People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Now that the daily soap operas are fading from television, viewers merely have to turn to the Portland Police Bureau for their intake of sex, lies, demotions, and lawsuits.
Playing the lead roles in the ongoing saga are Lt. Todd Wyatt and Chief Mike Reese. Wyatt, previously a captain, was the focus of the Police Review Board (PRB) for allegations of inappropriately touching female employees on the leg and his involvement in a road rage incident several years ago in Idaho when he flashed his gun and badge at the other driver (PPR #54). The PRB voted 5 to 1 to recommend Wyatt's termination. Inexplicably choosing not to follow this recommendation, Chief Reese demoted Wyatt to lieutenant and assigned him to the Detective Division where he was to supervise (wait for it) sex crimes. This led to outrage on the part of Independent Police Review Division (IPR) director, Mary-Beth Baptista, several members of the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) and an outstanding headline on an editorial in the Oregonian: "For Portland Police Chief Reese, the thigh's the limit" (February 10).
In transcripts of the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations, one woman indicated that Wyatt had touched her on her thigh during a union negotiation session in 2010. She protested and told him to never touch her again. Wyatt denied touching her thigh and called her reaction "so over the top." He indicated he briefly touched his knuckle to her knee bone "with about as much force as a ladybug would have landing on you," and further described it as "a minor and light tap." He also stated that in his leadership philosophy such touch "might be appropriate as there are little to no senses in the skin that goes over the knuckle of my hand" (Oregonian, March 9). It was also found during the investigation that Wyatt had inappropriately touched two other female employees.
Baptista, who sits on the Police Review Board, stated, "In my role as the director of IPR, when I see such a strong recommendation after such thoughtful deliberation that was not followed, that concerns me. I'm concerned that the chief and Mayor Adams did not follow this near unanimous recommendation" (Oregonian, January 10). Mike Bigham, Vice Chair of the CRC and a former Port of Portland Police lieutenant stated, "It sets a bad example. It shows a complete disrespect for the community. I have to wonder if this would've been plain old Jane Doe or John Doe officer, whether the chief would have acted differently." CRC Chair Jamie Troy stated, "The behaviors for which Wyatt is being disciplined repeatedly question his judgment and integrity." CRC member Dr. Rochelle Silver summed it up with these words, "If Lt. Wyatt is the kind of person Chief Reese believes can effectively work as a lieutenant, heaven help us" (Oregonian, January 25).
While experts in the area of sexual harassment disagreed, Chief Reese indicated he did not consider the touching to be "sexual in nature" and dealt with the issue by demoting and reassigning Wyatt. He apparently saw no irony in Wyatt's assignment in sex crimes, or in the fact that one of the women who claimed harassment worked in that division (Oregonian, January 29). Subsequent to all of the negative publicity, Chief Reese moved Wyatt directly into his office for "special projects" (Oregonian, February 5). By early March, Wyatt had filed a notice of intent to sue the City, challenging his demotion (Portland Mercury, March 13).
back to top
As if various sit/lie ordinances, washing down the sidewalks as soon as people forced to sleep on them wake up and hiring their own police officers isn't enough, the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) seems to have hit a new low. Concerned that a previous sit/lie ordinance was declared unconstitutional in 2009 by Multnomah County Judge Stephen Bushong, they are going the legislative route. The PBA drew up House Bill 2963 for introduction in the Oregon Legislature and they are lobbying for its passage. The bill would prohibit the state from preempting a city's authority to control or regulate the use of its sidewalks. Advocates for homeless people have spoken out forcefully about this attempt to make an end run around state statute. Becky Straus, ACLU legislative director, stated, "It seems that the PBA is asking the Legislature to overrule Oregon case law that says that the Portland ordinance is preempted by state law." Straus believes this is the first step to revisit the previous sit/lie ordinance, which is more restrictive than the current sidewalk management plan. Monica Goracke, an attorney with the Oregon Law Center, expressed concern that the bill proposed by the PBA "will have a disproportionate impact on people who use the sidewalks because they have nowhere else to go" (Street Roots, February 21).
After two weeks of declining to speak with the Portland Mercury, spokeswoman Megan Doern stated the PBA "wasn't necessarily looking for a return to the days of sit/lie ... but that they are convinced the current plan which allows a 24-hour 'free speech zone' along the curb line, isn't working." The Mercury pointed out (as have advocates for many years) there are existing laws which can be used to address illegal behaviors. Ms. Doern stated the PBA and its members have decided these laws are too cumbersome to be effective (Mercury, March 13). No doubt the PBA could also lobby the legislature to make those laws more draconian.
The PBA continues to play upon people's fears regarding "aggressive panhandlers" and trots out the argument that those from the suburbs won't come to Portland to shop because they are frightened of homeless people (and their dogs). Instead of acknowledging that the economy and the recession are causes of both homelessness and the inability to go shopping, they continue to say the lack of business is because of the presence of homeless people.
In January 2010, subsequent to the enactment of the Sidewalk Management Plan, Commissioner Amanda Fritz established an advisory group which began by meeting monthly. After several years, the meetings became more sporadic and the last one was held in October, 2012 (PPR #58). At the meetings, data were provided which showed how many contacts were made by the police regarding the plan, who was targeted, how they were approached by the police (by bike patrol or mounted patrol), ethnic background, if warnings or citations were issued, and if arrests were made as a result of the contact. The provision of the data became less and less frequent and there has been nothing published since August, 2012. PCW has asked the Mayor's office to obtain all relevant information for 2012 and for the first months of 2013.
Despite testimony on April 2 from Straus, Goracke and others to the Judiciary Committee, on April 16 HB 2963 passed the House 57-2.
back to top
In a reversal, Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton will no longer honor ICE requests for holds on inmates without documentation who are arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors. Last year, community groups wrote letters, protested, and met with the Sheriff urging him to discontinue this practice (PPR #58). Staton replied publicly that he would continue with these holds. The March 22 Willamette Week reported that Staton "agreed to deny ICE officials access to inmates brought to the jail." The article indicates that these refusals will fall short of the community's demands that no ICE requests for hold be honored, as it will only apply to certain catagories of charges, but it is a step in the right direction.
The Sheriff was also in the news after community members from We Are Oregon successfully held an overnight sit-in to bring attention to abusive foreclosure practices. A January 25 Oregonian article reported that after 11 people spent the night in the Sheriffs office, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen was asked if he would end evictions. "Cogen agreed, and said the sheriff will be present at future foreclosure evictions...[Cogen and Staton] also arranged a meeting with Multnomah County Judge Nan Waller to seek an agreement to temporarily delay orders for foreclosure evictions." This marks another step forward for the community at large in Multnomah County.
back to top
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.