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Rapping Back #50:
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet" for the People's Police Report

Serious Beliefs Some Bigwigs Should Be
Standing Behind Shooter Bluecoats

Chasse/Beanbag Cop's Punishment Pushes Police Protest

Only two articles have appeared in the Portland Police Association's "Rap Sheet" about the January 29 shooting of Aaron Campbell, both by President Scott Westerman. (His February comments are referenced in our article on page 1). However, an extraordinary number of articles appeared in defense of Officer Chris Humphreys for hitting a 12-year-old with a "beanbag" round, and trumpeting the PPA's march on City Hall on November 24 (PPR #49). The entire front page of the December issue featured a banner headline and giant photo of the march, where officers wore T- shirts and carried signs saying "I Am Chris Humphreys," with at least 9 other articles on the topic filling most of the paper. The underlying issues--which to the PPA are that Chief Rosie Sizer and Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman did not give Humphreys due process and do not support their employees--spilled over into the January issue as well. The action to suspend Humphreys was reversed by Sizer and Saltzman after the PPA took a vote of no confidence for both leaders, but agreed not to release the results once Humphreys got his badge back.

The number of participants at the rally varies from article to article, between 650, 700 and 750, but all agree that it was attended by "police officers and their families." Sgt. Westerman lists 24 agencies from Eugene, OR to Seattle, WA who sent cops to fill out the numbers. Considering the PPA has about 900 sworn officers in its membership, we guess less than 350 were actually Portland Police.

Rap Sheet editor Peter Simpson denounced Sizer and Saltzman's original decision to suspend Humphreys: "Most see [it] as political pandering rather than the violation of any defined policy" (December). He says that frustration and disappointment over the two weeks' discipline Humphreys faced in the James Chasse beating death (also PPR #49) turned into fear and anger after Humphreys was suspended. Although the Internal Affairs investigation is not yet finished, Simpson declares the beanbag use was "in policy" and "appropriate." He urges Saltzman to go through police training, worried that the officers are suffering since Saltzman was "bullied into his new tough guy image."

Simpson praises Humphreys for sticking to his job for three years while being investigated in the Chasse case, noting that he feels he "work[s] for the people who matter--the citizens who are afraid to ride MAX, ... the kids who are abandoned by their parents, the families terrorized by thugs and tweekers [sic]." To fellow officers, he states that they do not work for the Chief, Council or the Mayor--"they should work for us." Actually, all of you lot should be working for us, the citizens of Portland. (Did we mention that it's estimated that 2/3 or more of officers live outside Portland?)

Westerman called the PPA, which repeatedly defends officers in use of force cases, "strong advocates for accountability" in the December issue. "Some members of the media and the public want to depict the PPA as a bully and a group of 'thugs.' They believe the PPA is only concerned with the blind and undiscerning defense of its members, regardless of the offense." But he says police are tougher on one another than the public. "Any time a police officer violates the oath of public services it reverberates throughout the entire law enforcement community and discredits us all." He notes that almost a dozen officers have been fired or forced to resign in the past few years and PPA did not "blindly defend" them. The PPA evaluated those cases, agreed the discipline was appropriate, and did not intervene. These are generally the pervo- cops caught in sexual misconduct incidents (PPR #49), never those who beat, tase, or shoot civilians in questionable circumstances.

Westerman returned to his theme of accountability in January, stating that officers are held to a higher standard than others, with their work used as a "tool for political posturing and power plays by politicians." He asks that the City hold accountable those who took three years to investigate Chasse, especially since the 9/11 investigation took less time. But he repeats that "Good police officers want those who tainted the badge with poor behavior to be held accountable."

In March, Westerman acknowledged that November's "Chicago-style policing" demonstration, showing muscle over a racially charged incident, "didn't go over well in certain segments of our community." While taking responsibilty for that, he continued to defend the march as the only way to get the PPA's voice heard.

Officer Pete Taylor chimed in, explaining why he wore one of the T-shirts (December): Chris Humphreys has been "confronting violence so others don't have to experience it." Well, others except for James Chasse, Chaz Miller (whose legs Humphreys beat with a baton when he mistook him for a suspect), Lisa Coppock (whom he roughed up on a MAX platform) and that 12- year-old girl--none of whom posed a threat to anyone at the time police approached them.

Interestingly, Simpson acknowledges that the Oregonian wants police to do a better job, and he is trying his best. But, he says, "Don't tell me to be quiet. I am Chris Humphreys." Here's a suggestion, "Humphreys": think about how the public perceives you before you open your mouth.

Sgt. Franz Schoening chimed in, describing the beanbag as a "routine use of force" (December). That's odd, since the 2009 Use of Force Report states that police only used "Non- Lethal Impact Munitions" 14 times in a one year period.

Schoening complains the new Use of Force policy is confusing to officers, and while complying with a Supreme Court ruling (Graham v. Connor), they missed the important language that "the 'reasonableness' of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight." Schoening suggests this means Humphreys should be given the benefit of the doubt, which would be fine if Humphreys were a reasonable officer and not a thumper cop.

Retired officer Greg Seamster complained about an op-ed by Susan Banitt in the Oregonian (November 28). She wrote that as a mental health worker she had been "spat on, bitten, sworn at, hit in the face, scratched" and was able to subdue a 14 year old with scissors, although she ended up covered in blood. She and her colleagues have no protective gear, and work for low pay. Seamster says Banitt then "twisted the knife into the heart of police work": calling use of force against children "bullying, ignorant and cowardice."

Seamster explains that mental health facilities have light, walls and doors, while the MAX platform had "hostile gang bangers, other anti-police types, trains, traffic and darkness." This is the first time we've heard that all of those things were present--the video shows three cops circling the one girl with one or two people looking on passively.

He also claims the patients are medicated and have no weapons, blaming a staff mistake for the one who had scissors--which was exactly the point of the story. They knew the patient was armed and didn't shoot, tase or beat her. Nonetheless, Seamster says Banitt should be ashamed of herself.

Retired Sgt. Kim Keist, who was herself shot by a suspect, claims Humphreys protected fellow officer Aaron Dauchy and the 12 year old by using the "beanbag" (December). She notes that when she joined the force, all they had were long batons and guns, so often officers outnumbered the suspect and engaged in a "pig pile," resulting in some injuries to officers and civilians. Keist claims the less lethal shotgun reduced the need for "close quarter combat" and was used "in an area of the body that would result in the least amount of injury." She echoes that she was "disheartened" by Sizer and Saltzman, saying Humphreys has integrity and was only responding to the "girl who was out of control and the size of an adult."

Words of Advice #1: How to Act at Traffic Stops

Brian Doyle wrote a poem, presumably to a generic member of the public, about how to act at traffic stops, in the January Rap Sheet. One classic couplet: "Times when you are adamant and indignant and rude/ which are pointless positions, of no help whatsoever in these situations."

Police Bias Unleashed: The Rap Sheet on "Cop Haters"

Recent Rap Sheets have included articles on "Cop Haters." Some come with wagging fingers, others with thinly veiled racism.

Officer Rob Blanck's article in January highlighted the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who helped plot to kill Hitler and was executed by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer said "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil." Blanck, an openly religious cop (see PPRs #23 and 38), seems to feel the police are organized to fight evil, "despite some people who deny evil exists in our society." Ignoring the "evil" of three large male officers shooting a 12 year old with a shotgun, he reports: "A young woman was murdered as a result of evil gang violence. No coalition of ministers marched on City Hall to ask for community accountability and transparency." Summarizing, Blanck says "It seems the leaders, media and cop haters in this community prefer evil over those of us who are trying to stand against it."

A piece in the same issue by syndicated prejudice-monger Michelle Malkin (see PPR #39) decries "liberals" for being silent about the "war on cops" that is heating up. She says 19% more officers were killed on duty in 2009 than before, and more ambushes on police took place than 2000. The man who shot four police officers in Lakewood, WA was called a "Black on white martyr" by some blogger, and Malkin says the man who shot a Seattle officer stood against "white policemen." Tripping into a racist rant, Malkin cites rap songs, points to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as troublemakers, refers to Oakland, where four officers were killed last year, a "hotbed of black nationalism" and to former President Obama special advisor Van Jones. She then implies that Obama is part of the problem as a friend of "terrorists" and of Professor Henry Gates, who was arrested inside his own home by police in 2009.

A more nuanced piece by Officer Chris Davis, who was involved in the shooting of José Mejía Poot in 2001 (PPR #24), says the community loses when the PPA fights with police management (February Rap Sheet). However, he feels the vague standards by which use of force incidents are now decided, commanders making judgments over long periods of time while officers make quick decisions, and incidents being reviewed "by citizens who have no experience making this kind of decision" make cops not trust the system. He states, "Some of our critics are motivated not by a desire to improve police services, but by a compulsion to undermine the entire institution of policing as part of a broader social agenda." However, Davis wants his fellow officers to know not all critics "are trying to destroy the organization," most are motivated by "a genuine desire to improve our service." Listen, he says, it could be valuable information, as "thoughtful public involvement in public safety is the sign of healthy community."

In addition, he warns officers to engage in rational dialogue, because a "scathing letter to the editor, clandestine phone call to a reporter, bizarre rants in roll call...may feel good, but in the end all it does is shut down communication." He tells command staff to justify its decisions, because Generations X&Y want to know what's happening: "It's in our DNA to question authority." Again warning fellow cops, he notes the Bureau exists to "serve the community's needs, not ours."

Another point of agreement we have with Davis is his analysis of the 2008 Use of Force policy, which did away with the "levels of force" for the more vague "totality of the circumstances" standard. He notes "Understandable concerns have risen in the community about the Portland police occasionally using a level of force that is technically justified, but to them seems unnecessary." Because the old policies were based on the suspect's action, the new directive has been applied inconsistently. Davis is probably upset that the Bureau is punishing officers for using too high a level of force, while we fear the same directive will be used to excuse it.

Without the levels of force to guide them, an officer can justify shooting someone for a minor offense, and with the vague criteria, it may even hold up in court.

Not to leave you thinking all officers are sounding reasonable, retired Lt. Al Dean wrote in the January Rap Sheet that Portland cops will leave for other jurisdictions if they aren't treated better by management. In other cities, he says, they don't have to deal with "backstabbing politicians, a press that uses them to improve circulation, organized police haters and other Pettifoggers [sic]" (had to look that one up--people who complain about minor things.).

Words of Advice #2: To Heck with Community Safety

Sgt. Andrew Hawkes of Collin County, TX describes how he raced to aid officers confronting a rape suspect, who eventually killed himself. The upper management is investigating his speeding: "Monday morning quarterbacking has begun by the office people who wear their badges on their belts." His reason for driving recklessly: "It's called being a COP... [you should be] more worried about a fellow officer than getting in trouble for how fast you're going." Maybe he'd care a little bit if his high-speed rescue caused the death of an innocent pedestrian, cyclist or motorist (January Rap Sheet).

More Perspectives on Profiling

As with the Michelle Malkin article and other pieces we've noted in the Rap Sheet (PPRs #41+), a lot of the somewhat racist rhetoric in the police "union" paper comes from syndicated columnists, not Portland cops themselves, indicating the bias of editor Simpson.

To his credit, an article in the December Rap Sheet by Jim Donahue of Officer.com warns officers about becoming jaded. He thinks it is wrong to "prejudge" people and refer to non- police as "jerks" or "one of them." Donahue says bitterness can lead to making "poisonous" decisions about people based on skin color, ethnicity, neighborhood, or occupation. Refreshingly, Donahue gives examples of his own compassion leading to good outcomes in interactions with various civilians. He recommends the book "Emotional survival for law enforcement" by Kevin Gillmartin, which relates that every cop will "get screwed- over by his own agency" at some point.

On the other hand, pseudonymous LA cop Jack Dunphy's piece in the February issue praises a grey-haired man he saw in a train station in Europe, presumably a plainclothes cop profiling passengers. "Profiling done properly... is most often no more invasive than my encounter with the man at the train station." Who might be upset by such scrutiny? "A drug smuggler, a wanted criminal, a terrorist," says "Dunphy." Sure, some of those singled out will be inconvenienced, detained or "at worst jailed... for no other reason than their membership in this or that minority group"--but profiling is "legitimate and effective" to ID possible criminals. The attempted use of an underpants bomb shows why efforts need to be stepped up, he says, so we should interview passengers as they do in Israel. We can avoid patdowns or metal detectors, just concentrating on those "more likely" to pose a security risk. "If the number of young male Muslims chosen for this additional screening happens to be greater than some random selection process, so what?"

Westerman Takes Chief to Task, Reveals Snarky Comments

In the March Rap Sheet, Sgt Westerman takes Chief Sizer to task for not standing up for the rank- and-file, particularly after the shooting of Aaron Campbell.

Interestingly, his criticism of her behavior echoes our concerns; Instead of talking about the facts of the case, she talked about the accomplishments of the Bureau (as she sees them) and the lower number of use of force complaints, then pleaded with the press / community to build a Bureau training facility. We'd have liked her to release the facts of the shooting with no comment on whether it was justified, while Westerman wants full support. Surprisingly open, he said Sizer blamed not only the PPA for the public discontent, but City Council, labeling Mayor Sam Adams "a mess," Commissioner Randy Leonard a "loose cannon with a grudge" and Commissioner Dan Saltzman as the Police Commissioner "by default."

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, so these ideas may spread throughout Portland's rank-and-file.

The PPA's website is www.ppavigil.org.

  People's Police Report

May, 2010
Also in PPR #50

"We Shot Another Unarmed Black Guy in the Back"
Shooting Leaves Homeless Man Dead
Review Board May Get Teeth-9 Years Later
Review Committee Finds Excessive Force by Frashour
Taser Ruling Should Raise Bar for Portland Cops
  Man with Disabilities Tasered by Transit Cops
Rights Commisison: Immigration Yes, Oversight No
Sheriff's Candidates Relate Positions
Legal Briefs: Self-Defense OK in Resist Arrest Cases
  Cops Weigh in on Legal Briefs
Updates PPR #50
  • Thinly Veiled New Sit/Lie Law
  • Convoluted Anti-Camping Rules

Quick Flashes #50
  • Two Portland Cops in Road Rage Incidents
  • Two Portlanders Roughed Up, Speak Out
  • Officer Uses Pepper Spray on Man Set Ablaze
  • Cops Crack Down on (Some) Alcohol Sales
Rapping Back #50

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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