Rapping Back #36
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes
Portland's Po-Po Poo-Poo People Power
Terrorism Task Force: Penalty for Early Withdrawal
The biggest topic in recent months for the Portland Police Association (PPA) in their monthly newsletter, the Rap Sheet, was the decision by Mayor Potter and City Council to remove two officers from the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force (PJTTF-see article). The decision was made to allow the officers to keep their "Top Secret" status and have Chief Foxworth continue to attend meetings of the JTTF, specifically not severing ties with the FBI. The reasoning was that Potter, as Commissioner of Police, needed to have oversight of his employees, and so long as their security clearance was higher than his, he could not determine whether they were violating Oregon law by investigating people solely for their religious, political or social views. While bits and pieces of the true nature of the "withdrawal" do find their way into some of the articles, the general tenor is that the world is going to fall apart, Commissioner Randy Leonard, a former firefighter who supported the decision, is a traitor, and Mayor Potter, a former Police Chief, is a power-hungry madman.
The officer launched into a clichéd, emotionally-driven but not logical list of reasons he opposed the decision: "September 11 changed his life...senseless hate...planes crashing into the towers... pentagon on fire... Pennslvania coutryside... 3000 Americans died, 343 were Firefighters, 70 were cops." Yes, and none of that has to do with enforcing laws or doing investigations to keep people safe. "Over 1500 Americans and our allies have died in this fight"--did anyone mention to this officer that Iraqis were not involved in 9/11?
King acknowledges the agreement in his last paragraph, noting the "good news" about the two officers still having "Top Secret" clearance. However, he then drives the nail in the coffin of enlightened argument by stating that "If there is an attack...without the JTTF acting proactively we...know what this means, loss of life, our lives and the lives of those we to protect [sic]." The New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, the first in the country formed in the early 1980s, was completely unable to prevent the crimes of 9/11 from occurring.
In the same issue, PPA Vice President and Rap Sheet Editor Detective Peter Simpson chimed in about the PJTTF decision, stating it was "about politics, not oversight." Simpson derides the move as being to "appease the public and prevent abuses." He wrote that the FBI offered a Top Secret clearance to Chief Foxworth, who, according to Simpson, said he didn't need it. Perhaps that refusal was itself a political statement against Mayor Potter, but Simpson doesn't go there.
Simpson speculates on the reason the Council moved to withdraw the officers: "perhaps it's the influence of the vocal conspiracy-theory-driven minority" or as a protest against the Bush Administration. (Reminder: it was Bill Clinton's 1996 anti-terrorism bill that created regional JTTFs, and City Council has been wrestling with the issue of oversight since 2000, before Bush was in office.)
In yet another rewrite of history, Simpson claims that an example of the JTTF's ability to "prevent terrorist acts before they occur" was the arrest of the "Portland 7." However, their alleged terrorist act, which was to fight alongside the Taliban against the US in Afghanistan, was not targeting civilians (and thus not technically "terrorism"), and never even came to fruition because of the group's own incompetence.
In yet another canard created by the boys in blue, Simpson accuses Mayor Potter of saying to cops, "I don't trust you to do your job." Since Chief Foxworth disagreed with the decision, Potter sent a signal that he knows what's best for the Bureau. We should hope so, since the Bureau answers to the Mayor, and the Mayor is a former Portland Police Chief.
Simpson, like King, rewrites history by claiming Potter sought Top Secret clearance for the Chief, the City Attorney, and himself, even though the resolution calls for the "same level" of clearance for those officials as the officers--meaning the officers' clearances could have been reduced to "Secret."
In a minor bow to telling another side of the story, the June issue included a letter from Commissioner Erik Sten. In it, he explains that terrorism is real, that his decision was difficult, and that civilian oversight is an important matter. It's the duty of Council, he notes, to make sure no records are kept if there is no criminal activity. He notes that the agreement allows officers to participate in "specific investigations."
Retired deputy chief Rob Aichele writes a letter to Mayor Potter in the June Rap Sheet, claiming the law enforcement folks he's talked to are "unanimously embarrassed and ashamed of Portland's (your) position." Even though he agrees that it is sometimes "noble to be in the minority and be right," because Portland is the only city of 100 major cities to withdraw from the Task Force, we must be wrong. He chalks up the decision to "stubbornness, self-serving judgment and apparent acquiescence to minority and liberal factions of the community."
Perhaps the strangest swipe at the Mayor came from Sgt. Pat Walsh in June's Rap Sheet. Why does the Mayor have to oversee the JTTF, he asks? (Oh yeah, he's the ELECTED POLICE COMMISSIONER.) Why would the FBI share information, he argues, when the Mayor suffers from "megalomania"? Walsh notes that this Mayor, after all, rode with the Critical Mass monthly bicycle protest: "You know, those people who wear pajamas and ride clown bikes shouting profanity at anyone they ride by."
Walsh challenges Potter's assurance that nothing will change, coming up with this lovely analogy: "Sharing info with the FBI when not on the Task Force is like breaking up with your girlfriend and thinking you will still get together for a cup of coffee now and then. It's not going to happen!...If it does, the discussion will be superficial."
Diary of a Mad Chiropractor at the Portland Police Bureau's Citizen Academy
He notes that among his classmates were two people who wanted to go into law enforcement and one "activist," whom he does not name but was identified elsewhere publicly as Marlene Howell of the Alliance for Police and Community Accountability.
Chronicling his day on the police car driving course and firing range, he bubbles, "my two most favorite things: cars and guns." He describes being at the firing range after seeing the movie "Collateral" (in which Tom Cruise plays a cold-blooded killer for hire) and imagines himself as Cruise while making a bullet pattern on the targets' chests and heads. Baisinger expresses disappointment that he cannot just shoot a burglar in his home, and relates that some of his teachers in self-defense classes had suggested doing so and then planting a weapon to justify the shooting. The implication is that the police completely discouraged such activity, though he didn't write that specifically.
On another day, Baisinger was given the "Prism" training, a video-game like simulator for shoot/don't shoot scenarios. He was surprised to learn that officers have to "articulate reasons for all actions taken in a shooting scenario because of the legal consequences." He boasts that "on some shots I killed all the bad guys," but then realizes he ought not be an officer for fear of putting people in danger.
Later, police played tapes of hostage negotiators, in particular a 1988 incident ("Strayer") which apparently ended badly. Two-time shooter cop and SERT team member Terry Kruger commented during this class that the media, who once allegedly jeopardized police by televising their whereabouts during a tense standoff, were now doing "better." Dr. Baisinger launched into a daydream about shooting down a news helicopter but then worried about having to explain his action.
In one section, he describes being subjected to a Taser. Before the test, he "eliminated everything" since the police warned him, this implies, that he might soil his underpants. He and another classmate held onto each other and were given the 50,000 volts together. He laughed in relief when it was over, knowing he might have stopped the pain by letting go of her, but he was unable to.
On the day they talked about Internal Affairs and met IPR Director Richard Rosenthal, he notes that "even the critical classmates seemed satisfied in the capabilities of the Portland police to police themselves."
On the day they learned about crowd control, he wrote "sign me up for a protest march!" He found that the police were "dedicated to help a protest march go well...I always assumed the police hated marches and protestors." He looked at slides of what the police labelled protest "hijackers" who "generate violence and volatility" (likely the Black bloc, though it's hard to know if they were identifying individual activistseither way, such propaganda is very disturbing).
Baisinger's conclusion: Cops stop illegal activity "or else there would be widespread chaos."
Rap Sheet Walks The Fine Line of Racism Again
The June Rap Sheet reprints an article by syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, the author of "In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror."
Her piece rejects community outcry after a May 9 Compton shootout (in which ten L.A. deputies sprayed 120 bullets around a predominantly black neighborhood, hitting the suspect just 4 times and one of the deputies as well) and the May trial regarding officers who Tasered a pregnant African American woman in Seattle. Malkin, noting that "political correctness undermines policing," quotes Jan Golab of (conservative) American Enterprise magazine: "Today, cops all across the U.S. battle a foe as destructive as crime itself: The presumption of common prejudice. This view has been fanned by a media elite which has made 'diversity' its virtual religion." Malkin talks about an "anti-cop bias" which runs throughout the mainstream media and the "sins of omission" they commit by not focusing on officers wounded or killed in the line of duty.
Malkin has the right to express her backward line of thinking, which ignores the racist history of the country and the imbalance in the number of people of color subjected to the American criminal justice system. However, it is disturbing to find it distributed to the 900 or so rank-and-file members of the Portland Police Bureau.
Chasing Their Tails: Police Put Illogical Spin on New Chase Policy
In the August Rap Sheet, Officer Scott Westerman comes out against the proposed new pursuit policy, which calls for police not to pursue a suspect if a chase is more dangerous than the driver's original behavior. In essence, it says not to conduct a chase based solely on a traffic violation, and that a chase begins once a person refuses to pull over. Currently, of 200 chases a year, 150 begin after traffic violations. Westerman says the people who "already abuse the system" will exploit the policy and simply drive away from police. He feels that if a person rolls through a stop sign he should be able to follow them, even lay down spike strips, if they "just continue on their merry way without driving dangerously." He says that he understands the idea of calling off a chase if the suspect drives recklessly because of the pursuit; contradicting his very argument against the policy. For our part, we are concerned that the proposed new directive changes the sentence urging officers to "minimize" the possible danger to the public to ask them to "balance" those risks.
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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