Rapping Back #42


Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes
the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet."
Rare Releases Rob Readers
of Resonating Remarks

Dear People's Police Report readers:

Please note that the Rap Sheet, once to be counted on like the tides, now comes out irregularly though still branded a monthly. The April issue was released April 23, after PPR #41 went to press; May and June were both late; the July issue is yet to appear as of August 20.
Send your letters of inquiry to Det. Peter Simpson at the address at the end of this column.

Cops Bash Media Coverage as "Police Bashing" (and Reveal Tasers are for Pain Compliance)

Several pieces recently published in the Rap Sheet take the local media to task, claiming they are biased against Portland's finest.

In the April issue, Officer Arjay Dran asks, "What happened to 'fair and balanced'?" He complains that KPTV, Portland's Fox affiliate, covered the story of Brandi Hess, the woman with diabetes who was tasered in March (see PPR #41) in a "bash session" on the Portland Police. He notes that though police had just made arrests in the Asia Bell murder case, their honeymoon was short lived.

The crime-story-laden channel 12 (which begins each broadcast with "Fox's most wanted," undermining Dran's argument that they are anti-police) had the audacity to raise the questions of whether officers were trained to recognize medical symptoms, and whether Tasers might worsen certain medical conditions. "Um....what???" writes Dran, "We're first responders, not doctors or psychiatrists. Statistics show people in such crises are more likely to injure or kill us than the normal person. We are paid, trained and expected to control oftentimes chaotic and dangerous situations."

Dran brags of his credentials: "I was trained in the use of the Taser as well as haven [sic] 'ridden the bull' for the full five seconds"--meaning he allowed other cops to let the device go through an entire cycle of jolting him with 50,000 volts.

Dran reveals the reality about Tasers, which were introduced in Portland as a supposed alternative to deadly force: "The Taser is a pain compliance tool, just like pepper spray, the ASP baton and the bean bag shotgun." So now we have evidence that the Bureau does not consider the Taser a less lethal approach to potential deadly situations (also see Use of Force article).

Dran complains that when Fox 12 called for "other options" to be used, they didn't list any. "What other options, a 'pig pile?'" Which, we're guessing, is officers' own term for a police pile-on. He says that tactic leads to injury and exposes an officer's weapons to the suspect. Since Dran is a member of the Rapid Response Team, Portland's "Riot Squad," he's probably not the best suited to analyze officer use of force when a person is in crisis.

Dran uses the Fox Network's own line of patriotic rhetoric: "Without people like us, America wouldn't be free...We are the thin line between anarchy and order." This is a typical misuse of the term "anarchy" as a synonym for "chaos" rather than a system of self-governance characterized by mutual aid and a lack of hierarchy.

Dran insists that "this incident was not newsworthy, period"; adding that "this type of irresponsible reporting only adds unjustified force to the kick in our groin we receive daily from City Hall." As we say to people complaining of police misconduct--your best evidence is video tape, so let's see City Hall doing what Dran says.

Responding to Dran's piece by mail in the June Rap Sheet, apartment manager Vicki Westerman of Sherwood says that the media makes her "SICK." She pays 35 cents for the Oregonian (which now costs 50 cents...) just to get the comics. She is indignant that the police have to put up with the "crap" coming out of the mayor's office, and then they "can't use profanity against these scum bags you're stuck dealing with. That's just plain bullshit--excuse my language, NOT."

Westerman thinks that cops should be tough on crime, not "namby pamby hand holders for all the poor criminals... Every time I read that the police killed, tasered or otherwise took down someone, my first and ONLY thought is GOOD, or GOOD RIDDANCE." Westerman should hope she is never mistakenly arrested and beaten--think of all the people who will tell her she deserved it.

Reaching back several months, PPA President Robert King used his June monthly column to criticize Oregonian columnist Steve Duin, in particular his March 20 article praising Officer Robert Wullbrant for not firing his gun at a suspect in a crowded area of SE Portland (PPR #41). Maybe King didn't write the highly inaccurate headline, which says "Steve Duin applauds shots fired at officer." In reality, Duin contrasted Wullbrant's restraint, despite gunfire from the suspect, with recent high-profile shootings, where no shots were fired at police, yet unarmed suspects ended up dead.

Outraged by the piece, King claims that Duin used his column to "condemn other officers' use of force. In doing so he showed us all his ignorance of the realities we face." King asserts that "Officers are killed during routine traffic stops every year." Yes, and pedestrians are struck by cars, and people choke in restaurants, and planes crash, but people don't make every decision as though these worst case scenarios will happen at any moment.

"We all know using force to defend ourselves can be controversial and because of the attention of certain groups it can take on a certain drama." When cops shoot, King says, the news goes on for days; but when cops are shot at, "the story is buried on the fifth page."

Duin wanted to talk to Wullbrant, and King ok'd it on two conditions: Wullbrant would be supported and the suspect would get convicted. Wait a minute--why is the union president approving interviews with individual officers--shouldn't that be up to the Public Information Officer or his supervisor? And isn't the conviction up to a judge or jury?

Maybe this ultimately is the problem that the police have with the press: They can't control the message as often as they would like to.

In his piece on media (April Rap Sheet), Officer Dran thanks radio personality Lars Larson (whose ad in the same issue proclaims simply "Lars Loves Cops!") for asking whether Brandi Hess' "retired cop" father Dan Hess was actually fired. He was fired as Chief of Police in Dundee, for allegedly referring to a Pakistani man as a "rag head" in front of two dispatchers. But Larson himself is prone to making degrading comments and usually defends the police. He had to make a choice here between the officers who tasered Hess' daughter and Hess himself (who ultimately won a $15,000 settlement after he sued over his dismissal--Newberg Graphic, 6/15/05); the actively brutal cops won out.

Violence and Political Analysis: Columnists Let Loose

As noted in PPR #41, the tone of the Rap Sheet has become decidedly right-leaning in the last few years. What gets included, and who writes the columns, says a lot about the decisions made for Portland's police "union" and their reading material.

For example, an article printed in the June issue came from Frank Borelli of Borelli Consulting, a firm which, among other things, writes equipment reviews for the notorious mercenary corporation Blackwater. In "Getting hit hard and not falling down," Borelli talks about how pacifism is not the way to deal with bullying, as though pacifism means not standing up for oneself. He claims that pacifists need to be convinced that principle or beliefs are worth fighting for, even their own freedom. He touts self-defense training, guiding people to think that their assailants are going to murder them, the same way officer survival is taught (see Robert King's comments, above). "Every fight is a fight for your life," Borelli says.

Broadening his focus, he writes: "If you believe the mainstream liberal media, most citizens in the US want us out of Iraq. We haven't won the war...but we haven't been attacked at home again." Mr. Borelli needs to be reminded that Iraqis did not attack the US on 9/11.

Borelli uses the analogy that if US forces back down, they are doing the same thing a young boy does when backing down from a bully, letting him win. But if you open your eyes to the possibility that the US is a bully, maybe the people in Iraq fighting against US troops think they are the ones following Borelli's advice and not backing down against the bully. So who decides who's the bully?

If foreign troops invaded and destroyed this country, do you think Borelli would be championing foreign troops coming here to "win the war," or Americans who would resist occupation?

In a piece whose politics are a little less clear, the May Rap Sheet reprinted an LA Times piece by Officer Will Beall, pondering changes since the post-Rodney King verdict uprisings in 1992. Beall describes his first use of a baton in 1998: "It wasn't pleasant for me, and I know it wasn't pleasant for [the suspect]. and if there had been a video, it wouldn't have been pleasant to watch."

Echoing King and Borelli, with a little bit of a caveat, Beall says: "Civilians have the option of walking away from a fight, but cops often don't."

Beall disagreed with former Chief Parks' directive to refer to arrestees as "clients." If they grab his gun "and give me an unscheduled lobotomy," he doesn't want to give them respect; here he falls in the "every suspect is a threat" mindset.

He feels the LAPD reforms were imposed as though the cops were Confederate holdouts from the Civil War. He thinks they are now "better equipped, more diverse, more racially sensitive."

Interestingly, Beall notes that the federal consent decree calling for reforms has the city being "monitored for civil rights violations by a government that favors secret tribunals and condones torture." Finally, something we can agree with!

Terror Stats Don't Add Up

In the April Rap Sheet, Frank Gaffney Jr. of the "Center for Security Policy" says that there have been "300 mostly successful prosecutions of terror plotters in America in recent years." Let's take a look at this claim. According to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), of 1329 convictions of terror suspects: "Only 14 (one percent) received a substantial sentence -- 20 years or more. Only 67 (5 percent) received sentences of five or more years. Of the 1,329 who were sentenced, 704 received no prison time and an additional 327 received sentences ranging from one day to less than a year." The largest number of convictions were for fraud/false statements (http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/terrorism/169/).

"There is no question that fighting terrorists abroad has helped make more manageable the task of having to confront them here at home," Gaffney says, repeating an oft-worn phrase. He then refers to the US' current conflicts as the "War for the Free World," which is a scary perspective in a country where our liberties are being chipped away daily.

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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