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Does Diligence to Duty Deserve Dividends of Dictating Doctrine?
In several pieces for recent issues of the Rap Sheet, Portland Police Association (PPA) President Daryl Turner returns to several themes: (1) The Bureau is understaffed and underfunded, (2) The PPA is fighting for its members' rights and (as a result), (3) the PPA is spending money like a drunken sailor. Though the "union" frequently prevails in its grievances against the City, those complaints which can't be resolved through discussion get forced into arbitration, which costs $8000 a day (March Rap Sheet). Some older issues, such as the recently added computer system, are more about working conditions than money, but Turner assures the rank and file that "Ironically [sic], every one of the more than 20 grievances we have filed this year has a monetary impact on our members." (Maybe he meant, notably?) The PPA also promises $5000 to officers fighting for retirement/disability benefits-- with 20 cases open, that's $100,000. Turner indicates that the City may be deliberately drawing out disputed contract issues, allowing the unspent funds to stay in their coffers for 14-18 months gathering interest. (While that may be so, a recent resolved dispute cost the City $63,000-- enough to run Portland Copwatch for 12 years, but hardly enough to fill the gaping holes in Portland's budget--PPR #54.)
To pay for the increased dispute resolution, as well as to create a legal defense fund for on and off duty Portland cops in any of the 50 states (!), PPA management asked its members for a dues increase. It was represented in the Rap Sheet as a ".5% increase," but that figure refers to the percentage of a person's salary being added to the dues; the actual amount, $30.81 a month increase for top tier cops, is about 29% more than the previous dues of $105.37 a month. (The Portland Mercury reported on March 15 that the dues increase passed by a 62.5% majority--though less than half the 900 members of the PPA voted.)
Turner clearly has no love for the City government. His harshest words are for the Bureau of Human Resources, which he says is "reneging" on the collective bargaining agreement, making up its own interpretations, trying to save money and "be damned with the contract language." He also takes aim at the City for putting a freeze on hiring as part of its efforts to balance the budget, which leaves the cops "overworked and demoralized" (January Rap Sheet). He goes on to claim that the lack of police "has emboldened the criminal element to feel free to make victims of hard working, taxpaying citizens without fear of being arrested." In the February issue, he delineates the increased burden on police as gang activity, crimes on TriMet and "mental health issues."
What's it all about, Daryl? "The City of Portland's primary responsibility is to provide an environment where its citizens can live in safety and their businesses can flourish.... [the police] cannot fight traditional crime and maintain order without adequate staffing." The Portland Police Association: Maintaining Order to Let Business Flourish. AKA the Guardians of the 1%.
And how will the PPA get its message out? By supporting political candidates at city, state and federal levels (March Rap Sheet). Turner complains about laws being passed that "are not pro- police or pro-union." He urges the members to walk neighborhoods and go to fundraisers for the candidates the PPA endorses in order to "become a driving force in the political arena." Once again, we want to be clear that we support the right to collectively bargain, and to the extent that the PPA is actually out to preserve workers' rights, good on them. But knowing that they also will fight tooth and nail to keep cops employed who have used deadly and excessive force raises great concerns about what kind of "driving force" they will be.
In the January issue, Turner's second-in-command, PPA Secretary-Treasurer Tom Perkins, weighed in on the issue of holding cops accountable for their violent actions. Noting the end of the arbitration in which the PPA eventually overturned the firing of Officer Ron Frashour (for shooting unarmed Aaron Campbell in the back in 2010--p. 1), Perkins writes that the $400,000 spent by the City on outside legal counsel could pay for four officers' salaries. True, but the PPA could have saved taxpayers that money by letting go of a bad officer. (Incidentally, Perkins promises to release the transcripts of the Frashour arbitration to the membership-- interesting, since it's a confidential process... maybe the City will release the transcripts to the public, as well.)
Perkins also alerts the members to a defense account set up for Officer Dane Reister (originally listed as "Dan Reister" on the PPA's website), the officer facing criminal charges for shooting live rounds at William Monroe from a "beanbag" shotgun (PPR #55). The District Attorney is "mistaken" to make a criminal case of that incident, according to Perkins. In the March Rap Sheet, Perkins reveals that the PPA's challenging 80 hour suspensions for two officers involved in the beating death of James Chasse Jr. in 2006, Sgt. Kyle Nice and Officer Chris Humphreys ("Humphrey" in Perkins' article-- what is it with him and names?), also concluded in arbitration. Unlike the Frashour case, which took months, the Chasse arbitration lasted five days (but took a year longer to get to the table). Oddly, Humphreys was medically laid off from the force in 2010, yet he is running for Sheriff in Wheeler County, OR. He could return to the Bureau by 2015 if his bid fails (Oregonian, April 11).
Turner also defends officers who come under scrutiny during "critical incidents," chastising critics who "are sitting in the safety of their office or their recliner at home" (March Rap Sheet). While Turner believes in the value of good, constructive criticism "done in a way that is supportive and educational, not demeaning," he blasts the idea of laying blame and disciplining officers. He says the PPA supports constructive feedback "without fear that public opinion will guide our leaders." Interesting-- in a democracy, you'd think public opinion should have a place in how our leaders direct the police. Turner warns that straying from positive reviews about possible improvements will damage morale for the involved officers and the whole Bureau. He complains there are four times too many levels of oversight (which he refers to as "concern with transparency"), listing the "PRB, CRC, CRB and IAD." That's the Police Review Board, which makes recommended findings on use of force and potential discipline cases, the Citizen Review Committee, which only reviews complaints when the civilian (or officer) appeals the outcome, and Internal Affairs, which conducts the investigations that lead to the PRB and CRC hearings. So, they're all part of the same system. In this sense, we agree with Turner: If the CRC had its own investigators and held initial hearings to recommend findings, all three would be integrated into a better system. And the CRB is the Crash Review Board-- only dealing with car accidents-- another animal altogether. We disagree with Turner when he says community members deserve an explanation but "also need to accept the fact that they might not understand everything we do but we do it for the safety of that same community."
April's Rap Sheet features two social workers warning that too much venting drives other people away. Samples include "vent[ing] about the criminals we chase, the foolish/na´ve/ungrateful citizenry we do our best to protect, and... to hear some extra special, exquisitely inspired venting, just bring up the media."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a pending lawsuit against the FAA to find out who received the 300 waivers in 2011 for government agencies to fly drones. It is known that the Border Patrol has nine Predator drones on the Mexican border, and the article reveals Mesa County, Colorado and Montgomery County, Texas sheriffs' agencies use drone aircraft. Currently, drones are restricted to be flown within the visual sight of the operator-- differentiating them from the ones being used by the CIA and the military to drop bombs overseas from remote sites in the US.
The article notes that there are drones with 116 foot wingspans ("Global Hawks") but also tiny
ones built to look like maple leaf seeds (!!!). Though not sold in our country (yet), some can be
equipped with grenade launchers and shotguns. AP estimates that more than half of the 30,000
drones expected to be in use by 2018 will be owned and operated by the US. Fortunately, the article
does raise a few concerns-- about possible crashes, collisions with planes, and, as noted by the
ACLU of Texas, invasion of privacy and the fact that police can "use a laptop control to zap people
from the air."
Administrative support person Freda Vanderberg "was separated from the Bureau" on January 13 (Rap Sheet, February 2012) and jumped off the Ross Island Bridge and died the next day (Oregonian, January 15).
The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership and officers express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their newsletter, so we worry these ideas may spread throughout Portland's rank-and-file. Find the Rap Sheet at: www.pparapsheet.org. The PPA's website is: www.ppavigil.org.
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.