Rapping Back #41


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

For a Clear Picture of the Police Association, You'll Have to Turn A Little to the Right


Pumping Up the Troops #1--Angels with Firearms: In an article from Officer.com, John Willis, a retired Chicago Police Officer and FBI agent, suggests that officers train for each day as if they will be in a gun battle. He notes physical, mental and spiritual preparation are needed: "When mind, body and spirit are in tune, you are a righteous warrior, not unlike Michael the Archangel" (Rap Sheet, March 2007).

Rap Sheet's Not-So-Subtle Shift to the Far Right

We've been running this column since we started publishing the People's Police Report in 1993, tracking the somewhat offensive but not terribly surprising attitudes of Portland's rank-and- file officers. Since the incidents of 9/11 and the following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the editorial content of the Rap Sheet has seemed to drift more toward the implicit, if not explicit, support of militarism and racism, and against anything that might be considered liberal or progressive. It's not only that the members of the Portland Police Association writing these articles express such views, it's also the articles that editor Detective Peter Simpson chooses to run without commentary that seem to support this agenda.

The examples just from January to March of 2007 are too numerous to include in full.

A few Portland cops demonstrated that the Portland Police are still stinging from Mayor Tom Potter and City Council voting in early 2005 to take two Portland officers out of the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force (PJTTF) over concerns they might violate Oregon law (see PPR # 35).

Officer Jason Lobaugh, recalling the withdrawal from the PJTTF, imagines a scenario to film episodes of the Fox-TV show "24" in Portland, suggesting a plot in which Islamic extremists put nuclear weapons "under the nose of the wonderful, liberal mayor" (February Rap Sheet). Referring to the show's super agent hero, Lobaugh notes that Jack Bauer uses torture "and I'm glad he does... I'm not advocating that we should be able to put a plastic bag over someone's head to get information, but we should be allowed to deal toughly with tough people and criminals."

Lobaugh complains that the "Pendulum has swung so far left, starting with Miranda, I don't know if it will ever swing back." He complains that the "liberal media" has forgotten the reasons for the Iraq war, which include that Saddam Hussein engaged in torture. This logic brings the pendulum back to swing at Lobaugh--if he supports Jack Bauer and the U.S. using torture, doesn't that justify people who want to attack America?

Reporting on an "incident response to terrorist bombing class" he took in New Mexico, Sgt. Scott Johnson of the Rapid Response Team and Internal Affairs Division (hey, isn't that a conflict of interest?) explained that the "Students and instructors could not believe that Portland had pulled out from our local JTTF" (Rap Sheet, February 2007). He notes that the classes included a presentation based on Israeli security operations, what to do with bomb threats, witnessing "what a pipe bomb does to a watermelon," a 300 pound car bomb and other explosions: "Very cool, indeed." Johnson felt the class was important because "I believe these events will unfortunately occur in the US with more frequency." By the way, the feds paid all his expenses.

In the January issue, Officer Matt McDonald's eulogy for Officer Stephanie Dekoeyer, who died of cancer late last year, managed to make note that he and Dekoeyer were in the PJTTF until "certain short sighted politicians declared Portland free of terrorism."

As for reprints, the February issue featured an article by Michael McBride, retired US Marine Corps Major and writer for mysandmen.blogspot.com, explaining that although conservatives cover more ground in Oregon, "it has become a Mecca for liberals on Hajj, granola eating Birkenstockers looking for lost brethren, and pandering foil wearing politicos looking for tenure in their careers as professional solons." (Solon [noun]: a wise lawgiver.)

McBride challenges the state to govern responsibly, "not just pandering to the flavor of the month lefty cause. This does not require the vegetable munchers to lose their passion; it just requires them to translate that passion... through pragmatic realities... into results."

A very lengthy article in January's Rap Sheet from Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard focused on the company Blackwater, essentially taking their side in calling them "military contractors" rather than "mercenaries" or "war profiteers." Though it delves into similar shady operations, the ultimate feel of the article is reflected in the "humorous" creed of the military contractor: "I do this job for the opportunity to kill the enemies of my country, and to finally get the boat I've always wanted. In any combat zone, I will always locate the swimming pool, beer and women, because I can. I will deploy on my terms, and if it ever gets too stupid, I will simply find another company that pays me more."

Also: * Sgt. Johnson described a June, 2001 incident where a shot rang out while officers took a person into custody; a Sergeant, "kneeling on a prisoner, had to pull out his .45 pistol, ordering back jeering hostiles at gunpoint" (March);

* Reporting on a big marijuana bust, Portland's Capt. Frank Romanaggi made sure to mention that the suspect was "a Vietnamese national" (February);

* Officer Jack Gillentine, detailing his efforts with the Oregon National Guard in Afghan-istan, quotes right-wing pundit Ann Coulter and complains that the "Left leaning media doesn't like to cover the incredibly successful Operation Enduring Freedom" (February);

* Jeff Emanuel, RedState.com contributing editor, explains that 3000 British intelligence officers are investigating 200 alleged plots by 1600 British Muslims--or nearly 2 agents per suspect. He applauds this action due to the "threat posed by radical Islamists who...wish to kill us all" (March); and

* Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the right-wing Eagle Forum, condemns the prosecution of two border agents who shot an unarmed alleged drug smuggler in the rear end, implying that guards should be able to do anything in defense of the nation's borders (March).

Pumping Up the Troops #2--Do anti-war resolutions cost money?: Complaining about the fact that there aren't enough cops out on the streets, Rap Sheet editor Peter Simpson writes, "If City Hall put the same effort into making public safety a priority as they do in building boondoggle projects, giving tax abatements, funding ill-advised PR campaigns and voting on anti-war resolutions, Portland actually could be the model for Community Policing that the politicians... like to wax poetic about" (January).

Pulling Public to PPA's PAC and Privatizing Police

The PPA is continuing to gear up a public relations campaign to improve their image, looking for crime victims to tell glowing stories about the Portland Police (PPR #40). In the February Rap Sheet, PPA Vice President Mitch Copp reports that they have hired the firm of Gard and Gerber, thinking they need to spend money to "set the record straight" and direct the public to the PPA website, where they can find "various ways to support the PPA" (read: donate money to their political action committee).

This effort will give the PPA financial backing to support candidates for City Council who will do their bidding. One of their most constant refrains is that there are not enough officers working the streets. Yet Copp also reports that officers who work for private contractors on "special duty" are projected to work 10,000 hours and pull in a total of half a million dollars in overtime in 2007. "Special duty employers are satisfied with the professional service they receive, despite the cost," writes Copp. He also says officers can convert the privately funded cops-as-security-guards time into comp time, up to 160 hours, instead of overtime. In other words, by guarding, say, a movie set as private security, officers can be off the streets up to four weeks a year. 10,000 comp time hours is the equivalent of 5 full-time officers working regular duty for a full year. This "special duty" program raised our hackles when it started several years ago, now it's actually undermining the police's own argument that they need more officers.

Who's the Victim? Researchers Find Suspects Who Are Shot by Police Need Scrutiny

The Force Science Research Center (FSRC), the Minnesota-based facility we've reported on previously (PPR #39), is touting a study done by Lt. James McElvain of the Riverside, CA Sheriff's Department. McElvain never used deadly force "against a human" himself, but studied five years of data. He found that in 70% of cases there was a "chemical influence" on the suspect. Expanding to 15 years of data (1990-2004), he studied 186 shootings of 190 civilians in a county of 500,000. (In the same time frame, there were only about 84 shootings in the similarly sized City of Portland.)

He found that suspects with drugs in their system were three times more likely to be shot at by police, with alcohol 3.4 times more likely, and those with a history of violence 3.7 times more likely than those without these characteristics. Interestingly, the article doesn't mention whether officers were found to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or steroids in these cases.

Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive apologist--er, director--at the FSRC, praised the report's departure from other studies, which look at officers' decisions, list the frequency of shootings, and "refer to the subjects who get shot in these encounters as 'victims.'" Lewinski adds that investigations show most officer involved shootings are justified by "self-defense or he/she is victimized by an actual or threatened assault by the subject." Why is it ok to describe the officer as a victim, and not the suspect? Lewinski accuses these other studies of being biased, using the example of one researcher who said every case in which the legitimacy of the shooting was brought into question could be handled another way. Frankly, that seems like a fair way to do an academic study of these incidents- -unless, of course, the purpose of your "Research Center" is to excuse police behavior in every circumstance (Rap Sheet, March 2007).

Pumping Up the Troops #3: If We Can't Beat 'Em, We Won't Protect And Serve 'Em: A Portland officer who uses the pseudonym "John Brogan" took Portland Tribune columnist Phil Stanford to task for complaining about the firefighters who kicked a man at a low income hotel while he was on the ground (see p. 4). He says that if any person has reasonable belief that another person will get physical, it's ok to defend yourself. Upset that Stanford referenced the James Chasse incident as evidence that officers never get disciplined in Portland, "Brogan" writes "it's clear the officers did nothing wrong. Keep writing your sarcasm-filled columns and eventually you'll influence a grand jury member or two. You've certainly influenced me. I've stopped doing proactive police work, due in part to the never ending criticism by idiots like you" (Rap Sheet, February, 2007).

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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