People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
O'Deas of Our Lives
New Chief Shows Promise Along with the Usual Closing Ranks
It's a New O'Dea at the Bureau
We reported in our last issue that former Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea was promoted to Chief. After officially taking the reins from Mike Reese on January 8, he split his old job as Chief of Operations into two parts, taking specialized units (including the Gang Enforcement Team) and giving them to now-Assistant Chief Kevin Modica, the highest ranking African American in the Bureau. The other half of his job went to former Central Precinct Commander Bob Day.
We rarely agree with the Oregonian's editorial stance, but on January 31 they praised Chief O'Dea for criticizing the Florida police department which used photos of actual criminal suspects for target practice-- all of whom were African American. They quote him as saying "The community can be tolerant of [our] mistakes, but only if we own them and correct them." He said the North Miami Beach Police "cast a shadow on our profession at a time when improving trust is critical."
Agreeing to Disagree? Portland Copwatch Meets the Chief
Since our founding in 1992, Portland Copwatch (PCW) has met with every Chief of Police. At each meeting we stated our goal of a Bureau free from corruption, brutality and racism. At our February 20 meeting with Chief O'Dea, like his predecessors, he agreed these are good goals.
We spent considerable time going over our concerns regarding Crowd Control (see article), and pointing out that police weapons should not be referred to as "tools" (try opening a paint can with a Taser sometime). Immediately after we made that remark, the Bureau members (O'Dea, Assistant Chief Crebs and PPB spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson) continued to use the word anyway. We mentioned how bicycles are not described as weapons in any existing Directive, but frequently used as such at protests. There was no promise to add regulations about bikes into the Crowd Control Directive. When one of our members talked about being shoved by police during a protest, the Chief speculated that the officers may have had a good reason to do so. He suggested people should comply with officers' orders and complain about it later if they think the officer did something wrong. This philosophy would create the ability for officers to do anything they want and a submissive, passive populace.
PCW also raised multiple concerns about PPB treatment of homeless persons (see article). The Bureau representatives seemed to feel the stories we've heard about confiscated sleeping bags, medicine and identification were about private security, but not their members. We asked the Bureau to work with those private cops to stop these activities as many people can't distinguish real cops from rent-a- cops. (It should be noted, though, that most everyone we talked to was sure they'd interacted with the PPB.)
With regard to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), we pointed out that in the same way the immigrant community eyed the PPB with distrust because the Sheriff was flagging certain detainees for possible deportation, those who are subject to FBI surveillance, primarily those in the Arab/Muslim community, will stop trusting the Bureau now that it signed on to the JTTF. As noted in our JTTF article, the Chief told us he was "not prepared" to tell us the name of the Lieutenant in charge.
We also raised concerns about the use of body cameras, which surprised the Chief a little. We explained the difference between the community monitoring the police and the police monitoring the community, and asked that the public be deeply involved in setting regulations if Portland adopts the cameras (see article).
Sgt. Simpson trotted out the old chestnut that our concerns about use of force are exaggerated because force is used in less than 3% of arrests. We noted that if McDonald's had 3% of its customers getting food poisoning, that would not be something of which to be proud. A few days later, Training Division Captain Parman said that while use of force is down, the Bureau is trying to "move the needle even lower." We hope that's also the Chief's view.
• Police Kill Houseless Man
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.