Clifford Richardson was among the multitudes who joined a 2010 march against two recent police shootings that wound its way around downtown and past the Portland Police Association headquarters in Northwest—and saw a bunch of windows smashed out and other reported acts of occasionally violent disobedience.
Richardson, 24 at the time, also was among a handful of protesters arrested on charges including disorderly conduct. But a funny thing happened (not really). Richardson was cleared of all criminal charges at trial. And his arrest—which led to facial injuries severe enough that Richardson had to be treated at OHSU—is now costing the city $35,000 in a settlement approved this afternoon by the Portland City Council.
A report filed by the city's risk management office describes the arrest and what happened. It doesn't make Richardson out like a saint—the city rarely apologizes or admits wrongdoing in a police settlement—but it does acknowledge the likelihood that a jury award might have cost it even more. It also notes that the arrest just so happened to be captured by a TV news camera operator.
The city report doesn't identify the officers involved or hint at whether any internal affairs investigation or even discipline might have been imposed.
Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch warned against "pernicious political profiling" of people dressed in black, like anarchists, and asked the city council why the report didn't ID the cops involved (after making the wry comment that Richardson was "brutalized by the police at an anti-police-brutality march).
"Our tax money is being paid out in these incidents," he said. "Sadly there's no way to tell if the officer involved was disciplined."
Of note? For the first time that I can remember, likely owing to the arrival of Mayor Charlie Hales, an item of this type was placed from the start on the council's regular agenda. Typically police use-of-force settlements are placed on the council's consent agenda. Unless someone like Handelman flags them, consent items aren't highlighted and are passed unanimously and with no discussion.
"I think all of the council is happy with these items not being buried," Dana Haynes, Hales' spokesman, emailed when I inquired. "I don’t know who initiated it, so I don’t think we should take credit for it. I know the mayor has said he prefers stuff like this being out there in the light of day."
Only one city commissioner gave substantial remarks during the vote to accept the settlement. Commissioner Nick Fish tried to focus on the fact that Richardson had sought more than $500,000 in the lawsuit he filed before agreeing to the much smaller settlement figure.
"It gives us no pleasure to pass on these pay claims," Fish said. "I look forward to the day when we don't have claims of this nature that we pay out.... Is this a prudent settlement in light of our risk? It seems to me it is on its face."
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