People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Months After Refusing to Empower Review Committee, City Twice
Refuses to Investigate Case
In early May, CRC held a Case File Review on appeal #2012-x-0003, involving Craig Maynard. In 2010, Maynard was tackled by Officer Christopher McDonald (#47104) after McDonald chased him, supposedly for failure to have a rear reflector on his bicycle. When handcuffing him, McDonald dislocated Maynard's elbow, resulting in a trip to the hospital. This incident is particularly tragic because, Maynard's supporters say, he struggled with mental illness and this incident led to his emotional undoing. He committed suicide about three months later.
In the narrative Maynard wrote after the arrest and in the family's complaint, it is alleged that McDonald used excessive force, profiled Maynard for "looking like a homeless person," and retaliated against him for making a sarcastic remark about McDonald's car blocking a bike lane.
The IPR dismissed the profiling complaint for "insufficient evidence," so it was not even investigated by IA. How could they know that without interviewing the officer? There was also no finding on the allegation of retaliation, though in addition to any initial verbal exchange, the facts show Maynard refused to let McDonald search his backpack, which a CRC member commented made McDonald angry.
Moreover, Maynard claims he said to McDonald, in the presence of Officer "B," "you broke my arm on purpose," and McDonald said "yes, I did." At the May Case File Review, CRC requested more investigation to ask Officer B whether he heard that comment, which would prove both retaliation and excessive force. After a brief recess, IPR and IA told CRC they would not do more investigation. The most outrageous aspect of their refusal is their claim there is enough information to come to a finding on the excessive force charge-- but the finding was "Unproven with a debriefing," meaning there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. IA was so resolute in not wanting to follow CRC's recommendation that they sent a seven-page letter outlining reasons they would not investigate.
This case also raises other questions, such as whether Officer McDonald followed Portland Police Bureau (PPB) training and policy in that he did not de-escalate with Maynard, a person with psychological problems, as taught in Crisis Intervention Team training. Captain Pat Walsh stated that McDonald realized Maynard probably had mental health problems. Also, given the totality of the circumstances, dislocating a person's elbow over a missing bike reflector seems unreasonable (as CRC member KA Lalsingh noted). And, any use of force that leads to hospitalization (as this one did) is supposed to be heard by the Police Review Board, but there is no indication that happened. Furthermore, it's likely that Maynard feared he could end up dead like James Chasse, which makes it reasonable to try riding his bicycle away from the officer.
Though the officer blamed the dislocated elbow on Maynard, it would not have happened without McDonald cuffing him. As a policy issue, the failure of the City to follow up with Maynard after his injury led to Craig's spiraling depression and death, and that should be the responsibility of the officer, his supervisors, and the IPR itself. To emphasize this point, Portland Copwatch (PCW) made a video of the family and friends' testimony available at Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/Maynard_testimony_CRC_060612).
At the June hearing, CRC Chair Jamie Troy called the IA disposition letter explaining the case's outcome "atrocious." It is unclear, for example, whether the only thing the officer was (or will be) debriefed about is keeping better records in his notebook.
Maynard's friends and family testified about Craig's life, and how the injury made it impossible for him to work and led to his downward spiral. The hearing, which lasted for over three hours, included hard questioning by CRC members. Member David Dennecke, who had voted against more investigation in May, pointed out that Captain Walsh was incorrect to state that McDonald told Maynard he was under arrest; that fact is in dispute. Walsh, defending McDonald's use of force, told CRC, "I've broken a couple of arms." He also explained that witness "C" stating he saw excessive force was not in the police report because the only concern of such reports is the alleged suspect's criminality.
The hearing ended with CRC failing to vote to sustain the excessive force finding 3-4, with Steve Yarosh, Vice Chair Michael Bigham, Chair Troy and Jeff Bissonnette voting no. However, an overwhelming 6-1 vote (with only Yarosh dissenting) agreed to send the case back for more investigation into whether Officer "B" heard McDonald say he broke Maynard's arm on purpose and to get more information on the conversation a senior officer on the scene had with witnesses "C" and "D," and their perceptions of excessive force.
In July, Bigham (chairing in Troy's absence) informed CRC that the Bureau and IPR had again refused to conduct more investigation. In August, Troy said he was consulting with members of Council and other officials about next steps. In the current system, a case only goes to Council for a final hearing if CRC recommends a changed finding which the Bureau refuses to accept. In late 2011, PCW and others pushed for Council to add a remedy if IA and IPR refuse to do more investigation, but Council did not do so (PPR #55). When Deputy City Attorney David Woboril addressed CRC's questions about this scenario (PPR #56), he said: "The code doesn't force anybody to respond to your recommendations... I expect that you are going to have a very public conversation about that and hopefully people figure a way through it."
CRC member Steve Yarosh, though expressing condolences to Maynard's supporters, made a long and inappropriate speech about wanting officers to stop people, alleging that folks on bikes without lights could be prowlers, and dismissing eyewitness accounts because the people had admitted to drinking. He also mis-stated the CRC's standard of review. Similarly, Yarosh had, at the April retreat, cautioned CRC members to remember that officers are also community members, perhaps not knowing that the Portland Mercury did a study in 2010 finding that less than one third of Portland Police live in the city ("Where Police Officers [Don't] Live", October 21, 2010).
As reported in PPR #55, case #2011-x-0001 involved Hung Minh Tran, who says that at the Cheerful Tortoise in November, 2007, Officer Jennifer Thompson (#42484) (a) put him in a choke hold and (b) tasered him in the back without warning while he was on his knees. Tran settled with the City for over $81,000 in February, 2011. A full appeal hearing on the case was held at a special meeting on May 30.
The PPB personnel insisted on their neutral objectivity, yet their testimony and investigation tilted toward exonerating the officer. Capt. Sara Westbrook was more blatant in her bias than Internal Affairs' Lt. Chris Davis, but both seemed to be staging a show to convince CRC that the officer was within policy. Davis had even test-fired a Taser into a holster to show CRC that Thompson's story of misfiring the darts prior to drive-stunning Tran was plausible.
Westbrook frequently referred to "what the evidence shows" but explained her subjective thought process. With no evidence, she stated she believed the officer "drive stunned" Tran's front, and that he turned around during the five-second shock delivery, explaining why stories differ as to where and how the Taser was applied. While Westbrook said it did not matter which way Tran was facing, if the officer zapped a man in the back with 50,000 volts while he was on his knees with his hands on his head, it surely would be out of policy. CRC members and Tran's attorney indicated that most witnesses said Tran was on his knees and not struggling. The officer claims she fired the Taser because Tran was moving toward her. If other witnesses saw his back to her, her testimony is likely erroneous.
Policy requires that in most cases, an officer needs to shout a warning before firing a Taser. No warning was given, so Tran had no way to comply with the Officer's commands before he was shocked.
Lt. Davis enthusiastically showed CRC members a Taser cartridge alleged to be Thompson's; he showed them the fish-hook barbed tips of the probes covered in black fabric to indicate that the darts had been fired into Thompson's holster. It appears that the readout from Thompson's Taser was edited to focus on only two activations at the time of this incident. Other Taser readouts include hundreds of activations.* More data could indicate Thompson shot the Taser into her holster afterward to claim that she'd done it on scene so her story of using a "drive stun" rather than a full-on Taser deployment would hold up.
It is possible that if Officer Thompson fired the Taser probes clumsily at Tran and they pierced his shirt but not his skin, as Davis agreed, the shock would still have been administered, and possibly would have left marks similar to the ones seen on Tran's back in the photos shown at the hearing.
Tran and some witnesses said the officer smashed his cell phone and camera to the ground, but that allegation did not seem to have been investigated.
CRC discussed the Bureau's finding that Officer Thompson was within policy though she failed to report her Taser "misfire," because her Sergeant had told her not to. The Sergeant was disciplined for telling her that incorrect information. There was a discussion about officers following orders they know are against policy; Lt. Davis indicated that if it were more serious, like a use of force, they would have found Thompson out of policy. After World War II, the Nuremberg trials established that "just following orders" is not an excuse for committing crimes. Nonetheless, CRC voted 7-2 (with Rochelle Silver and Andre Pruitt dissenting) to affirm the Bureau's "Exonerated" finding.
As to whether Thompson used excessive force by tasering Tran, the CRC voted 7-2 again (this time with Yarosh and Dennecke voicing solidarity with the police) to propose the Bureau change the finding from "Exonerated" to "Unproven." Chair Troy and Vice Chair Bigham indicated they might have voted to "Sustain" the complaint if that motion had been made. IPR staff later reported that the Bureau accepted the proposed changed finding.
At the July meeting, CRC had three guests, Koffi Dessou of the Office of Equity and Human Rights, Officer Stacy Dunn (a woman of color), and Officer Jim Quackenbush, a white officer who had texted with Aaron Campbell the night Campbell was shot by Officer Ron Frashour (PPR #50). The topic was intergroup dialogues on race that are being held within the Bureau. The dialogues are an extension of eleven such groups held since 2009, where people come together for 3-4 hour sessions over eight weeks to talk deeply and honestly about race.
While the original dialogues mixed officers and community members, the next step will be a dialogue among six officers of color and six white officers, as the focus is on internal training for City employees. The discussions will include how policies and laws create institutional racism. (This project is different from, though related to CPRC's anti-racism training for Bureau members-- see article.) With so few officers of color in the PPB, it is unlikely there will be many dialogues.
Officer Dunn told CRC that after growing up in NE Portland, it was a shock to join the PPB because of its culture. She is one of four African American women on the force. Quackenbush said they experience pushback daily from colleagues who deny race is still an issue in the US.
PCW's Dan Handelman asked Officer Quackenbush about his involvement in the Campbell shooting and how it relates to the anti-racism work. He said his work predated that incident, which he called "devastating" for him. He said it was upsetting, bringing up issues of race in a deadly force incident, where a person was shot in the back. He realized he could use the incident as a way to move forward, as a source of power and inspiration to push for change. It was a frank answer, and Quackenbush gains points for honesty.
The CRC's new Crowd Control Work Group (PPR #56) met four times from May to August, brainstorming topics to consider and then working on their mission statement and work plan. While they heard from people about concerns like the mounted patrol and the use of bicycles as weapons, it's unclear how broad their study will be.
The Deadly Force Work Group met three times; first in a coffee shop, then twice in the hard-to-get- to west side neighborhood Hillsdale's public library. Though community members suggested meeting somewhere people are actually affected by police shootings, the group was unresponsive. Also, Dennecke, the group's chair, wants to keep a narrow focus on the deadly force policy, whereas the CRC's PARC Work Group reviewed over 25 recommendations by outside experts broadly related to deadly force. CRC has still not analyzed another 92 PARC recommendations, nor the 27 on the James Chasse case (PPR #51) from the OIR Group's 2010 report. At the June CRC meeting, OIR briefly presented its new report featuring 13 recommendations based on other incidents (article).
At their July meeting, CRC nearly adopted their Taser/Less Lethal report, delayed since February. PCW's extensive comments included asking them to support further restrictions on Taser use rather than just encouraging officers to only use Tasers more than three times in "exigent circumstances." The final report was adopted in August after CRC voted to make minor changes (but not PCW's suggested ones) to a few recommendations.
--IPR staff and CRC members reported going out on May Day to observe police activity (see article ), though it's not clear if their being on "walk alongs" means they were under the auspices of the police, rather than being neutral observers.
--Lt. Chris Davis of Internal Affairs announced he would be moving on to the Traffic Division,
leaving as his replacement Lt. Larry Graham. Graham was defensive of the police at the CRC's
March meeting (PPR #56)--but blamed his nastiness on having taken Sudafed. In Davis'
goodbye speech, he called IPR the most effective and robust oversight system in the USA, saying it
advances police accountability. He added how much he respects the CRC for volunteering and
asked them to be objective, follow the rules, remember cops are human beings, and consider a wide
variety of opinions, but question the motives of who presents the opinions. (Wonder who he's
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.