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Lawsuits: City Continues Losing in Court,
Making Payments for Protest Actions
Portland Police Tactic on Political Street Brawls: Sit Back and Watch

Aside from three highly publicized sets of demonstrations between late August and mid-November, most of the news about police and protests over the last few months has been about policy issues and payouts for damage done. A series of lawsuits around police trying to hide public records and livestreaming protests (see the article in this issue) were decided in the community's favor. Settlements were announced [screenshot of city council]for four incidents that occurred between 2018 and 2020, totalling over $300,000. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB)'s response to protests also produced some announcements about criminal cases against cops being dropped, and a set of recommendations on policy and training from the Citizen Review Committee headed to City Council (see the IPR article in this issue). Of the recent visible protest responses, one generating controversy was where police decided not to intervene when antifascists confronted right-wing ralliers, which led to guns being fired downtown on August 22. A November 19 demonstration against the verdict finding Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty for shooting three protestors in Wisconsin was met by violence from the Multnomah County Sheriff's office.

The policy wins for the community resulted from lawsuits filed by Alan Kessler, an attorney focused on transparency. Kessler had tried to get the names of officers who were only wearing identification numbers which weren't related to their "badge numbers" after the PPB gave a blanket ok not to follow its directive on wearing nametags early during the 2020 protests. The Bureau claimed it was to protect officers from being "doxxed," or having their personal information researched and posted online. However, Kessler won easily by relaying to the judge that when he asked to identify officers by the ID numbers, the City said he had to know their names to get that information. The Judge wrote a "scathing decision" against the City and ordered the names be released (Oregonian, October 22). Among those named-- already suspected but now confirmed-- were Officer Brent Taylor and Detective Erik Kammerer. Kessler also won a suit requiring that when text messages between officers are disclosed to the public, their phone numbers must be included (Willamette Week, November 17).

Taylor was also in the news because the District Attorney's office decided not to pursue criminal charges against him for shooting Erica Christiansen at point-blank range with a "less-lethal" munition at a protest in August 2020. The DA also stopped looking into Officer Thomas Clark for slamming Tyler Cox's head into the pavement later that month (Oregonian, September 5). However, Kammerer is still being investigated by the state (PPR #84).

At the Rittenhouse protest, employees of the Sheriff's office (who may or may not have been Deputies trained in crowd control) launched tear gas and other less lethal weapons at protestors banging on the garage door that leads to the downtown Justice Center jail.

To be clear, the City admits no wrongdoing in the payments made for police excessive use of force, and no discipline is necessarily tied to the settlements. On September 8, City Council awarded $50,000 to Michelle Fawcett, one of two people hit by less-lethal weapons and seriously wounded at a counter-demonstration against neo-fascists in August 2018. On December 1, Council awarded Aaron Cantu $125,000 for the incident where an officer fired a round into the back of his head, avoiding killing him only because he was wearing a helmet (PPR #75). That same day, they agreed to give Dajah Beck $25,000 for an unspecified "bodily injury" she suffered during a protest outside the Portland Police Association headquarters in September 2020 (location from KPTV-12, September 29, 2020). Lydia Fuller agreed to a settlement of $22,500 (still pending) for an officer firing a "less lethal" weapon at her chest when she turned around while trying to leave a protest in June 2020. In that case, the City tried to get her to drop the suit because she couldn't say for sure it was Portland Police who fired the round (Willamette Week, October 27). On December 22, Council voted to give $100,000 to Dmitri Stoyanoff. In September, 2020, police grabbed his "register to vote" sign, saying it was a potential weapon, pepper sprayed and kicked him.

During the discussion at Council awarding Fawcett's payment, Mayor Wheeler declared he had changed his mind about the decision to have police stay back while the alt-right and antifascists brawled in the streets on August 22. Fighting took the form of "fireworks explod[ing], pepper spray and projectiles fill[ing] the air" including those from paintball and airsoft guns (Portland Tribune, August 25). Officers had been told not to take vacation so they could be "all hands on deck" to respond to the expected conflicts that day, yet never intervened, even when two people apparently shot at each other with live rounds downtown shortly after the East Portland incident. Wheeler had originally defended the strategy, but admitted the people who live in the East Portland neighborhood where police had urged the right-wingers to protest were upset about the violent conflict in their streets. As if to emphasize how far away they were from the action, about a week afterward Portland Police asked members of the community and the media to identify people who were involved in criminal activity (Oregonian, September 3).

Meanwhile, the Federal government is being taken to task for keeping files on protestors who were arrested. A report about the Department of Homeland Security's intrusive intelligence gathering noted the people were arrested for "trivial infractions having little or no connection to domestic terrorism" (Oregonian, October 2).

  [People's Police Report]

January, 2022
Also in PPR #85

2021 Portland Police Shootings Quadruple 2020
  • State Deadly Force Incidents Taper Off in Second Half of 2021
City, DOJ Hash Out Remedies for Failed Compliance
Council Votes to "Re-fund the Police"
Lawsuits: City Pays Out More for Protest Actions
Citizen Committee Punts Whistleblower Case
Commission to Design Oversight Board Meets
Chief Overrides Review Board to Punish Two Cops
Houseless Community Faces More Private Security
Force Data Ignores Race at Training Council
Sheriff's Last 12 Months Start w/Vax Card Scandal
Organizers Set for Testimony on Terror Task Force
Bureau Agrees with Copwatch on One Policy
Updates PPR #85:
 • Almost No Progress on Police Association Contract
 • Suit: Former Police Assoc. Head Leaked Unconfirmed Info
 • Revamped Gun Team Forming; Profiling Numbers Unchanged
Rapping Back #85

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.

People's Police Report #85 Table of Contents
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