People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Creeping Corporate Contact with Cops Creates Concern
The nagging sense one gets from examining the 14 recent posts to the Portland Police Association (PPA)'s newsletter site the Rap Sheet, and the 75 posts to their Facebook page, is that there's a growing symbiotic relationship between corporations and the police. In PPR #68, we ran a piece about how the Portland Business Alliance's Citizen Crime Commission used the PPB training facility for a "fun-filled" fundraiser. In articles posted from late April to mid-August, 7 Rap Sheet articles and 9 Facebook listings were either outright/mildly disguised advertisements for the companies supporting the PPA's golf fundraiser or revealed more police- corporate ties.
The example which had the greatest impact came in the May Rap Sheet, where the head of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (Foundation) Craig Floyd gushed about media monopolists Clear Channel/iHeart Media using their titanic industry to pay tribute to officers who died in the line of duty. Though just 123 died in 2015, the "multiplatform media tribute" included 252 names, presumably some dating back to 1791 when the list begins. Clear Channel was able to put information about the officers on over 1000 digital billboards and bus shelters, Public Service Announcements on 850 radio stations, and a moment of silence for two minutes as part of the media blitz. There's no mention of differentiating those officers who died in car crashes or other such incidents (the majority) from those who were killed by civilians, and certainly nobody's holding their breath for a Clear Channel campaign with images of the countless African Americans gunned down by the police.
On July 1, the PPA cross-posted an ad for the "Badges and Ladders" event at the new minor league Portland Pickles baseball game. They announce that there will be "Fun!" in the form of the Mounted Patrol, K-9 Unit, motorcycles and squad cars. We continue to object to the horses and dogs that attack community members being trotted out as "fun" and "family-friendly" icons of a system that uses violence to put down its citizenry.
Rather than name names, suffice it to say that the various companies who support the PPA's golf
tournament, particularly those who appear to be in the major sponsor categories, received their own
posts, with logos and service descriptions, on the Rap Sheet site, the Facebook page, or both.
The one supporter worth mentioning is Portland Patrol, Inc, the notorious security firm which is
headed and mostly staffed by retired Portland Police, and which, as they put it, "are the Safe in
the downtown Clean & Safe program" (i.e. they can harass homeless people even when the
Mayor orders the PPB to stand down).
Following the horrifying killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge (by two individuals trained by the US military, it should be noted), at least 21 Facebook posts and one Rap Sheet article were dedicated to follow up on the incidents. The Rap Sheet piece, posted on July 10, included the talks given by PPA President Daryl Turner and the Association's former attorney Will Aitchison at a memorial in Portland that day. Turner borrowed heavily from his own talk on Police Memorial Week (May 10), referring to how officers made the "ultimate sacrifice" to protect people regardless of "race, creed, color, religion, or sexual orientation" (actually, he added "gender" in the July speech). In both talks he spoke about how officers choose "resolve" over "irrationality" and "dignity" over "depravity." After Dallas, he added that the outpouring of support for police in the wake of the shooting is "turning the tide. The tide of anti-police sentiment, the tide of the us and them mentality, and the tide of distrust."
In a comment on Turner's July 17 Facebook posting honoring the officers in Baton Rouge, Robert Chamberlain blames President Obama for the spate of shootings and says Obama should "rot in hell."
For his part, Aitchison expressed that in his 37 years working with police he realized how difficult their jobs are, as the community expects them to enforce laws, be mental health counselors, shelter people from danger, and make split second decisions. As such, he says the officers should not be "excoriated" for making "reasonable decisions." That's fair, but let's focus on the issue of "reasonable." Aitchison is referring to the Graham v. Connor court decision that says one must see deadly force from the perspective of a "reasonable" officer and not with 20/20 hindsight. It doesn't address community standards, the context of racial profiling, or, other than the "totality of the circumstances," whether the person is actually threatening the officer with a weapon. Aitchison talks about good deeds done by officers including giving shoes to homeless people and getting domestic violence survivors into shelters, because it's the "right thing to do." He says officers don't see in black and white, but understand the nuances of our society. In that case, they should be embracing the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, and holding accountable the officers who use excessive and deadly force disproportionately and inappropriately on African Americans in this country.
But instead, Aitchison uses tired tropes, which an attorney urging nuance should avoid. He says no officer wants to use firearms but does so because there is "no other choice," even though that's usually not the case. He recalls one Portland officer who wept in his arms after using deadly force to "protect a citizen from certain death." He wrongly asserts that he now goes to as many Portland Police shooting scenes in four years as he used to in one year; to be true, the PPB would have had to shoot 16-20 people per year, a rate we have no record of ever existing (the average number of shootings/deaths is 4.5 per year since 2010).
Aitchison then lists ways policing has changed over the years, decrying the instant judgments being made based on "3 seconds of video," how impressions have become more important than facts, and how officers are scrutinized for discipline, prosecution, civil lawsuits and the "tilted lens of the media." He says these new realities are why it's so hard to recruit new officers. His proposed solution to the divisions growing in America is for the police and community to sit and talk-- not for the police to admit fault or consider new ideas, but rather that they need to explain what they do.
In one of the few outside opinion pieces posted by the PPA, Melissa Littles of "The Police Wife Life" blog offers a sarcastic apology to other members of the community (Rap Sheet, April 25). Littles' husband, apparently an African American police officer, is a "better person than me," she says, because he is willing to stand in front of a bullet for you (community members), but "I wonder if you're worth it" / "I don't think you're worth it." She apologizes for feeling "fearful and angry and resentful" but "you have made it hard to keep caring about you." She reports seeing "bricks and rocks and trashcans ablaze being hurled at officers... and wishing you ill will," then asserts that she is a Christian. Littles asks whether her husband might get less flack "because his skin is black" or whether he would be considered a "traitor," apologizing to other officers' wives thinking his race is an advantage. (Mind you, this was all written before Dallas and Baton Rouge.) Decrying a public that increasingly "hates" police, she says seeing her husband alive is more important than him "dying for you."
But let's get this straight: demanding accountability is not "hateful," and most people in the movement believe everyone gets to go home at night. Can't we start by agreeing on those two points?
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.