People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Rapping Back #50:
Serious Beliefs Some Bigwigs Should Be
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.