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Blue-washing Belittles Basic Beefs with Brutality by Boasting about Benevolence
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet" for the People's Police Report

2/3 of Police Association's Posts Focus on Good Deeds by Cops

It's fairly clear that police in Portland-- and around the country-- have experienced blowback for their years of racially imbalanced enforcement of law, including use of deadly force, particularly since the 2014 Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. Last issue, we began using the term "blue- washing" to describe efforts by police to focus solely on things they are doing which are (or seem) helpful to the community. We're not arguing police shouldn't do good things, only that they have to make reparations for and put an end to their brutal, racist tactics or the positive actions don't move the needle in their direction.

We looked at all the posts to the Portland Police Association's Facebook page from mid-December to mid-January, and to their Rap Sheet page from that time until mid-April. Out of 79 pieces posted, at least 49 of them--62%-- were puff pieces about various "Officers Friendly." Nearly half the posts are pulled into pparapsheet.org from the ORCOPS lobbying Facebook page, and quite a few of those were news stories-- mostly from other states-- shining a light only on positive things done by officers. 19 of the 49 stories were about Portland Police, including Detectives receiving a Crime Prevention award from the construction industry (March 6), dancing at a "Celebrate Schools Festival" (February 28), and Detective Hopper from the Bomb Squad sharing her robot with kids at a SE Portland day care (February 8). There were, as was the case from August to December, many images of cops with young people, as well as links to media photos of officers goofing around with participants at the Jan. 21 Women's March (January 25 & 26).

Out-of state stories included ones from Kentucky, New York, DC, California, Texas, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. The content included making a pop-music video with a girl with bone marrow cancer (March 1), letting a teen who overcame a brain tumor play cop for a day (March 16), and building a fence to help an elderly couple keep homeless people out of their yard (March 3). The questionable subtext of this last story was echoed a few other times.

One story boasted about ORCOPS' efforts to defeat proposed laws in Salem including one requiring release of grand jury transrcipts.

The PPA only posted six pieces of their own in the entire four months-- one was a holiday greeting and one simply showed three pictures in honor of Black History Month (February 7). One was a piece expressing alarm that Chief Marshman had been placed on leave (March 24). The majority of PPA's posts were reposts from the Portland Police Bureau, which is also specializing in positive public relations. On February 3, the PPB posted a video of the "Super Bowl lineup" where a dozen or so officers listed their school affiliations and ended with a warning they'd be out looking for drunk drivers. The Rap Sheet also posted the PPB's and a KGW-TV news story about the canine cop and human officer who located a two year old who'd gone missing in the snow (February 19 and 23).

There were also stories about cops clowning around with kids: A Texas school safety officer (March 5) and Washington County (OR) deputies playing on a playground (February 24). This latter story is quite disconcerting as the officers are spinning on an open-edge platform with their guns sticking out of their holsters. Summing it up is a news story from Oakland posted on March 6, where an officer talks about how kids should want to be police when they grow up. He says, "99% of cops are good people with good intentions." Even if that's true, we maintain that the best cops are the ones who prevent or turn in the ones who are foisting violence and misconduct on community members. Those are some human interest stories we'd like to see.

Staffing Levels Still An Issue Post-Contract

Even though it was implied that the Bureau's staffing problems would turn around when the City gave the PPA $6 million (or is it $9 million?) and no new accountability measures, a piece posted to the Rap Sheet on March 17 showed that they are using staffing shortages to rile up mainstream Portlanders.

A KGW news story quoted an organizer of Portland's Shamrock Run bemoaning the Bureau's "policy 33," where they won't send more than 33 officers to cover paid athletic events any more. The story says the cost per officer is $80-100 per hour, which means up to $280,000/year, likely because cops working those posts are paid overtime. The story notes the Run paid for 64 officers in 2016 but "the police bureau just doesn't have the bodies to staff controlled races to those levels anymore" and officers "cannot request reinforcements from outside police agencies, as those resources will be reserved for protests, emergencies and parades."

One fascinating tidbit we didn't know: "according to Oregon state law, any closed intersection must be manned by a law enforcement officer."

While continuing to bemoan the lack of officers, the Rap Sheet also cross-posted a PPB video of about 15 officers (mostly white males) being sworn in on January 26, and a photo of a much more diverse pool of seven new cops posted on March 2.

Only Articles by Officers Reveal Police Mindset

"Rapping Back" has been inspired for over 24 years by negative comments officers make about community members, either directly from Portland or via articles posted from national sources. We do commend the PPA for reducing such commentary by highlighting more positive stories, but want to hear more about ending abuse, racism and corruption.

That said, only two pieces authored by officers were posted to the Rap Sheet since December. One, a Medium.com piece on the "blue wall of silence," defines that term as cops keeping good deeds to themselves, and critiques perceptions of officers as "jack-booted authoritarians who care nothing for the community." The other is a September 2016 "Uniform Stories" article originally posted on PoliceOne.com. It lists seven reasons an anonymous cop likes being an officer.

Since the author says "The Mrs. is great all by herself, but after responding to domestic disturbance after domestic disturbance for years, I know how lucky I am to have her in my life," we will assume for argument's sake it is a male officer.

He opens by saying how cops are put on the spot to make bad situations better, and "use only the amount of force that has been deemed appropriate by the internet and media when arresting those who don't want to be arrested." He continues, "Those of us who don a ballistic vest, uniform, and duty belt hit the streets knowing very well there are people in this world that will not hesitate to try and take our lives. Even in my quaint little suburban town, I've had my fair share of single-fingered waves by passing motorists," as if flipping off a cop is the equivalent of wanting to do physical harm.

Here are his seven items of happiness: 1. Protecting those who cannot protect themselves ("Placing handcuffs on a suspect of a brutal crime is even [more gratifying]"). 2. Getting help to someone who needs it ("Sometimes the best answer is to jail a drug offender so the court can mandate treatment"-- uh, maybe get them treatment without arresting them?). 3. Variety is the spice of life (Waxing poetic about how even calls to the same sites are never the same). 4. I appreciate my family life more (Where he adds to the above comment about "the Mrs.": "The same is true with my kids because we deal with some real disrespectful juveniles at times.") 5. I'm a more informed parent (he's pleased to be able to use his position as a cop to deny his kids' ability to have a sleepover somewhere). 6. I don't have to decide what to wear to work (ha ha ha). 7. I work with some real good cops.

He closes by adding, "I mean who doesn't like to drive fast and get paid to go shoot at the range?" Right, that's what upholding the constitution is all about.

The Rap Sheet also ran six stories about the K-9 unit (including two dogs who died and the arrival of their new protective vests--PPR #70), and six about officers who were shot (one from Portland in 1998, three about the state trooper shot on Christmas--article here-- and two about officers shot in Mt. Vernon, WA and Boise, ID).

PPA Admits Portland Not Over-Run by Crime, Indulges in Hypocrisy of Selfless Portrait

In his holiday message to the Police Association (December 24), PPA President Daryl Turner told the rank-and-file "You continue to keep Portland one of the safest cities in America." This is in stark contrast to the PPA's PR campaign for a better contract in which they showed rising levels of "gang" shootings and car theft (PPR #69).

Turner also repeated a well-worn trope that "every man and woman who wears the badge ... serves the communities of this nation without regard for their own well-being." But if that were true, there wouldn't be so many officers depending on "I feared for my life" as an excuse to shoot and kill civilians.

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. We worry these ideas may spread through the rank-and-file.

  People's Police Report

May, 2017
Also in PPR #71

Police Kill Black Teen,
  Wound White Man Same Day

  Oregon Police: 31 Shootings 2016-17
City Disbands DOJ Oversight Body
Council Hears Rare Misconduct Appeal
Changes Made to Oversight System
Protests Met with Violence or Hugs
Newspaper Shows Profiling Widespread
Survey: People of Color Fear Profiling
Problems Plague Jail, Sheriff
Training Council Focuses on Tasers
PRB Report: Officer Not Disciplined
Police Absent in Houseless Debate
PPB Asks for Policy Input Again
City, County and ICE
Quick Flashes PPR 71
  • Trooper Slaps Son, Loses Job
  • Chief, Aide Put on Leave
  • Civilian Kills Homeless Man, No Charges
  • Law Will Exclude People from Meetings
Updates PPR 71
  • Mohammed Mohamud's Appeal Denied
Rapping Back #71

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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