People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Bucking Oversight, Bureau Officers Blurt Out Biased Observations
Oversight Blues: Rap Sheet Addresses Complaint Investigations... By Badmouthing Them
Over the years the Portland Police Association (PPA) has made no secret of the fact that they are not fond of community members, especially those who file complaints about their behavior. And while in the past, they have complained about the very act of being asked to respond to Internal Affairs (IA) investigations, two recent pieces took the issue into new territory.
In the June Rap Sheet, PPA President Daryl Turner laid into the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR), which has been using its new powers to conduct investigations using its own staff rather than relying on IA. As Turner notes, though IPR was trying to get the ability to compel officer testimony, after PPA pushback "begrudgingly, IPR watered down* its desired City Code changes, resulting in a convoluted system where IAD [sic] officers compel our members to IPR investigations." As noted in PPR #62, the new system is not so different from what IPR was supposed to do in the past, which was to have the IA officer compel answers on a question by question basis.
Turner snipes at IPR and the Auditor for "doggedly" pursuing changes at Council to allow independent investigations, a "power play" which he says implies that IA is "biased." This ignores that IA, made up mostly of active duty and retired Portland officers, is internal to the Bureau and has an inherent conflict of interest in conducting objective investigations. According to Turner, the IPR's investigations are "biased, inadequate, flawed [and] totally lacking in quality." He says IA's questions are "fluid, precise and pointed" and lack any intimidation [hey, buddy, you didn't really do that, did you?], but claims in contrast IPR questions are "elementary, biased and many times baseless."
In a vague example, Turner says one IPR investigator was asking questions that confused the people in the room, leading the IA representative to become frustrated and call a break. When they came back, the IPR investigator continued and, apparently, the Internal Affairs person was freaking out more than Turner or the cop being investigated. He also said the IPR investigators didn't understand what street supervisors do, didn't know what some police terminology meant, and read from a script rather than listening and asking follow up questions. He claims the investigations are being conducted into actions that are not against policy, saying this system is costing IPR its legitimacy, the cops their reputations, and the taxpayers money. If that's such a big concern, maybe he should tell the cops to stop shooting, beating and tasering people, which also costs taxpayers a lot of money. The funniest of his comments is demanding that IPR's new investigations should come with "some accountability."
Turner's proposal, to have IPR train with IA for one year, seems like a recipe for disaster, leading to more leniency rather than tougher investigations. While he advocates for these former cops to take the lead, he says IPR is making "a mockery of independent oversight." We never saw IPR Director Constantin Severe as the new Malcolm X, but Turner suggests IPR "wants to wield its power by any means possible."
In another swipe at complaint investigations, a piece by Andrew Hawkes (of "Highway Drug
Interdiction") in the July Rap Sheet about challenges for rookie officers warns young cops
about getting called in for an IA investigation. You could be a witness, he says, or "it may be a
routine follow up from a dishonest citizen, or from an honest citizen that simply doesn't know the
law or can't relate to our often cold, shallow demeanor derived from dealing with, well, citizens."
It did not go unnoticed that the Police Bureau held a giant blow-out memorial for Mick the police dog on May 12, the same day that marked four years since Keaton Otis was killed and the community remembered Otis (p. 1). Mick was allegedly killed by a suspect who was then wounded by the PPB. This likely led to the posting of an article about how to start your own K-9 unit, by a professional grant writer named Linda Gilbertson (May Rap Sheet). Ignoring the history of dogs attacking civil rights marchers (and slaves), and the wounds caused by dog bites, she notes the truism about the public support for dogs like Mick: "Let's face it-- a lot of people love dogs."
Another article in May, from Doug Wylie at PoliceOne.com, reports on a visit to national police memorial week. He said walking by the wall inscribed with names of officers killed in the line of duty reminded him of "a slow motion nuclear explosion." This ignores the statistics of how many more civilians are killed by police each year than police who die, including a 2012 statistic from the Malcolm X Grassroots movement that a black person is killed by law enforcement every 36 hours in the US. (Not to mention that, for example, the Depleted Uranium left behind by the US in Iraq and other countries has been more accurately compared to a slow motion nuclear explosion as the radioactivity causes contamination, birth defects, and illnesses.)
We've said it before and still mean it: everyone should go home safe at night (if they have a home),
both cops and community members. Because of the shocking ambush killing of two officers in Las
Vegas, the Rap Sheet ran three different pieces, the most eyebrow-raising of which was in
the July issue. Richard Fairburn of Law Enforcement Firearms described how off-duty officers
should respond to an armed threat like the robbers who killed not only the Vegas officers, but an
armed civilian who tried to intervene. Contrary to police training to use deadly force only to defend
oneself or others, he encourages an "attack" on any armed felon, saying that facing such a
person is "not the time to draw down and order the felon to surrender. If deadly force is
justified, don't threaten it, use it!" He worries using verbal commands gives the person time to
obey those commands. And while he suggests "center mass" shots which police are taught
(we've heard many times how police can't hit a person in the arm or leg, even though that happens
with great frequency), he then suggests officers "sneak in and start with a head shot... Violent
aggression will win the day." Look, Portland Copwatch is part of a peace group and we would
prefer to see nobody shooting anybody else anywhere, ever. But if this kind of violence is being
promoted among the rank and file, we hope someone in the Bureau takes notice to re-enforce more
The Rap Sheet, as it does occasionally, also included some arguably useful opinions, even if couched in sickly cop humor. The May issue contained an article called "Why Respecting Even the Most Vile Criminals is Important to Our Survival," which examined how dehumanizing others because of "ethnic, cultural, behavioral or criminal" values exacerbates PTSD. The author Jack Hoban, who works with Resolution Group International, teaches conflict resolution including defensive tactics/martial arts, for what that's worth. It's not called non-violent conflict resolution, I guess. Anyway, Hoban notes that some people in society are "hard to view as humans-- dirty, smelly, sloppy, lazy, egotistical, indignant, argumentative and disrespectful. They sometimes lie and often complain... yes, I'm talking about teenagers." But, he says, we still love them unconditionally. Though most criminals are not our teenage kids, he adds, you still need to act ethically and professionally under stress. It's hard to watch crimes being committed and value the perpetrator's life, but "it is the right thing to do." Cops "stop strangers from behaving illegally, and may use force to do so if necessary." He hits exactly the right note when he says the police might use force wrongly if they stop valuing the other person (James Chasse-- Aaron Campbell-- Keaton Otis-- Nick Davis... etc). Hoban asks, "What is the greater 'crime?' Stealing a car? Or robbing someone of their humanity because you disagree with their behavior?"
Similarly, in another "humorous" article, Dr Richard Weinblat offers advice how to destroy your career using social media (June Rap Sheet). His "do" list, obviously meant as a "don't" list, includes posting pictures of car crashes-- something a deputy in Clackamas was doing before the Sheriff's department changed policy (PPR #62). He also says (not) to post "racist, sexist and homophobic rants... defense attorneys particularly appreciate any prejudicial or sexist attitudes that you have on display on social media and use them in court and publicly to impeach your credibility." Though he doesn't suggest finding ways to unlearn such attitudes, only to not post them to the internet, this is still a more hopeful piece than many promoted by the PPA. Summing it up, Weinblat says: "Social media is a tool much like your firearm. It can be used to further your law enforcement career [or] to destroy your chosen career path."
* Interestingly, Portland Copwatch used this same term to describe the IPR's revisions to its proposed code changes.
The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership and officers express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their newsletter, so we worry these ideas may spread through the rank-and-file. Find the Rap Sheet at: www.pparapsheet.org.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.