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Rapping Back #62:
Do Detectives Discern Distinguishable Dim Dispositions?
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet" for the People's Police Report

The Real Halls of Power: PPA's Threats and Myopic World View

As noted in our pieces about the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Agreement with the City (article) and changes to the "Independent" Police Review (IPR) Division (another article), the Portland Police Association (PPA) has been throwing its political weight around to torpedo efforts at accountability. President Daryl Turner's statements to City Council on these issues were posted to the PPA's online newsletter, the Rap Sheet, in December. In his comments on the PPA contract, which was tied to the acceptance of the DOJ Agreement, he wrote that the collaborative process producing the "tough but fair" new four-year contract is better than "what may come after years of contentious litigation." Similarly, when speaking about changes to the oversight system, he warned Council that granting new powers without bargaining leads to "unnecessary litigation," enclosing a letter from PPA attorney Anil Kariye outlining the City's "bargaining obligations." While such coercion should be looked down upon and perhaps even called as a bluff, it is clear from the backtracking on IPR's ability to compel testimony and the reluctance to amend the Agreement that the PPA runs this city.

Other interesting tidbits in Turner's pieces include that the bargaining, which is supposed to cover working conditions, wages and benefits, also covered "policy" and "the welfare of the citizens we serve." He claims that the City can't legally add abilities for the IPR to conduct investigations, as that body already has sufficient access to PPB "affairs" and changes will "upset this delicate balance by empowering IPR to essentially take over the Bureau's duties and obligations in the discipline process." Of course, this ignores that the officer's commander, the Chief and the Police Commissioner are still the ones who will decide based on IPR's investigation whether the officer violated policy, and what discipline should be imposed. Turner implies that when IPR conducts investigations it will add another layer of inquiry to a crowded field of oversight; however, IPR doing so would remove the necessity of an Internal Affairs investigation. Should there be a criminal investigation, IPR would, as IA now does, conduct a parallel investigation to avoid tainting the criminal proceedings. Turner's list of existing processes includes both the investigators (criminal/IA) and the bodies moving those cases forward or deciding officers' fates (the District Attorney, commanders, the Chief and Commissioner) to justify his false claim that PPB officers now face an "unprecedented level of scrutiny."

For good measure, in a January piece about goals for 2014, Turner brags about intervening in the US DOJ process, obtaining the new contract, and what sounds like upcoming meetings about IPR (even though Council passed the ordinance three weeks before his article's January 29 posting date). Turner lets the rank and file know "Because of you, Portland is one of the safest and most livable cities in America and although that dynamic may not always be recognized by management, City Hall and anti-police groups, I am grateful that the PPA has your support!"

Don't Fire Your Shotgun Out of Fear-- Isn't That Right, Officer Reister?

In a February article about how the brain handles fear, author Val Van Brocken explains reacting to the first inkling of danger can be avoided when your cerebral cortex transfers fear into logic. "Realizing the banging of your front door at night is caused by the wind, not a burglar, so you latch it tight rather than empty a shotgun round into it."

Resistance to Constitutional Standards: Why Consider Facts Instead of Using Force?

Portland's Police have adopted a standard guiding officer use of force based on the Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor, which allows reasonable force when considering the "totality of the circumstances." One factor to consider is the "governmental interest" in performing the police function at hand. PPA President Turner apparently has a problem with this concept, as evidenced by a tirade in the February Rap Sheet. "When the rank and file, who are short staffed, under supported, and riddled by multitudes of oversight, do their jobs and take action, the first question that will be asked is 'what was the governmental interest?'" Turner believes the analysis of this factor is done by a sliding scale based on "the political correctness by which it is scrutinized." He calls findings against officers "Judgments made from the warmth and security of offices and meeting rooms." Of course, juries who convict suspects caught by police also make judgments in warm, secure settings.

Turner bemoans the fact that officers can no longer rely on "training, experience and common sense," insisting that they now need "crystal balls" to do their job. He quotes another officer who says police only used to have to worry about what to do, now they worry about the political fallout of their actions. According to Turner, due to such fears, officers are now engaging in less self- initiated activity. Referring to Chief Reese's directive for cops to "wake [homeless] people up" (see article), he asks -- probably for a different reason than we do--what is the governmental interest? He worries that officers will be prosecuted if they "have to" use force. Lamenting that business owners no longer engage in "trespass agreements" with the cops, Turner writes that "until our city leaders put their thumbs down on these violators sleeping in the doorways of businesses, cops doing their jobs will end up holding the governmental interest bag."

Then another swipe at oversight: Turner says the City should stop depending on PARC and OIR Group, consulting agencies who employ former law enforcement and studied Portland shootings and deaths to recommend changes. Apparently, he did not read their biographies because he states "none" of the people making up those groups--as well as IPR and its Citizen Review Committee-- "are cops or have ever been cops." Until May 2013, a former police officer was Vice Chair of CRC, and while less than before, one of IPR's investigators is a former Portland cop. Turner says they should bring in real cops to "determine the tools needed for us to do our jobs." It seems they have plenty of tools at the PPB, they just need to be willing to heed the advice on how to use them.

Turner addressed use of force again in April, apparently to defend the renewal of the "48-hour rule": "It is not unusual... for the involved officer to need several days before they have a clear recollection of the incident."

That's Odd-- PPA Highlights Pro-Accountability Stories?

It's unclear who is selecting articles to post on the Rap Sheet website, especially since most months are less plentiful than the selection available in February. A surprising number of articles and links that month were about crackdowns on misconduct and/or critical of oversight done wrong.

--A Seattle Times article outlined how a reporter from the Stranger newspaper was threatened with arrest and harassment by a sheriff's deputy and a Seattle cop. While the deputy--with 27 years' experience-- was fired over the incident, the officer was given training in lieu of a one-day suspension, which removed the sustained finding from his record. Seattle's review body found the conduct "indefensible." (The article mentions a suspension was also overturned for an officer who stomped on a suspect's head.) Perhaps this article was included because Seattle's cop "union" is quoted saying the one-day suspension amounted to a $400 fine.

--An Oklahoman article about a town whose speed traps generated 76% of its revenue, prompting state administrators to remove their ticket-writing authority.

--Three articles from the website of police review board guru Sam Walker focused on:
• the new Minneapolis oversight system taking in 439 complaints and sustaining zero of them;
• New Jersey state police failing to identify misconduct from excessive force to improper vehicle searches in 30% of cases; and
• the politics of reforming police through DOJ consent decrees (from Truthout, August 31).

The last article lacks community perspectives, but raises concerns about police refusing to adopt accountability measures, while politicians including those in Seattle blame rising crime rates on reined-in officers.

Find the Rap Sheet at pparapsheet.org.

  People's Police Report

May, 2014
Also in PPR #62

Two PPB Shootings Result
  In Death And Injury

DOJ Lawsuit Recieves
  Community Input

Inadequate Changes To
  Oversight System Approved

Updates PPR 62
  • JTTF Report Raises Questions
  • Warentless Wiretaps Challenged
  • Secrecy at Training Council
CRC Expands to 11 Members;
  Hears 4 Cases

Stop And Frisk Comes to Portland
Prosper Portland's War
  on Homeless

Recent Rulings on
  Search and Seizure

Quick Flashes
  • Other Copwatching Groups
  • Two Cops Arrested
  • PPB Handcuffs Nine Year Old
Police Shootings Around Oregon

Rapping Back

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.

People's Police Report #62 Table of Contents
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