People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto's ability to manage the County jails was thrown into serious question by a scathing report from District Attorney Mike Schrunk. The report went further than last year's grand jury analysis of out-of-control overtime expenses (PPR #38), saying that Deputies are going as far as taping pieces of paper over security cameras to take unlogged time off. The report said Giusto has not backed up commanders' efforts to discipline their subordinates, leading to their skipping the usual review process and going to Giusto "because he usually sides with them" (Oregonian, November 5).
Making matters worse, instead of taking time to absorb the report, Giusto held a news conference the next day, where he accused Schrunk of engaging in "gunslinging public policy," saying "This is a jailin' system, j-a-i-l-i-n, no 'g'--We're all about being the Arkansas of the West Coast" and "We be jailers" (Oregonian, November 3).
At the same time, he claimed to be willing to accept an oversight committee, which was then created by the County Commission on November 30. Whether he pays any attention to the committee remains to be seen.
The DA's report also specifically cited the Sheriff's responsibilities in the case of James Chasse Jr. (see p.1), expressing concerns that the jail guards did not get enough information about the extent of Chasse's injuries when he was booked, and about the decision to take him to a distant hospital when he had gone unconscious.
Other specifics in the report show that the cost of operating jail beds in Multnomah County are extraordinarily high at $157 per inmate, compared to $111 in the Seattle area and $89 in Washington County.
Thomas Gordon, the inmate accused of killing his cellmate on Giusto's watch (PPR #39)-- one of the incidents that prompted Schrunk's review--pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in mid-November (Oregonian, November 17).
A new controversy arose over a deputy who lied about demanding to see tattoos in order to get women to show him their private parts, and Giusto failing to fire the deputy (see p. 2). The DA called the internal investigation into the allegations "deeply disturbing" (Oregonian, September 15). The Deputy eventually resigned and pleaded guilty to harassment.
David Verbos, a former Clackamas County Deputy Sheriff, was sentenced in September to 13 years in prison for robbing four businesses of cash and drugs. Using his service gun, Verbos held up a bank in Wilsonville, a check cashing store in Newberg and at least two pharmacies (PPR #38). Verbos became addicted to various painkillers that had been prescribed for ongoing medical problems. His defense attorney, Des Connall, argued for a lesser sentence of five years, asserting that Verbos wasn't thinking clearly because of his drug addiction and desperation. But prosecutor Jonathan Haub argued for a longer sentence based on Verbos' threats during the robberies, including threatening to shoot a clerk in the kidney. Haub also argued that Verbos could have sought treatment for his addiction (Oregonian, September 15).
The S.A.F.E. (Street Access For Everyone) workgroup presented its final report to City Council on December 13. The report, accepted unanimously, set conditions to replace the Obstruction as Nuisance Ordinance (aka "Sit/Lie"), which expires January 15.
The report outlined seven key goals and strategies to achieve these goals. The goals include: "Help visitors and locals understand and enjoy an active, diverse city; make daytime life less hostile to those with-out a home; implement better offender-management problem solving;" and provide more help for homeless people, people with mental illness, "disconnected youth," and day laborers.
The group emphasized that five elements must all be in place before a new policy takes effect. They are: A day access/resource center plan; additional public seating/benches; a public restroom plan; an oversight committee; and a "High Pedestrian Traffic Area" ordinance to replace the "Obstruction as Nuisance" ordinance, prohibiting sitting or lying on the sidewalks in downtown and the Lloyd Center areas.
The report specifies that no one should be cited without a prior warning from law enforcement, and that warnings be "documented appropriately." This will be a welcome change to the undocumented warnings in the current system. Those receiving a warning or citation must also receive information on resources and social services. Police enforcing the ordinance will receive training regarding the resources, as well as non-escalating/ de-escalating strategies. Unfortunately, none of these elements are explicitly written into the ordinance. Council will vote on the new code on or after January 17.
While violating the new ordinance will not be an arrestable offense, persons receiving citations will be summoned to the West Side Community Court with options including community service and/or referral for appropriate services/treatment. The maximum fine imposed will be $250, which seems an absurd amount for a homeless person to be expected to pay.
As noted in PPR #39, the acronym "SAFE" implies an assumption that downtown is perilous. There is little doubt as to whom the warnings/citations will be issued (people of color, youth and low income and homeless people), but this may be unprovable as the PPB's policy is not to document demographic information regarding the recipients. A draft of the report painted a vivid picture of Portland's inhumanity towards certain people: "Benches could be made slightly narrow, and either shorter or with individual armrests, to discourage lying down." (This sentence was later removed.)
In an interesting parallel, Portland has a new marketing plan: "The city is launching an $11.3 million project to get folks to spend time and money downtown" (Oregonian, November 13). To direct this effort, a Portland marketing "veteran" is being paid $90,000 a year for three years. While this could be a worthwhile project, it is certain that the marketing veteran and those to whom this campaign is being directed will not care if downtown benches are short and narrow. They also will never likely be cited for sitting or lying on the sidewalk.
Roughly a year ago, the papers were buzzing about a sting, an FBI investigation and possible officer corruption involving various secondhand stores in the Portland area (PPR #37). The stores were paying cents on the dollar to buy new merchandise which had been stolen from other businesses. The stores then sold the goods in various places including on the internet. Community concerns about the methods used by the FBI in the sting included using informants to drive "boosters" to various states to steal the goods. Two Portland detectives, William Carter (#8766) and Steven Swan (#14388) who were in charge of oversight of secondhand and pawn shops, may have been involved either directly or indirectly and were also under investigation.
On November 17, 2006, the Portland Tribune ran a story indicating the FBI itself was being accused of misconduct in this case. Lawyers for the owners of the stores argued in federal court that all charges against the stores' owners should be dismissed because of "outrageous governmental misconduct." The lawyers argued that the Portland Police were not responsible for the extent of the theft, but that this was the fault of the FBI's investigation. One of the attorneys, Lisa Maxfield, stated, "What the government did was actually create its own vertically integrated criminal enterprise." As an example, Maxfield pointed the finger at one FBI informant who helped coordinate the "boosters" and another who purchased thousands of dollars worth of goods from the stores. "It [created] a selling system on the bottom and a buying system at top," according to Maxfield. Attorneys for the store owners further argued that the informants grew wealthy while the federal government seized many of the defendants' assets.
According to the November Rap Sheet, Detective Swan resigned from the Portland Police Bureau on September 13. No reason was given.
On November 29, Brandon Mayfield, the Portland attorney wrongly accused of being part of the Madrid train bombing in 2004 (PPR #33), settled out of court with the FBI for $2 million. As part of the settlement, the FBI offered a public apology and agreed to destroy communications they intercepted in the investigation. Mayfield is continuing parts of the suit challenging the constitutionality of the PATRIOT act and alleging that the FBI targeted him because he is a Muslim (Associated Press & CNN, November 29).
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