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Rapping Back
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet" for the People's Police Report

Wrangling, Whining and Witnessing: Whispers of Warrantless Worrying

Police Association Claims Department of Justice Agreement and Changed Policies Leading to Self- Doubt, Injury

Before the Agreement between the City of Portland and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking to remedy the pattern and practice of excessive force against people with mental illness had been formally finalized (article), the Portland Police Association (PPA) began claiming the Agreement was already leading to officer injuries (Oregonian, November 24). In their newsletter, the Rap Sheet, PPA President Daryl Turner outlined concerns about the proposed new Use of Force guidelines proposed by the Chief, which were made in response to the DOJ (article). Turner signalled his intent to blame any injuries on the new policies in the November Rap Sheet, saying the policies will create officer safety issues by limiting the use of force early in an encounter with a suspect. He wrote, "The new policy may also prolong the force event, may result in higher levels of force as the event escalates, and exposes officers to increased risk of injury."

Furthermore, he "worries" that more civilians will be injured if cops don't crack down on them harder and sooner: "An officer's ability to recognize signs of escalation and intervene at the lowest level to stop the escalation best preserves public safety." He also warns that officers could face discipline if their supervisors (or, what Turner refers to as "management officials not involved in the incident") decide they could have used less force and still resolved the situation. Frankly, that's good news for cops and the community, since the culture of the police is mostly to defend one another, and very few uses of force are currently found out of policy. DOJ 

Turner's tirades continue the old drum-beat that actually support Chief Reese: The violence perpetuated by cops is not their fault, but rather the fault of the mental health system. After the DOJ issued its Letter of Findings, Turner wrote a response pointing out such praise as "Portland Police officers' use of force was constitutional in over 99.9% of citizen contacts" (September Rap Sheet). However, (A) if a restaurant poisoned even .1% of their customers, it would still likely be shut down or at least lose business, and (B) with over 400,000 annual citizen contacts, that allows for the possibility of 400 unconstitutional uses of force per year.

Turner complains that re-instating the Crisis Intervention Team as specialized officers will mean hiring more cops, complaining that the Los Angeles Police Department (bastions of constitutional policing) have 2.5 officers per 1000 citizens, while Portland has just 1.7. Yet, the Willamette Week (November 14) did its own analysis comparing number of calls for service per officer, showing that though it ranks fifth lowest of seven cities in ratio of cops to civilians, Portland cops rank third lowest in number of calls for service per officer.

Turner capitalizes on a community sore point about the DOJ by stating that they found no patterns around enforcement by race or around deadly force; the fact is that the DOJ never fully investigated those possibilities as they were focused on use of force against those with mental illness.

Again in November, Turner reveals the true place where these changes will be decided: he calls attention to the upcoming renewal of the PPA's labor contract, claiming that the changes to Use of Force policies are mandatory bargaining subjects.

Speaking of the Labor Contract: In the September Rap Sheet, Turner says that the Association has not achieved its goals of fair wages, benefits and rights for its members. To believe the goals have been met will make the PPA "stagnate [sic], complacent and apathetic." So that means even if they have a fair contract, he intends to keep fighting.

Slight Self-Correction on Frashour Firing Tempers Theatrical Treatise

While repeatedly hammering the City for fighting to keep Officer Ron Frashour off the force (see article), PPA President Turner corrected himself slightly. Turner first called the Employment Relations Board (ERB)'s ordering the City to reinstate Frashour another example of Frashour being "exonerated" for shooting Aaron Campbell. However, perhaps he realized on his own (or read our critique of the perception) that the ERB ruled the arbitrator followed protocol and the PPA contract requires binding arbitration-- not necessarily that Frashour was within policy. Between his September 24 article claiming six bodies had found no misconduct (Multnomah County grand jury; Oregon Employment Department; US DOJ; Department of Public Safety, Standards and Training; the Arbitrator and the ERB) and his October 5 article calling for the City to "focus on the facts," he lowered the number to five. Nonetheless, most of these analyses were asking if the force used to kill Campbell was within the legal limit, rather than focusing on Bureau policy and training.

Turner tries to deflect the discussion of officer accountability by calling attention to the expense of the City's appealing the ruling: spending "over $750,000 of taxpayer funds to keep Officer Frashour fired...is unacceptable in a time when local governments are struggling to provide core services."

Bullets, Bullets, Everywhere: In an article reprinted in the September Rap Sheet, assessments of the late August incident in which 9 bystanders were hit by New York police gunfire when they killed an armed suspect generally referred to the officers' conduct as "reasonable" and noted that "officers often miss" (Associated Press, August 28). Perhaps this article is meant to help the Portland Police feel better about incidents such as the death of Keaton Otis, in which 32 bullets were fired but 9 did not hit him.

What the Gang Team Has to Put Up With

In the October Rap Sheet, Bob Roberts uses the retiree's column to report that the "Over the Hill" club received a presentation from Jason Hubert of the PPB's Gang Enforcement Team (GET), who told them about the "obstacles they have to put up with now." Wonder if that means pesky things like reasonable suspicion, not putting people on a gang list without evidence, and respecting rights. Nah, we know the GET doesn't do those things, so he must have meant something else. Writes Roberts, "I for one was glad that I am retired now."

An Associated Press/National Constitution Center poll found that 36% of Americans oppose use of drones by law enforcement in the US, mostly because of privacy issues (San Antonio Standard Times October 5 via the Rap Sheet, October 2012).

Truth Be Told

Car Chase Tim Dees of Police Tech and Gear wrote about "13 things we wish the general public knew about police work" (reprinted in the October Rap Sheet). Perhaps most alarmingly, Dees wrote that "High speed chases look like fun because they are." PCW has written before about the many crashes caused by high speed police chases, and this kind of "humor" doesn't seem to be a responsible way for officers to communicate. In addition, Dees, explaining that people have various sexual desires, used the example of "watching overweight Asian women give each other enemas" as something bizarre. He probably could have come up with another idea without invoking race, gender, and body image issues in such a short phrase.

Interestingly, he reveals that what officers deal with on the streets is stressful, but "you learn to deal with that quickly or get out"; it's the internal politics that wear down most cops. Dees wraps up the column with an interesting observation: "Take away alcohol and stupid, the world would require about 90% fewer cops." You can make your own reflections on that statement.

The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership 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

  People's Police Report

January, 2013
Also in PPR #58

DOJ Finds Excessive Use of Force
  Against People With Mental Illness

Police Shoot Man After Crash,
  Otis' Dad Denied Appeal

Other Shootings in Oregon
Cops Pepper Spray Teens, Activists
Review Board Orders Investigation
PPB Begins Anti-Racism Training
Frashour Reinstated After Ruling
Report: The Cop Who "Biked" Me
Chief Proposes New Taser Policy
Sheriff Told: Stop ICE Holds
  • Sit/Lie Struggle Continues
  • Copwatch Attends Exclusion Zone Meeting
  • DOJ Supports Skewed Drig Program
  • Police Psychologist Still White, Suburban
  • Police Profile On Killingsworth
  • FBI Stings Continue
  • Supreme Court Upholds Right to Record Cops
  • Lawsuits Total $320K
Rapping Back #58

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.

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