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Rapping Back

Liberal Leanings from Law Lineup on Labor Don't Last Long

NOTE: Beginning with the January issue, the Rap Sheet has ceased to be a printable publication, and is only available on line one article at a time. This means they can update their newsletter between publication dates... which is a good idea, since it is rife with typos including misspelling the names of their former attorney (Atchison/Aitchison) and Secretary Treasurer (Dobbler/Dobler).

Portland Police Association and Collective Bargaining: Good Analysis Gives Way to Contradictions

In the wake of the labor negotiations between the City and the Portland Police Association (PPA), a number of articles in the Rap Sheet indicated a progressive mindset about collective bargaining. Unfortunately, the sentiments were undercut, usually in the same articles.

For example, PPA President Daryl Turner, in his March column, raised concerns about the efforts by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "to abolish collective bargaining by claiming wages and benefits of government workers are a major reason for Wisconsin's financial woes... Instead of regulating the hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly bonuses paid out to CEOs and board members of large corporations or the large salaries paid to administrators, Governor Walker wants to go after the wages, benefits and pensions of the working class state, county and city employees who run the agencies that keep the wheels of government from flying off." Walker's "rich contributors vacation at their million dollar vacation homes," living in gated neighborhoods and belonging to private country clubs. He exhorts PPA members to support the unions in Wisconsin. In April, he added, "the money men on Wall Street decided that it's to their benefit to point the finger of blame at the unions and government employees."
PPA President 

While it sounds as if Turner has become a flaming liberal union supporter, this doesn't last long. Turner turns his sights on Oregon HB 2951, which would require drug testing of law enforcement in deadly force encounters, investigation by the state Department of Justice, six meetings with mental health professionals, and occasional psychiatric exams (see Quick Flashes). Turner's big question, oddly, is where will the money come from? Resources for mental health treatment, he says, are stretched and at $200 per session this money could be spent better. (Hmm. With about 20 shootings in Oregon last year, that's 20 x $1200 or $24,000. That probably won't break the bank, and perhaps it might keep a cop with PTSD off the beat.) Drug and steroid testing will also use money that could go to hire officers. "Cops are the experts when it comes to public safety" yet they were not asked for input into the bill.

In an earlier comment, while the negotiations were still ongoing, Turner put forward the "simple mission" of the PPA: "In return for the dangerous jobs they perform, our members believe in fair wages, good health care at a reasonable cost with a strong pension and other economical [sic] benefits" (January Rap Sheet). They insist that "our split second decisions [be] supported by our leaders when we follow the policies of the PPB." Turner doesn't ask the City, however, to withhold comment until it has investigated whether the officers have followed policy-- investigations which take between one and three years.

The negotiations marked the end of the 30-year reign of the PPA's attorney, Will Aitchison, who left to attend to his family and write novels through his own book publishing company. In the February Rap Sheet, Aitchison recalls confrontational PPA President Stan Peters, who hired him on in 1979. "I was and am very politically liberal and, suffice it so say, Stan wasn't." Aitchison decided to take the job because "working people need representation."

Interestingly, the case that cemented Aitchison's career was the 1981 "Possum incident" where officers Ward and Gallaway tossed dead opossums on the doorstep of the African American owned Burger Barn. Aitchison says the officers were "vilified as racists" by community members who led marches on City Hall, leading to the officers' firing. Aitchison's firm didn't want the high profile case, but he felt an obligation to the PPA and felt there was no due process, as then-Police Commissioner Charles Jordan met with the Burger Barn owners, who had donated to his campaign, but not the officers. After arbitration, the officers were reinstated, so other unions hired Aitchison, leading to a new firm with 13 lawyers representing 120 police unions in five states. Aitchison claims that every few years the City makes a "politically correct or expedient decision" leading to an "almost unbroken string of victories in arbitration by the PPA." He lists his victories reinstating officers in shooting incidents (Douglas Erickson--PPR #6, and Scott McCollister-- PPR #38). He is glad that the PPA's attitude is that they want to win at any cost, paying for expert witnesses and long hearings. But this is not all the PPA's money, for apparently the City has to repay them for criminal grand jury defense: Secretary Treasurer Sgt. Tom Perkins claims in the March issue that the City owes the PPA $160,000 in attorney fees for officer involved shootings. So, Aitchison's liberal leanings gave way to being a "gun for hire."

Similarly, Anil Karit, Aitchison's replacement, reports that she left her first job as a commercial litigator because "representing the elite few in their financial disputes wasn't a good fit for me." She quotes Abraham Lincoln that labor is superior to capital. Now working for the Mike Tedesco firm, she litigated her first arbitration for the PPA last June, and won, and is now working on Frashour case (with Aitchison, his final gig). She comments on police labor law as the "intersection of constitutional, criminal and labor law," but notes she needs to keep a "watchful eye on the political dynamics that embroil the city."

Let's Look at This A Little More Carefully #1: Fair and Balanced?

Editor Jim McCausland claims the "Rap Sheet is where you will find news related articles that are written in an informative, accurate and most importantly non-inflammatory manner" (Rap Sheet, March 2011).

Officers "Jump the Gun" On Recent Shootings

While the facts of each of the five officer-involved shootings in the final six weeks of 2010 and first two days of 2011 are still being gathered (see shootings article), that didn't stop the PPA from arguing their case right away. Only one of the shootings was against a man wielding a firearm, but the officer missed him. President Turner, referring to the shootings, hoped that Portland now can "realize the dangers and issues that Portland police officers deal with on a daily basis" (February Rap Sheet). He calls the PPB "the only buffer between [the citizenry] and a mortgaged mental health system." In other words, he blames mental health issues for all the shootings by the officers, and implies that all people with mental health issues cause police problems.
Adams at shooting scene

Rap Sheet Editor Jim McCausland chimed in with his January editorial: "January 2011 has come in like a lion for the members of the PPB. Homicides and officer involved shootings ended the year and then began the new year." Trying to assure the officers that they did no wrong, he adds "The news headlines do not tell the story, they only sell advertising!" While we generally agree with this analysis, when headlines say "Cops kill man in standoff" (Oregonian, January 3) that's pretty much a factual statement.

In keeping with the efforts to pass judgment before the facts are in, Turner posted an update to the March Rap Sheet after Ralph Turner (no relation) shot two officers and was taken into custody. He speaks of the officers' "Courage, discipline and disregard for own safety under fire in efforts to save fellow officers." He says their actions, which included shooting multiple times at the suspect's building with an assault rifle in a residential area-- were consistent with training.

Let's Look at This A Little More Carefully #2: What's the Biggest Killer of Police?

While it is true there appears to be an uptick in shootings of police, figures in the February Rap Sheet confirm that thirteen years running, most nationwide on-duty deaths of officers were caused by car crashes. In 2010, 73 officers died in vehicle deaths, while 59 were shot and killed. They quote Craig Floyd of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund as saying police are the "front lines in the war against terror here at home." While shootings were up 20%, traffic deaths were up 43%. Do we need to declare a war on cars?

Varying Views of Compassion Convey More Mixed Messages

In the same way that the PPA's solidarity with other workers gives way to blind defense of their use of violence, even their gestures toward kindness are often tainted with negativity.

McCausland, praising Officer Mike Stradley for winning the Zylawy Distinguished Service medal and speaking of how he treats everyone with compassion and respect, tells an interesting tale. A former gang member wrote to McCausland to ask that Stradley go arrest the man's mother, who was on crack and had a warrant out on her, in order to get her into treatment (don't get us started on this strategy). The man knew Stradley would respect his wishes. Yet McCausland says: "If you know Mike, I'm sure this woman got an earful on the way to jail!" (February Rap Sheet).
PPA new logo

The ever-entertaining officer Rob Blanck wrote a long essay in February, complaining again that officers are not used to fight crime but rather calls are usually for a "mental health issue, out of control child or civil concern regarding the ending of a relationship or marriage." It has multiplied in the last three years. "As societal evolution entropies, we in police work are often pushed toward the Petri dish to examine the deterioration of cells." Blanck notes that police can't magically stop the decay.

"Oblivious police critics scream for transparency in our ranks to force changes in our profession... they incessantly impugn our professional integrity and demand change" when maybe society needs to change.

He says the police deal with defiant children because of "lazy, apathetic and disparate [?] parents that have been nurtured in our enlightened culture." Then he paints a picture which smacks of classism, if not racism. "When the village encourages this result with benefit of finance, home and sustenance, those parents are actually confused when the community won't raise their kids for them." The refrigerator is "stocked with 40-ounce malt liquor and topped with cartons of cigarettes and cheap sugar cereal."

Blanck shows a little bit of compassion for people with mental illness, while simultaneously insulting them. He worries that ordinary citizens report every "vociferous, drooling, half and mismatched clothed and raucous mental patient they encounter," because they don't want them in their neighborhood. The conservative Christian Blanck criticizes them as the same people who "applaud the profane and perverted... performed for profit... as a First Amendment right." He tells a story of a call that brought him to the library to take in a sex offender looking at kiddy porn "on one of the tax-funded computers." The man was spewing profanity so they called 9-1-1. "He had done nothing wrong, 'they' just didn't want to take the time to get to know him like I did." Uh, if the guy is a convicted sex offender and is looking at child pornography and is yelling in a public library... maybe this isn't the time for practicing complete compassion.

Blanck takes aim at one of his favorite targets: Social workers who "dribble out of college... with an alarming lack of common sense. They often see a world they wish existed and then complain when it fails to materialize." He says the social workers complain about police tactics: "We get chastised even when they have lied about our actions!" We'd love to learn more about this allegation. Blanck ends his column saying "I protect all 'good citizens'... something our critics can't won't and refuse to do!"

Let's Look at This A Little More Carefully #3: Is this even legal?

In a piece exhorting the benefits of smart phone apps for officers, the author suggests using the phones for gathering information. "When you notice that homeboy has found an innovative method of lacing up his sneakers, take a picture of it. That could be the only distinctive detail his next robbery victim remembers about him." Perhaps this author is not from Oregon, where ORS 181.575 prohibits collecting or maintaining information on people without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity (February Rap Sheet).

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>


May, 2011
Also in PPR #53

Chief: 5 shootings "unacceptable"
Lawsuits rack up against Portland
Rights commission political shuffle
Auditor hires shooting review group
Shootings: DA Forum, Gresham cops kill
Sit/Lie: More selective enforcing
Drug Free Zones revisited
Terrorism task force debate delayed
Ending crisis training for all police?
$5 Million bought PPA contract
Review board hearing lots of cops
PPR Quick Flashes #53
  • Chasse case Sgt guilty of road rage
  • More horses to crush you
  • Legislature considers deadly force bills
Rapping Back 53

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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