Seeking Accountability for Rent-A-Cops
by Regina Hannon

In PPR #42 we reported on Portland Patrol, Inc. (PPI), expressing concern about the similarities between their private security officers and Portland Police Bureau Officers. The uniforms are similar and both carry guns. Since then, other issues regarding PPI have arisen.

In August, two PPI officers were guarding the front of the Arlington Club where President Bush's Free Trade Agreement Representative was speaking to a group of business people. I noticed that one PPI officer, Philip Goodfellow, was making negative comments about the people protesting at the event, so I moved closer to him. I heard Goodfellow saying to a passerby, "These people should be shot." I asked him several times to repeat what he had said but he would not respond. I told him he had no right to say that while on duty and, most seriously, while carrying a gun. When he was told that he was going to be reported, he tried to invoke his "free speech rights," he pretending to cry and saying: "Boo hoo. I'm so scared." During a speech by one of the protesters, he made an obvious mocking gesture.

I sent a letter outlining this incident to City Commissioner Erik Sten, who failed to acknowledge its receipt or to respond directly, although I forwarded copies to Mayor Potter and to the Portland Business Alliance (PBA). I then contacted John Hren, CEO of PPI, and met with him twice. I stressed that Mr. Goodfellow needed to be counseled about the inappropriateness of the statements he had made. Hren indicated he would speak with Goodfellow. At the next meeting I had with Hren, he stated he had spoken with Goodfellow and that there would be some follow up. However, due to their being a private agency, Goodfellow had the "expectation of privacy" so I would receive no information regarding the discipline, if any.

In the "Citizen Complaint Summary Report" for the period July 1 through September 30, this incident was included: "During the course of the discussions, it became apparent that there was a communication issue between the complainant and the officer." However, an armed officer making an inflammatory statement about people being shot rises way above the level of a "communication issue." The report did indicate that a copy of the entire incident had been placed in Goodfellow's file and it would be used as an example in part of PPI's future training.

This situation brings to light the serious lack of oversight and accountability of the PPI officers. Representatives of the Oregon Law Center, ACLU, Western Regional Advisory Project, Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, Portland Copwatch, street roots and Sisters of the Road, are working on that and other issues regarding PPI officers and others who are patrolling the streets and parks of Portland as employees of PBA. Only two complaints were filed during the last quarter regarding PPI officers, so one goal is to inform people of their right to make complaints and how to make them. Sisters of the Road has developed a "Private Security Incident Reporting Card" to facilitate this process. Anyone having an encounter with a private security officer has the right to ask for the officer's business card and to file a complaint with PPI or PBA or with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST). There have been several reported instances of PPI officers asked for their business cards responding with an obscenity. When asked about this, Hren denied any knowledge of it.

The City also authorized PPI security officers to patrol Portland parks. The street roots blog of December 11 reported that PPI handed out 2,274 park exclusions in one year beginning November, 2006. In September alone, 275 exclusions were issued. It is probable that the majority of those excluded are poor and homeless, the same population targeted by the "Sit/Lie" Ordinance.

Regina Hannon attended the protest as an individual and is also a member of Portland Copwatch.

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