People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
More Misery for Poor and Homeless Portlanders
And now for Portland Copwatch (PCW)'s ongoing coverage of Portland's war against homeless people: private cops taking people's things to the middle of nowhere, ongoing questionable police programs, and businesses trying to exclude more people from sidewalks.
The City has a two year, $415,000 contract with Pacific Patrol Services (PPS) to do sweeps of homeless campsites and confiscate property, such as clothing, bedding and medication. While doing the sweeps, PPS is using a truck ironically labeled "Positive Action Cleaning." The City requested PPS take the belongings to a former pump station on far SW Barbur Blvd. Most of those items are taken from camps in or near Central Eastside and Northeast Portland, or the SE Springwater Corridor. Not only is this a long way for people to travel, but they may not have bus fare to get there. After the sweeps, people are supposedly given a number to call, but most don't retrieve their belongings (Portland Mercury blog, November 14). This fact could be due to the most innovative aspect of this policy: for seven months there was no address on the pump station. That violation of law was rectified in November after the Mercury called attention to the issue on its blog (November 18).
After our five month effort to meet with Mayor Hales, primarily about his police-related homeless policies, five members of PCW signed up for the "communications slots" at the September 17 City Council meeting. PCW brought to Council's attention Willamette Week's report on the "community policing" of Hawthorne, where people on sidewalks were classified as craft sellers, homeless, or out of state "travelers" (September 5). We rebuked this divide and conquer process, noting the focus should be on behaviors, not on an individual's perceived status. We also cautioned that officers patrolling "hot spots" by getting out of their cars for 15 minutes at a time not use the opportunity to racially or economically profile people, or to ask for IDs with no suspicion of criminal conduct. In November, the City accepted a $700,000 federal grant to study the effectiveness of these "Neighborhood Involvement Locations" (NI-Locs).
Our requests to hold a private meeting with Hales had been rebuffed by his police policy advisor, former officer Deanna Wesson Mitchell (PPR #63). Wesson Mitchell had sent PCW emails claiming our comments were "false" and "misinformed." On October 15, she sent PCW a minimal amount of information. We responded with a November 17 email asking where those without homes were expected to go after sweeps. We also referenced a November 5 Mercury article indicating PPS doing little work but getting paid for four hour minimums, sometimes receiving double money within the same time frame. And we repeated the concern we raised at Council about those who are homeless frequently being stopped by police and asked for their names and IDs, something that does not happen as much to those who are perceived to have homes.
Many other rules seem to be applied only to certain people. When the new Apple i-phone became available, the sidewalk in front of their Portland store was full of people standing, lying and sitting, yet police officers and security guards were milling about, but nary a citation issued. Spending money seems to be the key. When PCW was "patrolling" downtown in November, we observed sidewalks being blocked by those waiting to buy food from carts. No citations there either.
In December, Metropolitan Public Defenders filed a challenge to the anti-camping ordinance's consti-tutionality in connection to citations, including "Interfering with a Police Officer," given to Alexandra Barrett (Portland Mercury, December 17).
For two years there have been no statistics available regarding the Sidewalk Management (Sit/Lie) Ordinance although PCW has consistently requested these statistics. However, the Portland Business Alliance put in a request for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to more than double the number of city blocks where sitting or lying will be prohibited. Such restrictions have to meet strict criteria, but aren't put through a public process. PBOT is rejecting a number of requests because they don't meet the correct safety standards (Mercury, November 26). It should be noted that their concern for homeless people who might fall into traffic is hypocritical, since the Ordinance requires people to sit on the outermost curb.
Right 2 Dream Too, the homeless rest area which celebrated its third anniversary in October, remains at 4th and Burnside while another location is sought (PPR #63).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.