People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
As briefly noted in PPR #64, an African American teenager was beaten and tasered by three Portland officers on September 14. Thai Gurule (whose name has appeared widely in public, so we're printing it here), 16, was found not guilty of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and three other charges by Judge Diana Stuart on March 12. The judge agreed with defense attorney Stephen Houze that Gurule was not engaging in criminal activity when Officers David Hughes (#50499) and Betsy Hornstein (#51737) grabbed his arms and forced him to the ground. Sgt. Jason Lile (#38941) used his Taser on Gurule. Stuart referred to officer testimony as "not credible" and said the force used was "senseless and aggressive" (Oregonlive, March 12). She stated the original stop of Thai, his brother and their friend had no basis and the second stop of Thai (after he walked away) also had no legitimate purpose.
The judge based her decision on two witness videos (posted to the internet) and a bank surveillance camera (which the public did not see). Houze pointed out that Hornstein was one of the 19 Portland cops who "liked" the Facebook pages of the three officers who posted "I am Darren Wilson" (also PPR #64). Her show of support for the officer who killed African American teen Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO came to light two months after Gurule was beaten-- but his arrest took place only a few weeks after Brown was killed.
Stuart noted the video contradicted Hornstein's testimony. Furthermore, the cop claimed Thai had her in a choke-hold and tried to kill her, adding he grabbed her hair, which gives a person great control. When asked what happened next, Hornstein responded she slipped away.
Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, points out this case indicates that de-escalation training, which the police supposedly adopted immediately after the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement was signed in late 2012, is not being given properly or not being implemented properly. The officers could not articulate what de-escalation means. Conversely, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner rushed to the officers' defense, condemning the judge for believing what she saw on the video rather than his officers' testimony (Oregonlive, March 16).
The "Independent" Police Review Division is investigating the officers for possible misconduct findings. It is not clear how the judge's ruling might play into any civil suit brought by Gurule.
As the Portland Police Association (PPA) has been making contemporary problems by impeding police oversight (left) and bemoaning changes due to the Department of Justice Agreement ("Rapping Back"), issues about its historic and ongoing role have popped up in numerous media presentations.
--The film "Arresting Power" covers the history of Portland Police violence from the 1960s to the present, including news footage following the "possum incident" where officers thought it was "funny" to put dead opossums on the doorstep of a black-owned business. PCW's Dan Handelman is interviewed in the film. Screening times and digital copy available at arrestingpower.com.
--An October presentation by Dr. Karen Gibson and Leann Serbulo based on their award winning paper "Black and Blue: Police-Community Relations in Portland's Albina District, 1964- 1985" recorded by Flying Focus Video Collective is now streaming on the web (sponsored by Portland Copwatch). See the show "Black and Blue in Portland" at www.flyingfocus.org/BlackandBluestreamingpage.html.
--An article by Martha Gies on the history and power of the PPA ran in Street Roots on February 19, ( "An impenetrable force").
--Paul Roland at KBOO-FM held a 90-minute forum about the power of police unions on February 4 kboo.fm/aforumonpoliceu0.
Being stopped by the Portland Police whether you are in your car or walking down the street can be scary for anyone. Knowing what to do and how to act can reduce the fear and help you avoid mistakes that you might regret. Portland Copwatch (PCW) periodically conducts trainings on what your rights are in interactions with law enforcement. In the last several months trainings have been conducted at the Sylvania Campus of Portland Community College, Right 2 Survive, and Basic Rights Oregon. The training covers how to act, things to say and things not to say. The trainings teach special phrases: if an officer starts a conversation with you, you can see if you're being detained by asking "Am I free to go?" If you are being arrested, rather than trying to explain or argue you can say "I wish to remain silent" and "I want to talk to a lawyer." The trainings also give useful guidance if you are being searched ("I do not consent to this search"), if the police want to come into your home or if you feel you have been a victim of misconduct. Knowing what to do can help you feel calm and more self confident in a stressful situation.
If you are a member of a group that would benefit from this training, contact PCW to set up a time.
Your group would be responsible for doing advance publicity. PCW usually brings an attorney so
legal issues can be clarified. The trainings are entertaining as well as being informative, but
Copwatch is serious about helping people know what their rights are and avoiding unnecessary
missteps in contacts with police.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.