People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Quick Flashes PPR #67
When Don't Shoot Portland called for a "Black Lives Matter Friday" protest at the Lloyd Center, Portland Officer John Hurlman posted on twitter: "Oh, joy, stuck late again at work to babysit these fools." For his sensitivity, Assistant Chief Donna Henderson placed Hurlman on desk duty, distancing the PPB from the comments (Mercury Blog, November 24). Our readers know Hurlman for when he shot and killed George, a Labrador Retriever, in 1997 and was indicted on misdemeanor animal abuse charges (PPR #13). Hurlman also chal-lenged the 2012 US Department of Justice findings about excessive force, saying the investigators had no law enforcement experience and texting fellow officers, "this is the same DOJ or people who created Waco and Ruby Ridge" (Oregonian, September 14, 2012).
Lisa Haynes, a 4'-10" African American woman who police mistook for a 5'-4" Latino male suspect in 2012 (PPRs #59-61), sued the officers for violating her rights. It came out in trial that Officer Greg Baldwin, the senior officer on scene, radioed dispatch to be sure they were looking for a Latino man and not a black woman, meaning he knew she didn't match the description. Baldwin told the court he asked Haynes if he could check her backpack for identification even though he knew he had no constitutional authority to do so, then used her reaching to pick it up as probable cause to arrest her and search it. The federal jury considering Haynes' lawsuit could not decide whether Baldwin violated her rights (but agreed junior officer Justin Winkel did not). The judge declared a mistrial, re-set the hearing for January, and urged the parties to come to an out of court settlement (Oregonlive, December 9-12).
Although no Portland Police officer has ever been prosecuted for on-duty use of force, it is possible another Oregon agency may be headed to doing just that-- and in this case the highest-ranking cop in a Southern Oregon county is under scrutiny. Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah was indicted on nine charges, including two counts of assault and one of strangulation. He was booked and released from jail on September 14 (KOBI-5 TV, September 14). Skrah is charged with hitting one man, holding a flashlight to another man's throat, and choking a third man between 2013 and 2015. The Oregon Department of Justice is prosecuting Skrah based on complaints made by several of his deputies (Oregonian, September 12), showing that the thin blue line isn't always engaged in "support the police right or wrong" thinking. Fearful of retaliation, seven of the deputies were put on leave at their own request through the Klamath County Peace Officers Association (Oregonian, August 26). We hope the Portland Police are paying attention.
Clatskanie police officer Alex Stone filed a complaint against his Chief for engaging in racist actions in front of officers, including pantomiming using force against someone while whistling "Dixie." The Chief was allowed to retire while he was being investigated. Stone says he has since received death threats, been harassed, and was even forced off the road while driving off duty (Oregonian, September 9). Since anti-racist cops speaking out are so few and far between, we hope that Officer Stone will prevail and the community will support him.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.