People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland's War on the Homeless Continues Prosper Portland. Chronic Offender Pilot Project. Quality of Life. Seemingly benign terms but in reality more ways to make miserable the lives of homeless people. Add in constant sweeps and confiscation of belongings-- usually blankets and sleeping bags, and there seems to be nothing the City can't do to make the lives of homeless people even more difficult.
Prosper Portland, which includes aspects of the Sidewalk Management Plan and the anti-camping ordinance, was announced in February by Police Chief Mike Reese to the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC). LPSCC consists of staff from the District Attorney's office, city commissioners, and city and county officials. With the exception of city commissioners, the group supported this plan. Although he claimed "the job of our officers in our downtown neighborhoods is to wake people up," Reese stated, "Prosper Portland is to ensure prosperity for everyone, the homeless as well." With the constant confiscation of meager belongings, that seems somewhat hypocritical. Using the usual fear tactics, Reese and Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea referred to last summer's skateboard attack on an elderly man (PPR #60) which has also been a theme of Mayor Hales when he equates homelessness with lawlessness. O'Dea indicated people are fearful of walking downtown and are worried about who will be the next person hit by a skateboard (Oregonian, February 5). "I heard more complaints last year from everyday citizens feeling they were intimidated, they were afraid, they felt they were going to be the victim of crime," said O'Dea (Portland Mercury, February 26). This attitude indicates homeless people are somehow not "everyday citizens," and ignores that crime in Portland has decreased. Besides, the skateboard incident has been dealt with by the justice system. In late February, the young man pleaded guilty to attempted assault and was sentenced to five years in prison (Oregonian, February 26).
Since then, Prosper Portland has allegedly "died on the vine," (Mercury Blog, March 26). Reese also proposed the use of "clean-up contractors," presumably to double down on sweeps and confiscations. PPB spokesperson Pete Simpson indicated they will be increasing foot, bike and ATV patrols and endeavoring to increase standard enforcement between Tri-Met police and Multnomah County deputies.
COPP, the oh so clever acronym for the Chronic Offender Pilot Project, was instituted in mid-2013 by the PPB. Instead of receiving citations, people who litter, drink or urinate in public are issued warnings and placed on a list. If the behavior occurs again, the person not only faces violation charges for the original offense, but also the misdemeanor "interfering with a police officer." A no show in court is cause for an arrest warrant. In the zeal to crack down on homeless people, 17 of the 19 arrestees accused of interfering with a police officer were in alleged violation of the sidewalk ordinance. That was not the intent or purpose of COPP, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Chuck Spears. "It was a miscommunication in the memo that went out to the Police Bureau. We can't undo those [people who were already convicted]" but, benevolently, warrants out for the 17 will be dropped (Oregonian, March 5). Sparks stated the police didn't do anything illegal but were just following the DA's improper instructions. "Just following orders" has a frightening historical ring. Defense attorneys point out that similar warnings at traffic stops could turn all moving violations into misdemeanors. In City Hall, Commissioner Amanda Fritz expressed strong concern for not having been told about COPP, though the Mayor was likely aware of the problem concerning convictions due to police misuse of the Sidewalk Management Plan (Mercury, March 5). While COPP supposedly came to an end in April, a revised and expanded version including camping and "erecting structures" in the list of citable offenses, was revealed by the Mercury blog on April 17.
In the quality of life category, the PPB is instituting a program between April 1 and November 1 whereby more officers, including patrol, traffic, transit and youth services will be out on the streets, supposedly interacting with residents, neighborhood groups and businesses. A/C O'Dea indicates this will be "relationship-focused policing with an emphasis on prevention and intervention." Officer evaluations will include how well they are getting to know the people in their districts. In this program, "hot spots" are identified in each of three precincts ("NILocs"--see article) and officers are sent there on a more frequent basis (Oregonian, February 28). Assuming large numbers of people will be committing violations of "quality of life," the Multnomah District Attorney will hire another prosecutor to deal with the resultant misdemeanors.
On February 27, Ibrahim Mubarak, co-founder of Right 2 Dream Too (R2DToo), was arrested for allegedly trespassing and interfering with a police officer. Mubarak and several other homeless activists were doing outreach under the Burnside Bridge when they were accosted by security guards hired by Mercy Corps, owners of a parking lot there. It is alleged Mubarak did not move to the sidewalk when asked by the guards. Police were summoned to make the arrest. Mubarak pleaded not guilty at his February 28 arraignment, which was attended by many supporters.
Right 2 Dream Too remains in limbo as to where they might eventually move. In PPR #61 we reported on the public hearing regarding their move to the Pearl District and vicious comments made by the residents and developers about R2DToo. Developers Homer Williams and Dike Dame committed to finding another place for R2DToo. While residents lived through persistent rain, low temperatures and heavy snow, various places, including a warehouse in NW Portland, have been considered and discarded as not workable. Williams and Dame pledged $846,000 to assist R2DToo in renting, buying or leasing a new place to live and 21 different properties are being considered. This might seem charitable, but it also suggests that those with sufficient funds can ensure no poor people live in their neighborhood. The original lot under the Broadway Bridge planned as R2DToo's home has been sold to these same developers.
Although it was not introduced in the February session of the Legislature, plans are afoot to again try for another sit/lie bill in 2015. As previously reported, such a law, if passed, would not only criminalize homelessness, but would have a strong negative effect on free speech. The Oregonian, in editorials of January 12 and January 19, pushed for such legislation and criticized city leaders for not doing more to make it happen.
• Two PPB Shootings Result
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.