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Rapping Back #86:
Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes the Police "Union" social media (formerly the "Rap Sheet" newsletter) for the People's Police Report

Overstating Dangers Obviously Dismisses Overall Damage

[screenshots from online Rap Sheet]The Portland Police Association (PPA) posted 36 items on their Facebook page between mid-April and early August. The largest number--nine -- had to do with officers who were shot, injured or killed on duty, probably because May was Police Officer Memorial Month, and there was a string of incidents in Portland where cops were (or were nearly) injured. Unlike the previous officer involved shooting in February, the ones from May and July did prompt commentary (see article in this issue). However, as noted below, there is a disconnect between how relatively few officers get harmed and how many community members are shot/killed by police. The other main categories were crime (seven pieces), staffing and "bluewashing" (six each). Individual posts addressed politics (the PPA endorsing Rene Gonzalez in the City Council primary), protests, and the K-9 unit.

Fifteen of the 36 were generated by the PPA, with another fifteen (plus two of the PPA pieces) coming from media sources. Five came from the Police Bureau and one from social media. A recurring theme in the media pieces: Sgt. Aaron Schmautz, the PPA's President, was asked to give his opinion about these various topics, despite the fact that he is a spokesperson for a collective bargaining unit whose main function is to be sure officers get fair wages and benefits and to grow the membership of his organization (and, as a side hustle, to impose undue influence on police policies).

Embracing Oversight--Not

In his July 24 post about officers whose lives were endangered, Schmautz attacks oversight efforts. He says that there is "destructive second-guessing of every event" comprised of "endless audits, reviews and haranguing of split-second decisions." Yes, and...? Isn't that what happens to civilians who are going to criminal court because of police decisions, where the stakes are much higher than getting time off without pay? For the record, the same day an officer was not hit by gunfire before his partner killed a 19 year old man, another officer was apparently deliberately hit by a car and sent to the hospital, while two other officers engaged in what's described as a six minute fight leading to both of them being injured as well.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do. Also, Give Me More Money

[collage of multiple screenshots of Schmautz on tv shows]In one of two interviews with the allegedly unbiased News Nation, posted on April 21, Schmautz bemoaned that crime victims aren't getting attention because of the "unrest" (aka protests against police violence), and houselessness. Not surprisingly, he mentioned that law enforcement needs more funding after the 2020 "defunding" (where $15 million was cut out of a $200 million + budget). He apparently had the opportunity to talk directly with President Biden about funding. Schmautz offered his carefully worded agreement that the PPA is willing to "talk accountability" (and not do anything about it) but that the police need to be listened to or more will leave the force. He mentioned officers' "courage and stamina" three times.

The second interview (posted on June 18) posits that drug decriminalization in Oregon is failing. Schmautz says he's ok with trying to treat people with addiction but says the unintended consequences of legislation led to two High School students overdosing. (Actually, that was due to them getting tainted drugs, but that's another story.) He also conflates addiction with homelessness. Schmautz adds that the PPB can't keep up due to low staffing levels. The "unbiased" reporter asked whether Schmautz feels supported. He talked about how the treatment money isn't being spent because of red tape, and the law is stopping officers from "interdicting." The reporter asked about morale and Schmautz launched into a discussion of the so-called ambushes on officers (see discussion below).

What really stands out is how Schmautz denounces other people's violence. It's commendable to speak out against an unprovoked attack of two elderly men, as he did on June 28. He states "no violence in our (country) is acceptable. It never accomplishes anything and drives us apart." Talking to KGW-8TV on April 19, Schmautz reacts to vandalism and arson committed during a protest that led to broken windows and a dumpster fire. He says "Nothing good comes from this behavior," talking about a small group of people who want to "damage our country and city. The time has come to end unnecessary violence." Since that protest was about the Grand Rapids, Michigan police shooting of Patrick Lyoya, that was in fact the point of the protest. Whose unnecessary violence are we talking about here?

In related stories:

--An ABC news national story on April 20 talked about the money spent on homelessness in Portland, noting that 30% of homicides are of homeless people. Schmautz is interviewed, calling for more funding of police and prosecution.

--A story on Police.com from June 3 reviews how the PPB is recruiting new officers, saying the current 772 sworn officers of 882 authorized is somehow exacerbated by the City having cut 119 positions since 2020. They do no analysis of the fact that there are 110 open positions the Bureau is unable to fill.

This story also says that many officers left due to the stresses of COVID-19 and "civil unrest," not mentioning that civil unrest was about police abuse and led to police abusing those calling for an end to that abuse.

--A KGW story from May 2 talks about how busy/ stretched thin the police were a day earlier, Schamutz calls it "heartbreaking" that a community member with an emergency may not get service, therefore increasing the likelihood they will not call again.

--Almost the exact same story ran on KOIN-6TV the next day with Schmautz adding that "people need to be heard." He challenges the City to hire 800 more officers. He was allowed to repeat the call for more cops on KOIN both on July 18 and July 26.

Three stories posted to underscore Portland's crime "problem" were about 10 shootings in 24 hours on May 28, people arrested for street racing on June 13, and the Enhanced Community Safety Team investigation which led to a May 10 US Marshals-aided arrest of two "dangerous offenders" with the PPB's Special Emergency Reaction Team, Crisis Negotiation, the K-9 Unit and Air Support. Stretched thin indeed.

Stretching the Imagination

The seven pieces about officers who were killed or injured included one about the last Portland officer to die in the line of duty-- Officer Kirk Huffstetler, who was killed on the way to a call when his patrol car slammed into a concrete wall in May 2012 (May 26 post). Huffstetler is mentioned in the May 17 post called "why we remember," talking about the "ultimate sacrifice" made by officers. Schamutz writes, "No matter what else occurs, the thin blue line drawn between order and chaos endures." He adds that the City should all stand up and support the heroes who selflessly serve. The piece is accompanied by a video of officer names. Where is the memorial for civilians killed by police? (That is, beyond the Portland Copwatch website: https://www.portlandcopwatch.org/listofshootings.html)

An April 28 post from the Fallen Badge Foundation was about officers in other jurisdictions-- a Woodburn officer shot at a SWAT incident, a Clatsop Deputy who was in a crash, and a Washington County Deputy whose car was hit by a civilian driver. These were all injury situations, not deaths.

The most questionable part of this theme is how the PPA describes various incidents as "ambushes." For example, a July 2 piece refers to Kentucky police responding to a Domestic Violence call where a "coward" opened fire on police. But shouldn't the police have been entering the situation prepared for there to be violence? Another "ambush" story from Detroit was posted a few days later on July 7.
Back to text.

[image of NW Labor Press article]Working Class Hero??? The PPA linked to a June 27 story from the NW Labor Press following an Officer Jordan Zaitz around. The article has Zaitz proudly using "tough love" on a woman who is houseless by making her leave a campsite-- twice. Zaitz assumes a person she gave treatment information to never used it, talks about "bad guys," low staffing, and how the US Department of Justice makes them approach people in mental health crisis carefully... being sure to always have a Taser and a "bean bag gun." The article reveals that only one rank and file officer did not join the PPA even though it is voluntary. Overall, for a newspaper dedicated to the workers whose actions against management are often broken up by police violence, this article struck many in the community as "copaganda."

The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their web postings. We worry these ideas may spread throughout Portland's ranks. The PPA's website is ppavigil.org.

PPA's facebook page is facebook.com/PortlandPoliceAssociation

  [People's Police Report]

September, 2022
Also in PPR #87

Portland's New Gang Team Shoots at Three
  • Ongoing Trend of More Deadly Police Shootings in OR
DOJ Lambastes City for Failures to Comply
Dubious Ideas from Gang Team Advisory Group
Staff Leaving More Independent Police Review
  • IPR Annual Report Continues to Lack Adequate Info
Oversight Commission Begins Research Phase
Inhumanity Towards Portland's Houseless People
Sheriff: No Discipline for Offensive Coin
More Protest Violence Suits Cost City Big Bucks
Biased Force Use Ignored at Training Council
Quick Flashes PPR #87:
 • Suit for City Records Has Unintended Consequences
 • Ex-Cop Who Rammed Suspect Pleads Guilty
 • Forest Grove Cop Convicted for Vandalizing BLM Signs
 • PPB Traffic Stop Data: More People of Color Targeted
 • Bunch of Cops on "Brady List"
 • Copwatch Helps Thwart Scams by Transfer Officers
 • Keaton Otis Remembered, 12 Years Later

"Constitutional" Sheriffs: Troubling Trend
Police Ask Input: Crowd, Force, ID Policies
Rapping Back #87

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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