People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Lawsuits: Beyond Shootings,
In addition to the $2.3 million settlement with William Monroe, who was shot by lethal rounds from a "less lethal" shotgun (article), the City has had to pay out at least another $81,000 to two men. One, Clifford Richardson, was beaten by cops at an anti-police-brutality march in 2010, and settled with the City for $35,000. The other, Philip Wolfe, is hearing impaired and police failed to protect him from a domestic violence situation because they did not bring in a sign language interpreter when Wolfe was first interviewed; a judgment orders the City to pay $51,500 and change their policy on assisting people with disabilities.
Richardson was protesting the police killings of Aaron Campbell and Jackie Collins in March 2010 when police attacked the march (PPR #50). Though Richardson ended up in the hospital with serious facial injuries (Mercury Blog, May 22), the ordinance that went before Council declared "during the struggle that ensued, Richardson's upper body was struck by a police officer's knee and as a result, his head and face struck the pavement." The use of the passive voice in such a narrative boggles the mind. Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman, testifying to City Council on May 22 when the item came up, noted that the protest movement involves people who embrace a variety of tactics, and it seems Richardson was targeted because he was wearing black at an event when others may have been engaging in property damage. Going after someone for how they are dressed, Handelman noted, is a form of "pernicious political profiling."
In April 2012, Wolfe "was attacked by his partner [and] had requested a sign-language interpreter from emergency dispatchers and from the responding police officers" (Oregonian, July 17). Because no interpreter arrived, Wolfe was not sure what happened during the initial investigation, and was attacked a second time that day. Though the partner was arrested, no interpreter was provided then, either. So federal Judge Michael Mosman ordered the settlement paid along with attorney fees and a new policy on communicating with people with hearing disabilities-- a policy the City did not have until now. This outcome is important as often a settlement or judgment amounts to "here's your money, now go away" (and sometimes, "and shut up"). That the lawsuit pushed the Bureau to action, rather than the City waiting for a lengthy study, raises hope that other legal claims can bring further change in Portland.
PCW continues to be concerned that the City frequently agrees to such payments as judgments, since the Council is only required to sign off on proposed settlements (and then, only those over $5000). This means that much of the time there is no public discussion on the underlying misconduct, policy issues or expenses to the taxpayers from the City's self- insurance fund that could otherwise be going to provide actual services.
When the Monroe settlement came up at Council, PCW floated an idea being initaited by our colleagues in Minneapolis--a charter amendment that would require officers to purchase their own professional liability policy (though the city could pay for it) with the idea that officers who engage in repeated acts of misconduct would eventually become uninsurable and, thus, unable to continue working. This would rid Portland of frequent flyers like Reister (who also inappropriately confiscated a camcorder from Joe Anybody after being caught on video harassing a man downtown) and Leo Besner, the "Million Dollar Man" (PPR #49).
On that note, the City and Jason and Greg Kafoury, the lawyers for Gallagher Smith, agreed to set aside the judgment in Smith's excessive force case and settle out of court for the same amount-- $306,000, after the City dropped its appeal of the decision (PPR #59). Indications are that the City believes the ruling that officers had no right to order Smith off the sidewalk is now invalidated, while the Kafourys believe it is precedent-setting as part of the court record (Oregonlive, July 30).
Meanwhile, Morgan Harty, a woman who Officers Erick Thorsen and Michael Villanti tried to pull out the window of her car, instead breaking her arm, lost her case in County Court in early May. Most of the September 2011 incident was caught on a police camera, but for reasons unexplained, the audio recording didn't begin until the cops reached into the car (Oregonian, May 3).
On July 28, a jury found police did not violate Liz Nichols' rights when the Occupy Portland protestor was pepper sprayed in the mouth in 2011 (PPR #55).
--Ryan Sumpter is asking for over $20,000 for a May 2011 incident in which he was pepper sprayed by Officer Kristin Watt while sitting in his car to sleep off his feeling of sickness (Oregonian, May 4).
--Scott Miller, suing officer Dean Halley for excessive force and wrongful arrest for jaywalking in June, 2010, prompted the City to claim that his being handcuffed and brought to jail did not constitute an arrest (Oregonian, July 18).
--Nicholas Cox, the Idaho motorist at whom then-Captain Todd Wyatt flashed his gun in a road rage incident in 2011 (PPRs #54-56), is suing the City for $255,000 over Wyatt's actions (Oregonian, July 17).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.