People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Other Information Contact info
Sit/Lie Targets Homeless People And African Americans
Commissioner Amanda Fritz's Sidewalk Management Plan Advisory Group continues to meet on a sporadic basis with fewer and fewer people in attendance, although Portland Copwatch (PCW) continues to send an observer to each meeting. Her office still sends out data from the Portland Police Bureau regarding the Sidewalk Management (Sit/Lie) ordinance. Data for January to October show that 14% of those contacted are African American in a city that is 6% black. The data also continue to reveal that police make pretext arrests as a result of contacts under the auspices of this ordinance. PCW keeps pointing this out and, regardless of who is representing Central Precinct at the meetings, is always greeted by silence. Chief Reese told us he believes officers only run warrants on people who are in violation of Sit/Lie, while we fear cops are seeing people they want to arrest and accuse them of sidewalk violations.
The data for the period July through October clearly show who is being targeted by the police. In a total of 118 contacts, 62 individuals (58%) had no address. PCW continues to raise the fact that the contacts made by the mounted patrol are extremely intimidating and should cease. At the November meeting, when asked if horses would ever stop being used to enforce Sit/Lie, the officer representing Central Precinct stated, "I doubt it." The issue of private security and their treatment of people lingers with little or no resolution, as complainants have a hard time knowing which company the security guards represent and how to report their conduct. One group member stated that when he was just out of the hospital and sitting on a wall, unable to walk, five private security guards pushed him and acted rude and uncaring. He stated, "There is no civility by private security." His caretaker, who was with him at the time, verified what had happened. A complaint was made although there had been no response. Commissioner Fritz requested a copy of the complaint, but it is highly doubtful that any action will come of it.
One group member pointed out that for people over the age of 50 being cited, there is no information provided on possible medical problems or disabilities. Commissioner Fritz stated she would look into establishing a protocol to provide such information. A businessman who sits on the committee suggested that information regarding ethnicity should not be included in the data "as we treat all people equally." Fritz stated the information is needed to determine if there is racial profiling going on--which she claims is not, despite the 14% rate of contact with African Americans. Fritz expressed great concern about bike riders and skateboarders being on the sidewalks and she is working with the police and the transportation department to try to deal with them. While this is a problem which could lead to accidents, perhaps more concern could be given to those who have to sit out near the gutters in miserable weather.
Information regarding the outcomes of the citations shows that between July, 2010 and August, 2011, 33 citations were given to 18 individuals. Of those, 13 failed to appear in court (some multiple times) and fines were assessed ranging from $30 to $250. Eight of the citations were somehow lost. Two citations were voided on technicalities, and one person pleaded guilty, then did 8 hours of community service. Since nobody has actually had a hearing on a ticket, the Sit/Lie law has still not been challenged*. At the November meeting, a representative from the District Attorney's Office said more information will be provided soon. It was also noted that some signage and markers are now in place to indicate where individuals can sit or lie without violating the ordinance. PCW recently noted one of the small metal markers -- it takes excellent eyesight to even see them.
Meanwhile, when PCW visited the new Right to Dream Too rest area (see Occupy article, this issue), two people related a story of how they were told to move by a store security guard from one location on the sidewalk to another, then later, a police officer told them to move back to the original location. Apparently, different individual officers and/or agencies are interpreting the Sit/Lie ordinance to suit their own agendas.
*Case 10-99656, a person with the initials TLS, does appear to have been convicted at a proceeding. PCW is trying to get more information on this incident.