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Homeless Continue To Be Targets of the Powers That Be

The insidious Sit/Lie ordinance continues to be enforced, primarily against homeless people and, primarily, by officers on large and intimidating horses. At each meeting of Commissioner Amanda Fritz's Sidewalk Management Plan committee, a Portland Copwatch (PCW) observer points out to the group that the data provided by police indicate most citations are given to those with no address, are given out by the Mounted Patrol, and the enforcement often leads to pretext arrests. These points are always greeted by silence but will continue to be made.

While there has been no indication of problems at Right to Dream Too (R2D2), a rest area for the houseless by the Chinatown gate (PPR #55), the Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS), in its infinite wisdom, considers this to be a recreational campground. BDS insists that R2D2 must have proper permits and inspections, and in January began to levy fines (Oregonian, January 19). While it might be considered ludicrous to consider sleeping in tents in the rain and the cold (when there are no other options) as "recreation," the fines continue to pile up. On February 1, residents of R2D2 and their many supporters held a demonstration in front of City Hall to protest the fines and to request that they be waived. They then testified at Council, but the Commissioners seemed more concerned that people were clapping or voicing support than in whether the fines continued. To add insult to insult, police were standing by the doors as people filed into City Hall, whereas such security is not called in for others--like members of the Portland Business Alliance. The February 22 shooting of two homeless men sleeping under the Morrison Bridge should make it clear to the politicians and bureaucrats that safe places like R2D2 make these tragic events less likely.

In December, 2008, the Oregon Law Center (OLC) filed, on behalf of four homeless people, a lawsuit in federal court challenging the City's anti-camping ordinance (PPR #47). The OLC alleged there was no alternative to camping and that police rousting people and seizing their belongings in camp sweeps violates the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual. A tentative settlement is pending, but the terms still have not been made public. In December 2011, Federal Judge Ann Aiken rejected a class action status and stated, "This case cries out for a political solution rather than a legal one, and the Court strongly urges the decision makers in this case to consider realistic and practical measures to resolve plaintiffs' claims" (Portland Tribune online, January 23). While the City has worked with some churches to open up parking lots for cars and other vehicles so people can sleep in them, there is still a lack of places for people to sleep with some rudiment of shelter. A man who sleeps in his car told PCW that police are constantly harassing him to "keep on moving."

Kate Lore, a minister at the First Unitarian Church, testified at the February 11 Department of Justice Forum (see article, this issue) that she has heard time and again from homeless folks that police go into camps and systematically ask whether people are part of Occupy Portland. If so, the person is taken in, roughed up and their belongings taken away. While this may represent some relief for those not identifying as Occupy members, it certainly smacks of selective enforcement and political profiling.

First Illegal Drug Impact Area Report Out
Six months after the new Illegal Drug Impact Area exclusions began (PPR #54), city officials gave them praise in a report. That opinion, however, is certainly not shared by everyone. Public defender Chris O'Connor says data on enforcement are incomplete (Portland Tribune, February 6). The Portland Mercury (February 26) says the report has no information on how the exclusions have been enforced, and the PPB can't say whether anyone is even tracking demographic data. There's no question the IDIAs' predecessors, "Drug Free Zones" (DFZs) unfairly targeted minorities (PPR #43). DFZ exclusions were given by police, instead of by a judge, as with IDIAs. Without data, it is of concern that "court[s] issued DIA exclusions...in all of the 240 cases" where an exclusion was requested, according to a letter from DA Michael Schrunk.

May, 2012
Also in PPR #56

Cops Kill Suicidal Man,
  Wound Others

  • Other Shootings in Oregon
JTTF Report a Disappointment
CRC Appeal Supports Cops
Charter Commision Omits Oversight
Two Forums Highlight Misconduct
Over-Policing of Occupy Continues
Homeless Continue to be Targeted
More PervoCops
Judge Rules Against Eugene Cop
Cops Focus on Racism Issues
  • Road Rage Cop Not Guilty
  • Bogus "Fitness" Bonus and Drug Tests

Quick Flashes
  • Taser Incident Costs City $200,000
  • Cop Psychologist Re-Hire Limited
  • Skateboarder Settles
  • $55,000 Award For Excessive Force

Rapping Back #56

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.

People's Police Report #56 Table of Contents
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