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Rapping Back - PPR #70
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet" for the People's Police Report

Police Ruin Public Relations Partially Reporting Polarizing Reflections

Once again, Portland Copwatch (PCW) has analyzed postings to the Portland Police Association (PPA) official newsletter site, the Rap Sheet, as well as its Facebook page. We looked at 51 posts from mid-August to mid-November, suprised that the flagship pparapsheet.org only had 8 articles posted in the same time. Only two of those pieces were PPA originals (the rest linking to external sites), and no articles are shown as posted in the months of September or October. In December, they acquired a new web tool that imports the Facebook posts from both the PPA and ORCOPS, the lobbying entity headed by PPA President Daryl Turner, blurring the lines with the Rap Sheet completely. In total, there were 31 more Facebook posts until December 14. As in the past, the majority of the Facebook posts--42 of 82 (51%)-- focused on the Portland Police Bureau (with 38 re-posts from the PPB's Facebook page). Three Rap Sheet posts and 16 on Facebook were about officers shot in the line of duty. We found some other themes and present that information below.

"Community Engagement": This is What Blue-Washing Looks Like

In the environmental movement, the term "green-washing" is used to talk about polluters who try to paint themselves as eco-friendly. As the police struggle to gain public confidence in the post- Ferguson era, and the PPB specifically works on "community outreach and engagement" as listed in the US Department of Justice Agreement, it has given rise to what we're calling "blue- washing."* At least 21 items posted to the PPA's Facebook page involved officers doing some kind of charity work. Not that it's a bad thing to have the cops spend a whole month supporting a cure for breast cancer (11 posts, including officers who are survivors) or wanting to help with school supplies (2 posts) / food and household items for families in need (3 more). However, in the broader context of a Bureau which still disproportionately interacts with African Americans including in use of force cases, and exerts more force against people with mental health issues and/or who are houseless, it seems cynical to do so without apologizing and changing behavior. Sort of like an abusive husband bringing home a bouquet of flowers but continuing the abuse.

The Oregonian, whose October 7 article was one of the PPA's Facebook posts, added to the blue- washing in reporting an interaction between Sgt. Anthony Passadore (who shot and wounded a man in 2006--PPR #40) and Justin Smith, a man with developmental disabilities. Smith had created a craft bracelet and wanted to give it to a police officer. When Passadore came to the Bethesda Day program to swap a police badge sticker for the bracelet, he noted his sense of kinship with Smith was because they both "know what it's like to be judged because of how they act and what they do." The difference, of course, is that Smith was born with his disability, and Passadore chose to put on the police uniform. This is why Dave Chappelle made his joke on Saturday Night Live in November: "Blue Lives Matter? What, was you born a police? That is not a blue life. If you don't like it, take that blue suit off, find a new job. If I could quit being black today, I'd be out of the game."

A more troubling trend is the use of children to promote police as "family-friendly" militarized agents of the state. A November 21 post features Sergeant Chadd Stensgaard at Irvington Elementary, showing off his "equipment"-- with a young child wearing a riot helmet and body armor. Similar photos show a child in a Halloween costume as an officer (which, it should be noted, doesn't have a weapon as part of it) with Officer Raelynn McKay (11/1), and a child in a toy police car next to Officer Alfonso Valadez in an actual car in a photo posted to national site PoliceOne.com (9/9). A few other images show Sgt. Jacob Jensen "crashing a 4-year-old's Birthday party" (12/6), another officer at Woodlawn elementary (11/18), officers at "Friday Night Lights" school football (9/2), cadets handing out police stickers at a soccer game (9/12), and officers receiving thank you cards from neighborhood kids who'd received stickers (9/9). The PPB also celebrated one year of "Geocaching," a cell-phone based game that involves the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) location of the user's phone (12/6).

In a messed-up appropriation of "girl power," when four year old Washingtonian Kinley Goertler was upset that the advertisement for a police Halloween costume showed a boy wearing it, her complaint started an internet meme on "Girl Cops are Awesome." Kinley apparently visited a Portland event with that theme on October 27 and was photographed-- wearing her Iron Man costume-- for a picture with female PPB officers (10/28). *Some right-wingers refer to ecological efforts by the United Nations as "bluewashing." This is a better use of the term.

Policing Protests and the US Elections

On November 10, after two days of mass protests against the professed policies of incoming President Donald Trump, the PPA's Facebook page cross-posted a news release from Chief Marshman asking protestors to communicate with the police before taking to the streets. The release quoted Mayor Hales saying the City has to "put safety first." Still not understanding that people protest when people in power (including the Mayor and the police) aren't acting in the interest of the governed, Marshman exaggerated issues with the protests, saying "peaceful protest shifted to vandalism" (reviving the debate about whether all property damage is inherently not "peaceful"... are Earth First protestors who monkey-wrenched clear-cuts violent in the same way police are?) and implied "theft and arson" were widespread at the demonstrations. The Chief then explains one person threw a Molotov cocktail, and one other person had their cell phone stolen. These overbroad brushstrokes are partly what led to the cops telling the media to call the protests "riots" even when live video showed people wandering casually in the streets while police holding their thumbs in their utility belts calmly observed.

After the police fired pepper spray, tear gas, and concussion grenades/flash-bangs into crowds of people (article), apparently some in the city felt this was an example of "community policing." On Thanksgiving (November 24), PPA President Daryl Turner wrote "Brave men and women protected city with compassion, resolve and dedication amidst an anti-police climate." On November 14, Turner published a graphic on the Rap Sheet site (and Facebook page) with the statement "Thank you, Portland, for the kind words and community support over the past few days. It means the world to our officers." The previous day, the PPA reposted a Facebook image from a community member who said the riot squad asked her to take a picture of them in full gear holding their hands in heart shapes. One commenter did note the irony of the militarized police making it seem like Happy-Go-Lucky-Land. Another, former PPB Sergeant John Minnis-- who went on to become a Republican state senator in Oregon and head the Department of Public Safety, Standards and Training-- posted a comment pushing back on people who thought the police had been too lax on protestors. "It's not the rank and file that need admonishing. The Mayor and City Council are left- wing nut jobs [who] support the anarchists." Not too surprising as Minnis also sought to categorize protestors as "terrorists" in the early 2000s (PPR #29).

An outside piece from PoliceOne.com editor Doug Wylie, posted and linked to by the Rap Sheet on November 9, made predictions about the Trump presidency. Recalling when President Obama called out the cops for racially profiling an African American Harvard professor entering his own house, Wylie wrote: "It is safe to assume there will be no need for a 'beer summit' during the Trump administration, and that politically left-leaning appointees at the DOJ will soon be floating their resumes." Wylie points out the National Fraternal Order of Police (with which, thankfully, the PPA is not directly associated) endorsed Trump in part because he went out of his way to share photos of himself shaking hands with the officers on his security detail. (Remember that, those who still wonder why PCW has a policy not to shake hands with police-- PPR #59.) Wylie notes protests would likely continue, saying "Police will have to protect the first Amendment rights of those who take to the streets, while also preventing the destruction of property that has been commonplace in demonstrations following controversial police shootings in recent years." He calls the protests an "ongoing officer safety issue" but then also admits Trump himself is unpredictable. Wylie also sounds excited there will be more immigration enforcement and suggests with likely increases in US military action in Syria, law enforcement in the US need to be vigilant for blowback from such a policy. He doesn't, however, urge Trump to take a more thoughtful course of action.

Still Talking Short Staffing and "Gang" Crimes

Even as the PPA contract was signed in mid-September to supposedly bring in dozens of new police recruits (and stop old cops from retiring by allowing them to "double dip"--more in article), the PPA continued its propaganda about being short-staffed. A KPTV-Fox12 story quoted Officer Patrick Murphy about the "catastrophic" reductions being proposed to the Gang Enforcement Team, cross-posted to the PPA Facebook page on September 6. The Rap Sheet linked to a November 10 story from the Portland Tribune saying "gang" violence is unlikely to break the record this year. They credit the operation in April which led to 51 arrests (PPR #69) and involved "contacts" with 105 former offenders (who weren't necessarily visibly engaging in any criminal activity when police approached them). In his Thanksgiving Facebook note to PPA members, PPA President Turner nonetheless refers to "skyrocketing gang violence" that keeps officers from being "proactive."

The Rap Sheet also reposted a recruitment video published by the Bureau on December 7. It mostly features officers of color and includes one comment that cops are "not perfect." Activist Micah Rhodes was among dozens who posted cynical responses, listing various people killed by the PPB over the years.

Its Bite is Worse than Its Bark

An October 6 posting on the PPA's Facebook page reveals Portland's nine K-9 dogs are getting body armor thanks to a Massachusetts-based non-profit called "Vested Interest." The Portland vests are being sponsored by the Margaret Thiele Petti Foundation, funded by a Portland restaurateur. The cost per vest is $1050. As with the people who privately fund the mounted patrol, we wonder why these wealthy donors don't just agree to pay more money in taxes and let the government decide how to spend it, rather than continuing the exploitation of animals to enforce state power through violence. The Bureau's 2015 annual report on their progress with the DOJ agreement was published in early October with the above image of a young girl petting a K-9. We asked whether that was the dog who bit the unarmed, African American Aaron Campbell after he'd been mortally wounded by a sniper bullet in 2010 (PPR #50)? Or maybe he was the K-9 who was supposed to bite "JB," the African American teenager shot by the police in 2012, but bit the wrong person (PPR #68)?

The Rap Sheet also reposted a recruitment video published by the Bureau on December 7. It mostly features officers of color and includes one comment that cops are "not perfect." Activist Micah Rhodes was among dozens who posted cynical responses, listing various people killed by the PPB over the years.

The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership and officers express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their online newsletter. We worry these ideas may spread throughout Portland's ranks.

The Rap Sheet is at www.PPARapSheet.org;
the PPA's website is www.ppavigil.org.

  People's Police Report

January, 2017
Also in PPR #70

Police Kill 1st Man in a Year;
  Former Chief Indicted

  Shootings in Other Oregon Jurisdictions
Bad Police Contract Rushed Into Place
Judge Seeks Fixed DOJ Oversight Body
Review Board Makes Recommendations
Proposed Oversight Changes in Works
Cop Complaints Sustained Over Civilians'
Profiling: "Gang" List, $90K Settlement
Updates PPR 70
  • Cops Sweep Houseless from Springwater
  Policy Changes at a Standstill
  Sheriff Reese Keeps Job Till 2018
  WashCo Sheriff Troubling Behavior
  Training Council Squanders Time with Chief
  Mohammed Loses Appeal
Quick Flashes PPR 70
  PPB Violence at Post-Election Protests
  City Pays Big Bucks for Misconduct
Rapping Back #70

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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