Rapping Back #39


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

Cops Communicate Chauvinism, Compunctions,
Compulsions, and Compassion in Collected Compositions


Things you probably didn't know about cops #1--Regrets, I Have a Few:
Det. Dave Schlegel of the Portland Police, now retired, admits that his regrets include: "My decision not to shoot a drunken old man with a deer rifle...in the early 80's"; "not accepting a machine gun so I could take care of business after I caught the guy who raped a girl I had dated"; and "that I never arrested anyone for the crimes of Treason, or Sale of a Drugged Horse" (June Rap Sheet).

Rap Sheet Takes on Racial Profiling--By Denying Its Existence

Despite the second set of figures in 6 years showing Portland Police pull over, search, and arrest people of color more often than Caucasians--and concerns from new
Chief Sizer (see profiling article), the police "union" seems to be handling the issue with the open-mindedness of a Fox News anchor.
The most telling example was Rap Sheet editor Detective Peter Simpson, who wrote in the June issue that African Americans and Latinos will believe they are pulled over disproportionately even if the percentages were flipped. He calls the issue of profiling a "no-win situation for the police." His conclusion (as reprinted also in the June 29 Portland Mercury): "Don't change a thing. We aren't doing anything wrong. Explain why you stop someone. Don't give in to petty arguments that usually end with you getting an IA notice."
Simpson regularly prints columns by an LA officer who uses the pseudonym Jack Dunphy, presumably to say the things he and Portland Police are thinking but maybe aren't so blunt. In the June Rap Sheet, Dunphy's column outlining the weaknesses of federal oversight of the LAPD decries the "hoariest of claims" against officers--racial profiling. To explain figures showing that in LA, people of color are three times more likely to be asked to step out of their vehicle, four times more likely to be patted down, and four times more likely searched, Dunphy states "Blacks and Latinos...are responsible for a far greater share of violent crimes." He says that African Americans make up 11% of the population but commit 40% of murders; Latinos are 46% of the population but commit 50% of murders. "If cops were not stopping and searching....they'd be shirking their duty...racial sensitivity and political correctness be damned."
In the May issue, perhaps to hide the fact that the backlash against Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's incident with Capitol police in March (in which an officer did not recognize her, grabbed her, and she allegedly hit him in response) mostly came from closet racists, Simpson chose to carry two articles by people of color calling her accusations into question. The more seriously disturbing of the two is by Michelle Malkin, the Filipino-American author of a book defending the internment of Japanese-Americans in WW II, calling Democrats "the party of police haters." Malkin admits she's felt singled out in airports and elsewhere, but feels there should be more "security profiling." In describing one supporter of Rep. McKinney, she says he "rattled his tinfoil" before making a statement.

Things you probably didn't know about cops #2-- Cops Sometimes Shoot When Squeezing the Other Hand:
In some cases of "involuntary" firearm discharges, "one hand will contract in sympathy with the other, when the other hand is required to grab and/or squeeze an object, or otherwise grip the hand into a fist. The sympathetic hand will also contract, causing the fingers holding a gun to squeeze down"--Michael Stone a Pasadena, CA lawyer who spent 13 years as a cop (June Rap Sheet).

Why Police Do What They Do

The Rap Sheet has, from time to time, actually printed articles which show some progressive thought regarding policing. Sometimes, these ideas come mixed with awful concepts that are equally as troubling as the good ones are promising. Two recent examples fall into the positive heading, while a third falls squarely in the moving backward category.
An article on "Policing with Honor" by Sgt. Randy Sutton of the Las Vegas PD (May issue) asked why police commit crimes and engage in corruption, thus "dishonoring" their uniforms. Sutton outlines three basic levels of accountability (self, supervisory and administrative), reminding officers to bring personal responsibility and supervisors to "walk the walk" if they violate policy or else appear hypocritical.
He notes some common-sense ideas for officers to maintain their ethics: "think before you act"; recognize that officers have the power of life and death over citizens; remember liberties and rights "must not be tread on"; and avoid "noble cause corruption"--doing the wrong thing for "good" reasons. Examples of this last problem include falsifying investigative documents or evidence to get a search warrant. Many times, says Sutton, "outrageous conduct" is rooted in "innocent" beginnings that escalate.
Sutton includes an interesting tidbit: That there is no national database of officers who have lost their certification for violations of policy or law. (NOTE: On July 24, USA Today reported that such a database is being created).
The second article, by former Minneapolis PD officer and now US Marshal Michael Quinn, features the metaphor where officers are sheepdogs protecting the public from the "wolves." Quinn regrets the "sheepdogs" sometimes "have to act in the sheep's presence" (June Rap Sheet). He cautions officers that "letting the wolf inside loose" because "bad guys have to be stopped" would only show "the ends justify the means." Quinn notes that the "letting loose" concept was supported by a leader of the Montana militia in a 1995 New York Times article; thus to differentiate the "good guys" from the "bad guys" officers need to behave as "your community expects to get the job done in the manner that's safest for them, not you." He's glad, he says, his kids never saw him threaten and fight with people. For us, this raises the question of why police use violence in the first place.
Which brings us to the not so pleasant writings of Portland Officer Rob Blanck. In his May column, Blanck complains: "We are provoked by ever ignorant, docile and unbecomingly delicate minded politicians, critics and media to accomplish the inherently negative and dangerous aspects of our job in a kinder and gentler fashion. ... Yet we still show up for work... because we have an innate response to those in need, longing for justice and the calling that is police work."
He compares policing to the "egocentric and spiritual, terrifying and soothing" world of surfing. This somehow then leads to an analogy of Jesus walking on water, and Peter being the only apostle to get out of the boat. Though Peter sinks, Blanck says he'd have made a good cop since he took the risk. Since not all cops can call Jesus for backup (see Matthew 14:22), perhaps this is not the best analogy.

More Bias from LA to Portland

In an attack on the homeless similar to his earlier comments about people of color, "Jack Dunphy"'s May column focuses on a court decision creating "the Constitutional Right to be a bum." On April 14, a judicial panel created this "right" by finding Los Angeles' Sit/Lie ordinance violated 8th amendment protections. So long as there were more homeless than shelter beds, the judges found the ordinance acted to "criminalize the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night."
Dunphy says that "in accepting the plaintiffs' sob stories" the judges showed gullibility. As a result, officers are forced to tell the "good" citizens the "bums" are "enjoying... freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution,... the ACLU and the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."
To underscore his disdain for the poor, Dunphy says the only people on Skid Row are "the addicted, the crazy and the lazy." Only a handful of truly unfortunate people end up on the street, he says. The others prefer it there to the shelters because there are no rules. He gladly shuns what he calls "political correctness" and refers to homeless people as "bums," stating that they "pass time drinking, smoking crack, shooting heroin, fighting with (and occasionally murdering) each other, and preying on those decent citizens imprudent enough to wander through."

Things you probably didn't know about cops #3--Team America World Police: Portland cop Howard "Doc" Savage encourages PPA members to follow his example of spending a year in Liberia training officers on policing techniques (PPR #34). He notes that DynCorps (a "contractor" in Afghanistan and Iraq) promotes the effort as bringing police "enhanced problem solving skills, a strong multicultural awareness and a profound appreciation for the value for [sic] diversity." Among other things, DynCorps' officers show indigenous cops practices used by "democratic societies"; two countries Savage names are China and Jordan--not known for their human rights records (May Rap Sheet).

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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