[Rap Sheet 2/06]

Rapping Back #38


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

Copwatch couldn't call cops' contract criminal, chose to cull cruel, caustic comments


Honesty is the Best Policy #1: Tough work
CW Jensen, who resigned from the police and now advises TV news on cop matters, wrote a post on the BoJack political blog: "21 years ago this month I shot and killed an armed robber who was holding a hostage at knifepoint... Police work is tough. Killing people is tougher." At least he acknowledges: "For us shooter cops we know we had a choice" ... but he claims "We made the right choice" (Rap Sheet, February 2006).

Shooting Themselves in the Foot: Rap Sheet Explains Police Shootings

Some of the more interesting opinions about Portland Police shootings printed in recent Rap Sheets have come from sources outside the Portland Police Association.

In reporting about the reversal of Officer Scott McCollister's 900-hour suspension (see p. 7), PPA President Robert King made the usual pronouncements ignoring the public's view that McCollister killed Kendra James unnecessarily at a traffic stop in 2003. "Scott acted reasonably, in good faith, and in defense of his life" (January issue).

More interestingly he quotes John Truesdale, the Arbitrator who ordered the city to reverse the suspension, who wrote: "The striking thing about this case is the disconnect between then-Chief Kroeker's decision making process and the true facts of the situation" (February Rap Sheet). In a twisted bit of logic, he claimed that if Kendra James had caused an accident after driving away, the city would face liability and McCollister would face discipline. So it was better he shoot and kill her? This is a frightening conclusion, leading to the implied policy that officers should shoot to kill for fear of being punished if they do not.

Further indicating his bias, Truesdale stated that since McCollister acted within Bureau policies, all should be blamed on the victim: "Kendra James wrote the script." So, even though evidence introduced at the civil trial and reported in the AMA Ad Hoc Committee's report on the shooting proved that McCollister lied about where he was when he fired the fatal shot, Truesdale decided that the City engaged in an "extraordinarily quick rush to judgment."

A second outside source for bashing police accountability came from the Force Science Research Center of the University of Minnesota-Mankato. An article from their Force Science News (FSN) publication reprinted in the March Rap Sheet took aim at the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), the group that has been making recommendations based on reviews of Portland Police shootings and deaths in custody (see PPRs #31&37).

In an article headlined "PARC's proposals based on attitude, faulted by science," FSN interviewed one of the people on the faculty at their school, Bill Lewinski, who happens to be hired all the time by cities to get the police off the hook for shootings (see Perez update). Lewinski "strongly takes issue" with PARC's post-shooting recommendations.

The FSN critiques PARC's Portland report, asking whether an officer after a shooting should: (a) give a statement as soon as possible and be isolated "for fear he'll collude with others to concoct a fairy tale of what happened" and be interrogated rather than interviewed or (b) be treated like the survivor of a critical incident, and allowed to de-escalate before being interviewed. (Hint: They like answer b.)

FSN makes a point that PARC's money originally came from the Ford Foundation (as though that were somehow sinister) and that members of their board include a lawyer from the NAACP, a representative from the Urban League, civil rights experts and a prosecutor from the Abner Louima case in NY. They report that founder Merrick Bobb was accused of trying to drive his car into officers at Berkeley in his younger days. They mention that he worked on the Christopher Commission for the LAPD and the Kolts Commission over the LA Sheriffs.

FSN wants to undo the new procedures that force officers to be interviewed more quickly. PARC recommends interviewing officers within hours so as not to "deliberately [or] accidentally contaminate" the evidence. Homicide investigators interview civilians at a crime scene immediately, after all. But the FSN article claims that interviewing officers so soon "provides unreliable testimony." Vaguely cited research apparently indicates "Officers' perceptions can be distorted during a deadly force incident." The article states that it is "well established" that a percentage of officers have distorted views of their incidents. FSN contends 40% will remember lost details by waiting to be interviewed after high levels of "emotional arousal," therefore they need to sleep.

This raises the question of what investigators do in a non-police homicide case. Do they throw out hastily conducted interviews of civilians? FSN's claim is that quick interviews in those cases are important because suspects "may disappear during the delay"­unlike the cops (who just get extra time to get their stories ready).

Lewinski slams PARC's report as based on "attitude, not scientific foundations...[it] reflects a belief that cops are devious, that they engage in shootings out of their own will." He says public trust will be lost because the officers' testimony won't hold up in court.

John Hoag, attorney for several Oregon police "unions" says "Society employs officers to use deadly force when necessary, and only when appropriate and legal." That's true (though nobody asked us to vote on whether we approve of that policy), but it does not explain Hoag's support for investigators to wait two days to interview officers. "The delay does not impede an investigation." (Incidentally, Lewinski's business résumé for his consulting entity lists Hoag about half a dozen times as a co-worker or employer since 1992.)

In one of the few candid quotes in the article, Alexis Artwohl, formerly a police psychologist in Portland, also criticizes PARC but says "I'm not so naïve to believe that there are no police officers who lie...A small percentage are unethical, immoral and corrupt."

The basic premise: If you treat a cop like a criminal, they will invoke their right to remain silent. Our response: if cops engage in potentially criminal behavior, they're lucky they aren't hand-cuffed on the scene and booked at the jail before being interrogated.

Honesty is the Best Policy #2: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Retired Captain Jim Harvey wrote a piece pondering police who too easily throw their weight around, citing a meter reader who ticketed a fire truck and his own experience excluding a young man from the house where his mother had died. "Those with limited authority... seem eager to assert themselves in matters that seem trivial" (Rap Sheet, February 2006).

[Mitch Copp at Dec. CRC meeting]

A Cop's Cop: PPA's New Secretary-Treasurer Mitch Copp

We'd like to welcome the PPA's new Secretary-Treasurer Mitch Copp by sharing some of his great insights printed in the Rap Sheet since his election in October.

His second column, in January, focused on alleged widespread use of discipline on cops, saying the proposed punishments were "more excessive than I thought." He lists sitting in on the McCollister case, mitigation hearings (where an officer pleads to the Chief to reduce discipline for extenuating circumstances), Performance Review Board hearings (which decide on the appropriateness of discipline) and Citizen Review Committee (CRC) meetings as examples. Never mind that the CRC does not recommend or impose discipline­or that they agreed with the Bureau's findings in the two cases they heard in front of Copp. Copp praises those in management who remember being on patrol, thinking the best way to handle those who have acted out of policy is to transfer them elsewhere.

In February, he continued on this subject: "Since the trend in this organization seems to be increased internal investigations..." he offers tips for those who are called in. He advises that officers contact a union rep whether witness or suspect; to get police reports on the incident (good idea for complainants, too, by the way); to tell the truth (no kidding); to listen to questions and only answer what is asked of them. Copp advises this be done not only for complaints, but also for any "oral or written statements about the use of force." Because officers now have to fill out use of force forms for any incident using force, this will keep the PPA busy.

In a vaguely threatening section of his March column reminding members to donate to the PPA's PAC, Copp advises fellow officers to keep an eye on judges in whose courtrooms they testify. If crime victims or officers are treated with disrespect, he suggests, the rank-and-file should "weigh in at election time." (This sentiment is echoed by Officer Mike Stradley in the April issue, in which he specifically targets Judge Christopher Marshall.)

Honesty is the Best Policy #3: The "Bad Guys" are Evil Animals

"Holding on when other men have fled the drooling dogs of discord... The thin blue line of men and women... Holding off the wolves of Baal...Guarding a dying culture...you allow the rest of society to exist." Sgt. Karl McDade (formerly of the Crisis Intervention Team, now retired) from his poem "Coppers" and commentary (Rap Sheet, January 2006).

You'll Laugh So Hard Your Sides Will Ache­Retiring Officer's "Humorous" Stories

Perhaps we should be relieved that the perpetrators of the "funny" stories related by retiring Detective Dave Schlegel in the February and March Rap Sheets were talked to, disciplined or resigned. Hard to say.

One such story, under the heading "What's said in the car stays in the car," is about an officer kicking a dog into the next yard and telling the owner they were "lucky we didn't shoot it." The cop in question got an "ass kicking" by Sgt. Murphy for doing that (Rap Sheet, March 2006).

Another cop would drive fast to "Code 3" (emergency) calls and scream "Onward Christian Soldiers" into the radio. He ended up taking an early retirement, and having previously performed exorcisms on crime houses, now is a preacher.

Other tidbits:

--In Schlegel's early days he and his colleagues would drive to North Portland and play cards behind a building while waiting to be called to action.

--"You can't put brakes on while airborne heading West on Powell at 70 MPH."

--His cohorts were suspended from the Academy for wearing white hoods to water balloon the night desk guy.

---Another trainee got drunk and smashed the windshield of a car with his bare fist.

I can barely contain my laughter.

No Respect

PPA VP and Rap Sheet Editor Peter Simpson clearly feels the Bureau members get no respect. In his January column, he cites a "Complete lack of public support from Portland area elected officials." No positive press, he says, leads to "Joe Public" believing there is a problem.

Officer Rob Blanck agrees. In the April issue, he claims that Bureau leadership would rather "sway to the most blustery political winds blown by the mayor, city council and the self proclaimed cop- watchers than voice trust in the average officer."

In February, Simpson picks on Mayor Potter, asking "Where is the support for Portland Police officers on a daily basis?" He "proves" that Portland Police officers are committed to the Bureau's values of Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Excellence and Service "because they are out in the neighborhoods, working with people to make their neighborhoods safer and more livable. PPB do more than talk about it, they show their commitment to community policing by getting their hands dirty." Looking back at the rest of the comments made by Portland Police or chosen by Simpson to run in the newsletter, that claim rings hollow.

[Cop points gun, mistakes cop for hippie]


According to an Associated Press article reprinted in the January Rap Sheet, the FBI says 43 officers have been killed by "Friendly Fire" since 1987. (that's at least two a year on average). The story focuses on police departments rethinking their policies requiring off-duty officers to carry guns.
Famous cases, such as the off-duty officer killed in Rhode Island in 2000, an undercover officer in Oakland in 2001, and a Transit officer in New York in 1994, involved mistaken identity, where the officers (often people of color) were mistaken for criminals. Others were "caught in crossfire, or killed by firearms mishaps."
The article states that undercover officers are now trained to alert others arriving on the scene by yelling "I'm on the job."  

The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership and officers express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their newspaper. We worry these ideas may spread throughout Portland's ranks.

The Rap Sheet is available from the Portland Police Association, 1313 NW 19th, Portland, OR 97209. The PPA's website is <www.ppavigil.org>


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