People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
More Lawsuits for Protest Violence Cost City Big
In the last two years, City Council has paid out roughly two-thirds of a million dollars for police violence at protests. The dates of the protests
range from August 2018 to September 2020. Portland Copwatch (PCW) only has access to those settlements over $5000 which are required to come to Council for a vote. The Council agreed they would put settlements over $50,000 on the public agenda, meaning that PCW members have had to pull several from the "consent agenda" to force public discussion of the incidents. In a few cases, the victims and/or their attorneys have spoken to Council about what happened. More often than not, the most any Council member says is that they feel community members should not be harmed by people who are sworn to protect and serve. Yet, no discussions have taken place about how to change officer behavior to stop the steady flow of money which otherwise could be used to build community rather than repair harms.
The most recent cases:
--Alonna Mitsch, the woman who was arrested for twerking in the vicinity of a police vehicle in August 2019, was awarded $75,000 for the force officers used to throw her to the ground. Of course, part of the settlement is the City saying they don't agree there was wrongdoing. And since the officers were not found out of policy for the force, even when Mitsch appealed to the Citizen Review Committee, the worst that will happen to any officer is possible discipline for the one who failed to properly document the incident in a report (PPR #84).
--Erica Christiansen, who was shoved to the ground and shot with a less-lethal weapon at point- blank range by Officer Brent Taylor (#51250) during a protest on August 9, 2020, was awarded $30,000 on June 22.
--Two reporters who apparently were repeatedly targeted by police in May and June 2020 were given $55,000 to split with their attorneys. Though the Council paperwork, as usual, refers to an "encounter" with police, the Oregonian (July 8, 2020) and Oregon Public Broadcasting (July 1, 2020) indicate the police smacked down one of their cameras and roughly arrested them despite their being clearly identified as media. There was no indication whether the officers were investigated for misconduct either for violating reporters' First Amendment rights or more broadly for stopping people from observing the police (prohibited in Directive 635.20). At the Council vote on July 20, both Commissioner Hardesty and Commissioner Rubio made brief remarks. The County and State also reached settlements of $15,000 and $20,000 respectively for this conduct.
All in all, PCW counts $656,382 paid out in 12 cases over the course of 25 months, thus averaging almost $55,000 per violent incident.
Meanwhile, a case in which a protestor was roughed up by police for spitting in their direction is being allowed to move forward because a judge did not find that her action was unlawful (Oregonian, May 6). Another case involving a person who was apparently deliberately hit by a truck while protesting is getting new life after his attorney provided video of the incident-- video that police investigators claim did not exist (Oregonian, June 10). This last case is more about police lack of action than direct violence, but it all adds up to the cops not caring about people if those people are seeking police accountability.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.