People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
After a series of delays, the sentencing of FBI sting victim Mohamed Mohamud was held on October 1. Mohamud, a Somali American, was tricked by FBI agents and informants into trying to use fake explosives at the Pioneer Courthouse Square holiday tree event in 2010, and was convicted of this "Mission: Impossible" plot in January 2013 (PPR #59). After Judge King sentenced Mohamud to 30 years in prison, US Attorney Amanda Marshall, who's at the top of the local Department of Justice (DOJ) and thus the police reforms in Portland (article), took issue with Mohamud's defense team statement that "religion is at the heart of this case," going out of her way to point out that Islam does not teach violence. No reporter asked, "then why did your FBI agents tell him Allah would be pleased if he set off a bomb?" The defense was asking for 10 years and the government "generously" proposed 40 years rather than a life sentence. Mohamud could be either 49 or 53 when he gets out, depending on whether time served applies to the sentence. The defense promised to appeal.
Mohamud's sister, father, and mother all spoke about his good character. His mom broke down in tears pleading with the judge to give him a second chance. After the judge read his ruling, Mohamud spoke briefly, offering an apology for his actions. The judge did support the defense's argument that "imperfect entrapment" should mitigate the sentence. Public Defender Steve Wax* asked reporters whether when people like Mohamud's dad call the FBI for help we want them to "help" set up a crime rather than steer the person in question on another path. So, another young black man is going to jail because the government created a law for him to break.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch issued a report in July noting that the majority of "terror" plots in the US since 9/11 involved FBI informants, and 30% involved stings (The Guardian, July 21). Shortly afterward, the FBI's efforts to set up Ahmed Abassi, a 26 year old Tunisian student in New York, ended with a guilty plea on non-terrorism related charges of fraud involving immigration documents, a blow to the government's record on such cases. His public defender said Abassi "resisted attempts to move beyond words to direct action." The FBI prohibited Abassi from returning to Canada, instead setting him up with an apartment in New York as their agents suggested that killing Americans was righteous for Muslims (Washington Post, August 14), much like they did for Mohamud in Portland.
*Technically, Wax stepped down from the Federal Public Defender's office on October 1 to head
the new Oregon Innocence Project.
Two years after its formation in the shadow of the DOJ investigation into Portland Police Bureau (PPB), the Training Advisory Council (TAC) voted to make its first and only formal recommendation. TAC's Use of Force Task Force studied Bureau data, training and policies. The Council's suggestion, soon heading to the Chief, has to do with adding a check-off box on the form filled out by supervisors reviewing force incidents. Although the Task Force was supposed to review data on an ongoing basis, they declared their work over at the November meeting. Similarly, PPB "Force Inspector" Lt. Steven Jones was supposed to present recent statistics, but instead spent half an hour talking about how he realized the job was so complex after he took over for Lt. James Dakin earlier in 2014. (Nobody mentioned that if the cops used less force, his job would be easier.) Dakin previously went over the year 2013 stats (PPR #63), and the first and second quarter results were posted in June and late August, but the TAC had cancelled its early August meeting.
Instead of meeting, TAC hosted members of various police advisory groups (including the Citizen Review Committee, Community/Police Relations Committee, and African American Advisory Council) on a tour of the Bureau's new training facility in September. The opportunity for these committees to communicate and share information was quickly dashed, as the forty or so people attending were broken into groups and sent to look at the scenario village (fake houses used for training), shooting range, padded combat classrooms, and outdoor driving tarmac.
--an admission from Assistant Chief Mike Crebs that the Employee Information System (EIS) only just began being able to track outcomes of Internal Affairs investigations, even though the Bureau has told the community for nearly 20 years the EIS and the old "Early Warning System" which trigger review after a certain number of complaints were working fine (PPR #33);
--Lt. John Scruggs gave a long presentation about police cameras (article), including info on the PPB's use of license plate readers to solve several crimes, with the biggest question on both types of cameras being how and how long to store records (which include thousands of details on people not suspected of any crime); and
--a number of TAC members have resigned and others' terms are ending, meaning anyone who is OK going through a criminal background check and swearing to confidentiality can soon apply to join.
Statistics show that from January to June, 29% of people who had force used against them in Portland were African American, in a city that is 6% black.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.