Hearing more stories like this might help those "anti-bigophobes" like Malanaphy.
Right and Wrong #2: The Irony Award Goes To...
Police Shootings: Forced to Do it, Don't Question Us
Prior to the five police shootings in 2005 (see article), several officers took time to write about officer- involved shootings and how they see citizens' input regarding these life-and-death events.
Det. Peter Simpson wrote in January about the shootings of Bruce Clark, a robbery suspect with a knife, and Willie Grigsby, who allegedly fired at police and was shot at least 13 times, and whom officers then shot with 22 bean bags and several Taser zaps (see PPR #34). Simpson notes that "few critics surfaced" about these shootings, stating that the cops "deserve to be honored" for their behavior in these two cases.
Simpson then revisits the old "I had no choice but to shoot" argument. "Contrary to many beliefs, we don't have many choices in our line of work... we don't get to choose when or where a deadly force encounter will occur," he begins. But Simpson explains that every officer has at some point used "mental and physical training" to exercise an option other than deadly force in situations where such force might be justifiable. Then he contradicts himself by saying "Some folks 'out there' would like to believe that there is always another option, but it's simply not true."
Simpson suggests that both Clark and Grigsby "forced our officers into situations where the only option was to use deadly force." He then further removes responsibility from the officers by suggesting "maybe 'suicide by cop' had crossed their minds." (The March 23 Oregonian also suggests that Ronald Riebling committed "suicide by cop" when he pointed an umbrella in a towel at them [see article]. As noted before, the Oregon Right to Die act is for doctors to help the terminally ill, not for police to fulfill wishes of criminal suspects by dispensing street justice.)
In a special aside to our group, Simpson refers to a quote in the Oregonian regarding the time it took for paramedics to attend to Grigsby. "Dan Handelman, the Portland copwatcher who always seems to have an opinion, says he's concerned about the length of time that it took the suspects to be treated by medical personnel. ... Handelman's only experience with defiant people is when his inner-child and he argue over whether the macaroni and cheese should have hot dogs cut up and mixed with it."
Actually, I love vegan hot dogs in my mac and soy cheese, that doesn't trouble me a bit. Excessive use of force on dying people, and the unquestioning power of the state to take human life, that bothers me.
PPA President Robert King weighs in on deadly force in the February Rap Sheet. Referring to the 2003 PARC report and its 89 recommendations about police use of deadly force, King notes that the Bureau is updating its policies, putting a Use of Force Review Board in place, and changing how investigations are done. "Most of which is good," he notes, qualifying, "However, as officers we increas-ingly find ourselves on the losing end of the equation when the Bureau's choice is to be responsive to the community or support its officers."
It never ceases to amaze how the improvements of police policies which can benefit both the officers and the community (and in many cases, which have been watered down to address the concerns of the police) can be interpreted as a "losing" proposition for the police.
King describes the importance of emotional recovery for officers involved in deadly force situations, repeating again the police "no choice" mantra: "When we are forced to shoot, it is to defend our lives or the lives of others. A traumatic or critical incident is traumatizing because 'it is a situation that results in an overwhelming sense of vulnerability or loss of control,' according to Roger Solomon of Police Psychologists."
To his credit, King states flatly as a matter of fact, "We need to talk with a professional therapist" in the aftermath of a shooting. This is important because so many police fear it is embarrassing to seek help, while King acknowledges it is no big deal.
In the same issue, VP Turner argues that officers should have more say in the policy on time off after a shooting. "When we are involved in controversy because of actions we take in the line of duty, we all of a sudden have a multitude of community meetings... We rely on recommendations from so-called community leaders, who have no police experience, to help 'reform' our policies."
This tired argument needs to be addressed: We're not doctors at Portland Copwatch, but we know that it's wrong to sew surgical instruments into a patient's open wound. Some aspects of how police do their jobs come down to common sense and community standards.
Right and Wrong #3: The Role of the Police "Union"
Drawing Your Gun: Mere Presence?
Officer James Hurley writes about the Police Bureau's recent requirement to document pointing a
gun as a "use of force" (Rap Sheet, March 2005), which arose from the community concern
that police are drawing and pointing their weapons in situations that don't warrant deadly force.
Hurley claims officers tell him they now hesitate before drawing their weapons, which he says puts
them in danger. He quotes a Police Marksman magazine article about when it is justifiable to draw a
gun. The article says police are not "required to wait until the deadly force threshold is met. The
standards are extremely low. You are merely required to suspect that there might be some
indications of deadly threat based on the totality of the circumstances."
Hurley argues that pulling out a gun, like standing in a police line with a riot baton in hand, is a "threat of force," along the lines of "mere presence and/or verbal control." Since the gun can't cause injury until the officer pulls the trigger, he argues, it is not use of force. Why is it, then, that when an officer sees a gun pointed at him, deadly force is justifiable?
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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