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Rapping Back #52

Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes
the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet."
How Heralded "Heroes" Hold Hypocrisy as Hypotheses

Cops Didn't Shoot Aaron Campbell, "Political Correctness" Did

That headline may not 100% reflect the articles negatively reacting to the Bureau's firing Officer Ronald Frashour for shooting Aaron Campbell (p. 1), but it's darned close.

The Portland Police Association (PPA) began its staunch defense after the discipline was proposed, two months before the final decision. In a letter to Chief Reese published in the September Rap Sheet (the PPA's on-line newsletter), President Daryl Turner wrote condemning the Use of Force Review Board (UFRB), the City and Chief for "support[ing] the notion the shooting was unjustified and that Officer Frashour was responsible. Nothing could be further from the truth." Turner notes that the Bureau is trying to reduce the use of force but "when police encounter violent and uncooperative, noncompliant subjects" the civilians have a responsibility to comply. In his view, then, Aaron Campbell is responsible for Frashour's shooting an assault rifle at his back. Rapsheet Presidents message

Breaking down Turner's argument a bit: Campbell was not violent, he was being cooperative and was only non-compliant in the sense that Officer Lewton wanted his hands in the air rather than on his head. We're familiar with this kind of rhetoric from the PPA, but are disappointed since Turner has pledged to build a better relationship with the community. Why, then, would he write, "Portland police officers are used to inaccurate perceptions of their actions from anti-police organizations, but this time it will be at the hands of our bosses."

Elsewhere in the same issue, Turner waxes poetic about the police needing to have discretion when they detain, arrest, search and use force without consulting a supervisor. He ignores the physical nature of officer discretion when he notes "Police officers hold a symbolic place in communities... the most visible and vulnerable component of the criminal justice system." Their job is to "uphold, restore and preserve civil order," and protect constitutional rights. Parts of the community are "apprehensive and distrustful," says Turner, so the police have to gain trust. "Every day we deal with violent, screaming, non-compliant and mentally ill subjects." Officers are then investigated "in the name of transparency" for criminal and administrative violations. Turner hopes those investigating will not take away officer discretion "for the sake of political correctness." (Turner is African American, so make what you will of the use of that term.)

PPA Secretary-Treasurer Dave Dobler offers another possible reason Frashour shot Campbell after officers had been on scene for nearly two hours (September Rap Sheet). He cites an article in a law enforcement journal about "fatigue threshhold," when an officer's body can't exert any more energy while a subject is being subdued. The officer's lactic acid buildup stops the process of glycogen and fatty acids, and the officer can't physically do any more. Interestingly, this is also a side effect of the Taser. Dobler's article doesn't address the Campbell case but talks about officers needing to be cautious, with local "gang violence" on the rise and national statistics on law enforcement deaths also up.

In a letter to the September Rap Sheet, retired Officer James Harding insists Frashour acted as trained. He recognized so-called "attack risks" such as threatening speech, not following orders, and reaching for the waist (never mind that Campbell was reacting to being shot in the back by a "beanbag"). Taking aim at the UFRB and management, he writes "[Frashour] made these assessments on his belly in a parking lot," not in "secret meetings."

Perhaps Harding explains why so many people in mental health crisis are killed by police when he reveals "we are trained that suicidal is homicidal."


Officer Danger: The statistics quoted by Dobler in the September Rap Sheet are not heartwarming, but numerically speaking are relatively small. Nationally, officer deaths from firearms are up by 9 (from 22 to 31), by traffic accidents by 11 (31 to 42) and other causes by 6 (8 to 14). Dobler also notes that officers are six times more likely than the general population to commit suicide, and 18 times more likely after retirement due to loss of identity, boredom, or PTSD.


Conflicting Attitudes on Mental Illness: Crisis Intervention and Officer Bias

The issue of how police interact with people who have or may have a mental illness has been a concern at least since officers accidentally shot Nathan Thomas, a 12-year-old boy who was held hostage in his own home, in 1992. Thomas' parents did not sue the City but instead insisted they find ways to de-escalate situations with people who may have mental illness, which led to Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training (PPR #8). A former head of CIT, retired Sgt. Karl McDade, responded with a letter in the October Rap Sheet to a September 19 piece about Thomas by Oregonian columnist Steve Duin, in which Duin called him out for supporting Officer Chris Humphreys shooting a 12 year old girl with a "bean bag."

McDade, who received the prize named for Thomas dedicated to non-violent problem solving, tells Duin "I didn't ask for the Nathan Thomas award." Even though he trained officers all over the U.S. in "violence reducing techniques," McDade defends his right to comment on what he thinks is unfair treatment of cops. "I sympathize with Mr and Mrs McMurry* ... but what I can't understand is the inhumanity of you [Duin] and other members of the cop-hating community in turning their grief into a cottage industry of sophomoric and uninformed attacks on the police."

McDade insists cops followed their training in all recent shooting incidents, and all firings of officers "have been and will be completely political scapegoating." McDade blames several entities for the beating death of James Chasse by officers (p. 1). He points the finger at politicians who don't fund mental health services, courts for allowing people with mental illness to live free in the community, and then, amazingly, "wealthy condo owners [who encourage] pressure on the homeless." While we agree with that last assessment, McDade claims the condo owners' pressure led to officers confronting an "untreated psychotic malnourished homeless man who resists arrest." McDade doesn't seem to know that Chasse did have treatment, lived in an apartment, and was not being arrested for any crime.

Maybe all this negativity is coming from a place of guilt?McDade explains that he taught Clackamas Sheriff's Sergeant Damon Coates to de-escalate situations, and when Coates tried to do that, a young man shot him in the face (PPR #29).

The Rap Sheet seems a bit more sympathetic in two other articles: first, a September piece from the Treatment Advocacy Center points out how many people with mental illness become homeless (200,000, or 1/3 of the homeless population), or end up in jail (300,000, or 16% of the jail population). The article ends on a somewhat sinister note by saying how costly it is to treat people with schizophrenia ($33 billion a year) and house them in jail ($15 billion), underscoring that someone has to raise the person, the person can't contribute to society and requires costly services.

The second piece, in the October Rap Sheet, is by current CIT trainer Liesbeth Gerritsen. She encourages officers to call Project Respond for help on crisis calls. Apparently, this non-profit with expertise in the mental health field is only called by cops on 16% of such calls, though it may be higher because some calls don't generate reports. (Why would the Bureau not track every time an officer uses CIT skills to help a person?) Gerritsen lists the ways in which Project Respond can assist officers, noting that if the officer feels there's a safety issue or they can handle the situation on their own, calling Project Respond is a "mute" (probably "moot") point.


In December, Turner responded to the decision to fire Officer Frashour and discipline three others by saying they are being used as "scapegoats to minimize the City's and the Police Bureau's political and civil liability." The training division investigation was incomplete, he says, because they did not talk to lead instructors, who were "unwanted, expressly disallowed and they were ordered by their Lieutenant not to discuss" the case.


This One is Kind of Funny #1: Det. Jim McCausland of the Rap Sheet's editorial board wrote about some thieves who came to a store where 55 officers were helping underprivileged youth get schools items. McCausland praised the officers for being positive role models "unlike the two morons who chose to attempt to steal anything and everything from the store, hoping everyone was preoccupied with the Shop with a Cop event" (September issue).

The Hypocrisy of "Contempt of Cop" Responses

Oregonian clipping We often hear of people who are arrested and/or roughed up for asserting Constitutional rights or challenging officers. This is known as "contempt of cop." We've heard cops saying "Oh, you're one of those," in response to someone refusing to answer a question. And yet, Will Aitchison, the PPA attorney, gives advice in the September Rap Sheet similar to the advice Portland Copwatch and civil rights attorneys give the public about talking to police. He tells officers who are undergoing Internal Affairs (IAD) interviews not to answer beyond what questions are asked. "Don't make the job easier by unnecessarily volunteering information." Aitchison adds that the IAD investigator is not "your friend," and not to answer a lengthy question if part of it is inaccurate or if the question is leading.


Aitchison also encourages officers to read their and other officers' reports before talking to Internal Affairs, a luxury not available to civilian misconduct victims unless they pay money, or get the report through a criminal or civil court case.


The Bureau seems to encourage officers trampling on people's rights, as indicated by Officer Scott Robertson's description of the East Precinct "Crime Reduction Unit" (September Rap Sheet). He describes officers' focus on a specific area with a high burglary rate. "Bad guys were contacted, not only on the street in mere conversation, but on property where they had no business being." At least two problems here: (a) Referring to subjects as "bad guys" instead of "suspects" means they've already decided the person is guilty, not presumed innocent; and (b) contacting people by "mere conversation" to hook them into a criminal investigation means you had no reasonable suspicion to stop them in the first place.

In the October Rap Sheet, Officer Joe Goodrich describes an "enforcement mission" in SE Portland where a person was arrested for not having a drivers license. Police "discovered" a package of cocaine and $1000. But how did they know the driver had no license when they pulled him over? One can only assume they used a pretext, or stopped the person because of the way they or their car looked.

Turner staring 
at kiki cat This One is Kind of Funny #2: The Rap Sheet ran a picture in the October issue of PPA President Daryl Turner confronted by a young man with a cat on his backpack (right). Among the comments which won cops $10 Starbucks coupons were "It's fine if you want to post a missing flyer for Fluffy in the precinct, but I gotta tell ya...", and "Hey, Young man, looks like only the cat has your back this time." To us, a good caption for the look on Turner's face is: "The crap I put up with to outreach to the community..."

"New" Rap Sheet Still Promotes Violence and Racism

Our hopes that the reactionary political overtones of the Rap Sheet would subside after long- time editor Pete Simpson moved on were again dashed by the appearance of disturbing articles chosen for the November issue by the new editorial board (McCausland and Robertson, minus Officer Mark Snyder, whose name disappeared after the October issue).

One article features the thoughts of Kevin Davis, a "nationally known" trainer, talking to Policeone.com about seven ways for police departments to be more successful. Among the ideas is to "recruit for [and] reward aggression." Davis chastises cities who screen out "hard charging" candidates because they prefer "officer friendly types who are good at smiling and waving and kissing babies. [But] passive officers don't respond well when the chips are down." In encouraging aggression, Davis says "I'm not talking about inappropriate, naked brutality, but not hesitating to confront certain suspects. I think the emerging trend of hiring military veterans is a good one. They're used to tough times and discipline and they don't give up if someone punches them in the mouth."

Davis also derides cities who stigmatize use of force and give valor medals to "others who do some really stupid shit." Officers are rewarded, he says, who "tend to tase suspects who should be shot and then be commended for doing so."

Another idea is unfaltering support for the police. Sure, a shooting might happen, but it's just so the officer can "go home alive at the end of his or her shift." There will always be disbelievers in "urban" (does he mean "black"?) settings. Davis concedes cities should investigate, then "say emphatically that the involved officers did what they could to avoid shooting, but their ultimate decision was right and we support them."

In a separate article, conservative columnist Heather MacDonald proudly waves the flag of racist thinking in her analysis of the uprisings in Oakland around the shooting of Oscar Grant. While MacDonald does mention Grant was an unarmed, 22 year old father, she is quick to add he was also a "parolee with a gun conviction." After Officer Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in July (PPR #51), there was looting, arson and alleged violence against police "because according to the race agitators, the unusually severe manslaughter verdict wasn't severe enough."

MacDonald lists items that were stolen: sneakers, jewelry and "diamond-studded grills worn over teeth." Sounds as if her list is trying to imply something. She criticizes Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums (who is black) for speaking to the press about hearing "voices crying out for justice," and promising to work with Grant's family. MacDonald criticizes California Representative Barbara Lee (who is also African American) for reminding Attorney General Holder that the shooting shows people are still being judged on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

MacDonald asks, "What is the contribution of the American elite's anti-cop ideology to these sadly- recurrent urban riots?" In the two days after the verdict, two civilians were shot by other civilians, but there was no outcry. There are 6000 murders nationally by blacks compared to 5300 by whites and Hispanics combined, says MacDonald, but it is only when a white officer "mistakenly" shoots a black man that activists "spring into action." MacDonald attributes this to reports showing police unfairly treat blacks, implying a racist system. Police stops are analyzed in the NY Times but the "disproportionate rate of black crime is assiduously kept out of the public eye." The Times reported that New York's 73rd precinct has 81 times higher per capita shootings than the mostly white 68th precinct, and the stop rate for African Americans is 15 times higher there. But MacDonald says that is because blacks are 80% of shooters, while whites are 1.4%. "Rational, data driven police activity cannot help but have a disproportionate impact on black neighborhoods."


It makes us nervous that Davis thinks police agencies should use multi-page Use of Force policies to "start a fire," and instead streamline them to reflect the Graham v. Connor Supreme Court decision. Graham allows an officer to use force that is reasonable given a totality of the circumstances. Since Portland has now adopted this standard, we may be facing more brutality under the protection of legal word games.


This One is Kind of Funny #3: In a piece from PoliceOne.com about officers' mental health, Dr. Ellen Kirshman is quoted saying that if you make a good cop, you will be "kind of a jerk at home." She cautions officers not to stay angry with civilians after traffic stops, referring to that "flaming Adam Henry I stopped for speeding." A-H, get it? (November Rap Sheet.)


After its walk-out in February (PPR #50), the PPA agreed to continue negotiating with the City in mid-September, and surprisingly agreed after one session to continue holding meetings open to the public. So now we know the PPA is asking to change the make-up of the Police Review Board so they get final say on three of its members, and the City is asking for random drug tests and drug tests after incidents such as shootings. Other important issues, such as the power for IPR to compel officer testimony, a fixed 24 hour window for interviews after shootings, and annual performance reviews have not been discussed at the sessions. Mayor Adams did pledge to start the reviews in 2011 after the Officer Leo Besner promotion controversy (p. 9). If no contract is resolved by February, it could go to arbitration. On December 20, PPA and City negotiators agreed to a mediation session behind closed doors. Settlement, impasse or taking things out of the public eye? We will let you know.

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 we worry these ideas may spread throughout Portland's rank-and- file.

The Rap Sheet is created by the Portland Police Association, 1313 NW 19th, Portland, OR 97209. The PPA's website is <www.ppavigil.org>


January, 2011
Also in PPR #52

Cop who shot Aaron Campbell fired
Two new Portland police shootings
Lawyers: cover-up killed Chasse
Rights Commission blasts Sit/Lie
Pressure to re-join Terror Task Force
Reese's Pieces: Rogue of the Week
Taser audit misses dangers
More changes to oversight system?
Review board: training, no hearings
Profiling discussed by Psychologist
Copwatching crackdown USA
PPR Updates #52
  • Portland responds to "gangs"
  • Alcohol impact zones: update
  • Nazi Cop discredits Bureau
PPR Quick Flashes #52
  • Rent-a-cop not charged for assault
  • Cop-on-cop hook up gets back pay
  • Activists raided for "terror ties"
Rapping Back 52

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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