People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Fuzz Focus on Feelings to Frame Fellowship After Ferguson
Humanizing the Badge: Police Seek Community Connections
A recurring theme in recent articles run in the Rap Sheet is the idea of emphasizing "cops are people too" to break down barriers exposed by the national focus on police racism and violence. Officer Daryl Turner, President of the Portland Police Association, wrote a piece for "American Police Beat" reprinted in July's Rap Sheet explaining that the PPA had joined forces with other police "unions" to create a lobbying group to engage with the community in order to build understanding and trust. Oh, and to "speak on legislative affairs." The new group is called "Oregon Coalition of Police & Sheriffs," or ORCOPS. Despite community gains in some areas (see article), the police lobbyists gutted a bill that was supposed to invoke a special prosecutor after a police shooting, watered down the racial profiling bill, and made mincemeat of the body cameras law. Turner wrote that the 2500 member supergroup had "success" with the elected officials on other issues, including expanded mental health services and resources for homeless youth. We have no problem with police doing good deeds or advocating for social services in general, but (a) doing good deeds doesn't excuse brutality, corruption and racism and (b) when police make the laws, we live in a police state.*
The June article emphasizes connecting with community in the context of the national "constant and at times divisive" discussion about policing. He says how the police "live in the communities," which is rather funny since only about 1/3 of Portland Police actually live within city limits (Portland Mercury, October 21, 2010). "We coach little league. We shop at the same grocery store and pick up our kids from local schools. We're just like everybody else-- we're black and white, Hispanic and Asian, male and female, gay and straight." (This last one is a big step forward for the police as an institution.)
A brief piece, also reprinted from American Police Beat, features a video called "Dear Officer, I See You," made by the group "Humanizing the Badge." The video's introduction explains most officers aren't in law enforcement for glory or thanks, but it is nice to hear. The video itself talks about people who criticize police as having a misguided sense of justice, and calls the deaths of officers in the line of duty "hate crimes." "Humanizing the Badge" also includes articles by "Mike the Cop" talking about "Cop haters."
Furthering the new propaganda campaign is a piece from the May Rap Sheet by the Associated Press about the funeral for a New York officer who was killed by a suspect in Queens, citing "calls for respect at a time when law enforcement is being deeply scrutinized." We certainly don't advocate for violence against the police (or anyone), but relating this incident, and the shooting of two other NYPD officers last December by a troubled young man, to what happened to Eric Garner and Michael Brown leaves out a whole host of analysis about power and social movements. The article cites NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton claiming "What is lost in the shouting and the rhetoric is the context of what we do." 1000 officers from around the nation attended the funeral, which saw snipers posted on rooftops. The good news, for what it's worth: The New York Police Benevolent Association president felt the Mayor had showed proper support for the cops, and unlike in December, no officer turned their back on him. Interesting side note: Moore was given a posthumous promotion, which is apparently commonplace in New York, to get the family more money after an officer's death.
ORCOPS members include the PPA, Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs Assn, and the Police Officers Associations of Washington County, Troutdale and the Oregon State Police.
In the May Rap Sheet, a notification about National Police Week, which happened in mid- May, notes that 273 names were added to the national memorial wall for officers who died in the line of duty this year; what it fails to note is that only 113 of those names were actually from 2014. Of those, only 51 were results of felony homicides, way up from 27 in 2013, but still less than 50% of all on-duty deaths (Oregonian/Washington Post May 31).
Staffing Level Woes
Again playing it as if it's for the community, not for boosting their membership/political power, the PPA has been on a campaign lately to hire more officers. On June 16, Turner posted a piece to the Rap Sheet explaining that they'd filed a grievance against the City because the staffing level is "dangerously low." Complaining that a staffing survey commissioned by the Mayor's office only called to hire five more officers, Turner suggests the PPA would argue for many more hires to investigate crimes and "engage with the community" (there's that theme again) to keep the cops and the community safe. Low staffing levels, they've warned the city, keep them being reactive instead of proactive.
A follow up piece Turner wrote three days later says the Matrix Consulting survey actually asked for 27.5 new positions-- five times more than he originally claimed, but far less than the 150 jobs he says they've lost since 2001. He adds that the low staffing endangers cops serving "very diverse and evolving communities," residents and "those who come to work and play" in Portland. He claims the low staffing levels causes gang violence to increase (see article). Turner notes than many officers are about to retire, and that in the last five years both calls for service and the population went up, citing an FBI statistic suggesting cities over 250,000 should have 2.7 cops per 1000 residents. However, neither they nor Turner seem to care about the relative crime rate as a factor in that ratio.
Clearly as a support to this drumbeat, the Rap Sheet reprinted an AP article from June 23
about the New York police gearing up to hire 1300 more officers-- to add to their force of 35,000.
(Proportionally, that would be like hiring 37 officers in Portland, not so far off from the
Astonishingly, 300 or nearly a quarter of the NYPD's new cops are for counterterrorism.
Training Tips Call For Realistic Stress Scenarios
In PPR #65, we highlighted Police One author David Blake's association with the Force
Science Institute (for Absolving Cops of Wrongdoing). He tried to explain why cameras don't
really reflect what officers do. In an article reprinted in June's Rap Sheet, he seems to be
making a bit more sense talking about High Risk Traffic Stops. He starts with an example of
stopping a stolen car and multiple officers showing up, causing pandemonium. Noting this is not
how it should be-- cars and officers positioned improperly, no less lethal weapons available;
multiple people giving commands-- Blake blames such chaos on "fight or flight" based
stress. Rapid decision making and perceived time constraints lead to diminished critical thinking.
Cortisol and other hormones go up. Tunnel vision and narrow hearing kick in. He critiques training
in which the cars are already set up in position. He thinks officers at the trainings should be thrown
into the scenario stressed out and have to learn to de-escalate, using lights, sirens and radio
transmissions for more realism-- not a bad idea. He notes that shooting ranges are no longer static
(we witnessed this at the PPB's new training facility, where targets slide left and right and forward
and back). The goal, he says, is to get the suspect to come out with their hands on their head, so
slow down, reposition and get more help once that's achieved. Maybe such training would get police
to approach situations with more confidence, less fear, and if Blake is to be taken at face value, the
goal of de-escalation.
The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership, officers, and guest authors 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 pparapsheet.org
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.