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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

City Equity Official Speaks Out Against Cop's Use of Racial Slur

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 2:44 PM

The city's equity office is calling on cops to redouble racial sensitivity efforts, after video emerged of a patrol officer using the word "nigger" while interacting with a group of black men recently.

First posted by the Mercury, the 27-second video shows Officers Michael Hall and Heather Martley attempting to clear out the sidewalk in front of a downtown Portland nightclub.

The precise context of Hall's comments is unclear, but the footage clearly shows him uttering the racial slur as he orders a group to disperse. The men Hall was speaking to—workers at the downtown Nordstrom out to celebrate a birthday—confronted him on his use of the word, and the officer retorts: "But you said it to me."

In light of the Mercury's reporting—followed by the Oregonian a week later— Office of Equity and Human Rights Director Dante James released a statement today calling on the Portland Police bureau to use the incident "as an opportunity for daily training and reminders."

James' statement from the release:

"People will argue that it is a double standard because some Black people use the word.This is not an argument about who gets to use the word. This is an opportunity for PPB to remind its staff that ANY pejorative of this type is unacceptable. This is about professionalism, plain and simple, and this is the conversation that needs to happen.”

But the interaction didn't merely breach professionalism. It also ran afoul of bureau policies, which dictate cops may only use such epithets when quoting from police reports or testifying in court.

James' statement also commended the PPB for undertaking racial sensitivity training for its command staff and sergeants, and said Chief Mike Reese has "responded positively" to James' concerns.

Now the office is waiting to see what steps cops will take, according to OEHR spokesman Jeff Selby.

"It’s a matter of culture change, not so much about this specific incident," Selby says. "It's really about furthering that dialogue of professionalism within the Portland Police Bureau."

Here's the video:

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