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Of Cossacks, Bad Weather and Pretext Arrests: Selective Enforcement of Sit/Lie 4.0 Continues
Regardless of the productivity of the process, Commissioner Amanda Fritz's Sidewalk Management Plan (SMP) Committee continues to meet monthly. An observer attends for Portland Copwatch (PCW) and the Portland Police Bureau sends several representatives.
The day-to-day operations of "Sit/Lie 4.0" continue to be discussed, but not the question of repealing the inhumane law.
At the February meeting, one participant stated that on weekends, Portland Police had been raiding camps underneath the Morrison Bridge while posting anti-camping notices with neither dates nor times when camping is prohibited. Further, the notices indicate that those needing assistance should contact Transition Projects, although this service is closed weekends and evenings. A street count at the end of January elicited 300 responses to surveys. An analysis could be done without reading the surveys: there is not enough housing for those who are homeless.
The Committee has repeatedly questioned where people can go during the day when the weather is cold and rainy. The data from the police indicate that in December, ten of the 15 citations were written when there was "rain or drizzle." The Copwatch observer indicated many folks were sitting out near the street gutter in the pouring rain on the day of the February meeting. Commissioner Fritz responded that people could stand under building overhangs, perhaps unaware that standing for prolonged periods of time is not feasible for some. Another not particularly helpful suggestion was for people to bring these issues to the Housing Advisory and Budget Committees. The City claims shelters are a budget issue: Tri-Met shelters cost $48,000 each and shelters for bikes, $27,000.
A sample sign discussed at the February meeting read, in large letters: "THIS SIDEWALK FOR WALKING OR STANDING ONLY PER CITY CODE 14A.50.030." A member of the Human Rights Commission aptly described this sign as "bone headed," and another HRC member (who is in a wheelchair) pointed out the absurdity of the sign when so many people are incapable of either walking or standing. She stated she has never had a problem traveling down a sidewalk, even though the Council insisted the ordinance was based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (PPR #50). The initial cost of the signs were estimated at $22,000, with the whole process costing about $90,000 including installation and staff monitoring of the process. While some stated this amount might be more appropriately spent on housing, at the March meeting Commissioner Fritz reminded the group that signage is in the SMP ordinance. Staff from the Department of Transportation will work with the HRC and others in order to produce less offensive signage, or as Fritz put it, "friendly signs."
PCW has been monitoring the monthly data regarding contacts between police and those allegedly in violation of the ordinance. In previous months, most contacts were by the mounted patrol with the rest mostly by bicycle officers. Perhaps PCW's pointing out how intimidating it is for people sitting or lying on the sidewalk to be approached by an officer with a gun on a huge horse made a difference: in December, February and March more of the contacts were made by the bike officers than by the Russian Cossack-like mounted patrol.
The data have also shown that arrests and unrelated citations have been issued to people who were initially contacted because of the sidewalk ordinance. PCW has raised concerns about the Sit/Lie law being used as a pretext. At the March meeting, Captain Jarmer from Central Precinct stated that he had read (maybe in PPR # 52?) allegations of pretext arrests and "this is not what's going on. It is not at my direction." He further stated that the arrests and unrelated citations arise when the police run the names of those allegedly violating the sidewalk ordinance and find, for instance, an outstanding warrant. However, if a homeless person were not sitting in a restricted place, he or she would not have been arrested. Captain Jarmer also stated that some folks receive multiple citations for "standing on their principles" regarding the ordinance. Rightly so. Thus far, no one has had to appear in court regarding an ordinance citation.
PCW and others have repeatedly asked that the issue of private security guards, their lack of accountability and oversight be discussed, but that has not happened yet. A representative of Clean and Safe indicated they only receive one complaint every six months about their guards. If what PCW hears about the actions of security guards is accurate, then either his statistics are skewed, or people are afraid or unaware how to file complaints. Commissioner Fritz's office added this commentary to the March notes: "The city has no oversight for private security since they are managed by private companies. Downtown Security Network has a monthly meeting of all downtown private security companies. They are open to the public. This is an appropriate venue to raise concerns about private security oversight. Contact the Portland Business Alliance." Once again, the city is stating loudly and clearly that this issue will not be dealt with and, if anyone has concerns, the chickens can go deal directly with the foxes.
Our analysis of the data indicates that most of the citations are issued on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. primarily in the areas of 5th and 6th Avenues and Glisan, Yamhill and Morrison Streets.
Chief: 5 shootings "unacceptable"
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.