With a clarion 5-0 vote, the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) harshly criticized the bureau for a tepid ruling—citing the bureau's policy on professional conduct—that found the accusations against Officer Jason Lobaugh merely "unproven." The CRC's vote amounts a to formal request that Police Chief Mike Reese change that "unproven" finding to "sustained."
The policy they cited reads, in part: "Members, whether on duty or off duty, shall be governed by the reasonable rules of good conduct and behavior, and shall not commit any act tending to bring reproach or discredit upon the Bureau or the City."
Lobaugh's ex-wife, Laurie Grant, complained to the bureau in November 2012 after three tense confrontations with her ex-husband over a six-day span—all of which brought out police officers from the city of North Plains. Lobaugh was off-duty during all three incidents.
"This is not acceptable behavior you would expect from an officer," Grant said at the hearing before breaking down in tears. "My physical and emotional safety has been threatened."
In the first confrontation, on November 3, 2012, Grant says Lobaugh had shown up to pick up their son on a day when he wasn't scheduled to, under their court-approved "parental plan." Grant called the cops after they argued on her front porch and Lobaugh, as even he admits, called her a "head case" and yelled into her house at her husband.
Five days later, cops came out again after Lobaugh tried to pick up their son a day early but was told not to. In that confrontation, Lobaugh admitted, he called Grant's husband a "little bitch." Then, the next day, during a scheduled drop-off of their son at a Fred Meyer, cops showed up to help facilitate, and Lobaugh again, Grant says, went after her husband. Lobaugh admits saying "look who came out to play." Grant says he told her husband, "looks like you and I are going to get know each other."
Jeff Bissonnette, the vice chair of the CRC, summed up what most of the panel was thinking as it weighed the bureau's ruling and whether it reasonably reflected the facts of the case as laid out.
"I'd say showing up on a front porch outside your custody agreement, when you're explicitly told not to, and it's not in doubt, when you call into the house and call someone a derogatory name, which is also not in dispute, and then, also say—undisputed—'look who came out to play,' to me that doesn't just 'tend to.' It does bring discredit and reproach upon the bureau and the city."
The president of the Portland Police Association, the city's rank-and-file police union, took the unusual step of commenting on a story in a private statement to members, the Mercury has learned, responding to our report last week about an officer facing an investigation after he was caught on video using a racial slur commonly aimed at African Americans.
The statement by Daryl Turner, who is African American, was issued Monday. The Mercury has since obtained a copy. It opens with a caveat that "we should reserve judgment until all facts have been gathered and the investigation is complete." But then it goes on, after that nod to due process, to strongly condemn the use of racial epithets in any context.
On Friday, the Portland Mercury posted a story and video regarding a Portland Police officer’s use of a racial epithet when interacting with the public. The police bureau will investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. As with all pending investigations, we should reserve judgment until all facts have been gathered and the investigation is complete.
It is important for all of us to use this instance as a reminder. As members of the Portland Police Bureau, it is our goal to always interact with the public with the highest level of integrity and professionalism. The PPA and its members do not condone the use of any epithet, whether based on race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. We do not condone such language in our homes, and we certainly do not condone such epithets in the line of duty.
As we further report in this week's issue, the slur used by Officer Michael Hall came during a confrontation with three men, two of them African American, outside a club near SW 2nd and Burnside in early October. The men had come down to celebrate a birthday after finishing shifts at Nordstrom, according to Yasmin Talic, one of the participants who spoke with the Mercury.
The video, just 27 seconds long, doesn't make clear whether Hall first used the slur, or if he was parroting someone else who used it first. Talic says he also doesn't remember who used it first. That distinction may not stay any discipline. Bureau rules on "courtesy" do not allow officers to use slurs on the street—only when they're on the stand or quoting someone in a police report.
Talic also told the Mercury he first tried complaining about the incident to the police bureau soon after it happened but that, in his opinion, no one took him seriously.
Turner's statement is the strongest one yet against the use of a slur by an officer—eclipsing Police Chief Mike Reese's far more measured promise to investigate and ensure cops treat people with "respect."
But it also wasn't, it seems, meant for public consumption. It does not appear on the union's website under a list of recent press releases and public statements. (Though Turner did recently post a statement complaining that Andrea Damewood—the Willamette Week reporter who's moved on to work for the Bureau of Labor and Industries—had falsely quoted him defending a cop, Jason Lobaugh, facing domestic violence allegations.)
It's obviously important for cops to know what their union president thinks—especially when he's sending a strong message against misconduct. But I'd also say it's important for the rest of us to know, too.
So much for reports about internal dissent sinking a new contract between the Portland Police Association and the city of Portland.
According to figures obtained by the Mercury, 521 members (77 percent) voted for the new deal, announced tentatively by the PPA and Mayor Charlie Hales during a press conference on federal reforms earlier this month. Overall, three-quarters of the unions' nearly 1,000 rank-and-file members—officers, sergeants, detectives, and criminalists—submitted ballots.
The deal is a money-maker for many cops—restoring cost of living increases and hiking pay patrol sergeants, while adding seniority and night shift bonuses. It also softens provisions regarding drug testing for steroids, a controversial addition to the contract in 2011.
The contract will now head for Portland City Council ratification some time next month.
PPA President Daryl Turner declined to comment on the vote or the contract.
"I'm not talking about the contract," he told me.
Asked when he'd comment, now that his members have approved the terms, he said he'd comment after the council approves the contract.
A FAQ prepared by the union on how the deal breaks down, obtained by the Mercury, and previously reported by the Oregonian, is after the cut.
A Portland police officer recorded using a racial slur during a confrontation with an unidentified group of men and women will be investigated by the police bureau's Professional Standards Division, Police Chief Mike Reese announced this afternoon—after the Mercury obtained a copy of the video and sent it to police officials for comment.
The 27-second video shows Officers Michael Hall and Heather Martley trying to clear out some people who might have been drinking. The location of the confrontation or whether it led to any arrests isn't clear. But during that back-and-forth, one thing was clear. Hall at some point utters a very obvious racial slur used against African Americans. When another of the men says "you ain't supposed to say that shit," and repeats the word, Hall defends his use of the word by saying, "but you said it to me."
“My expectation as chief is that all Portland police officers treat people with respect and dignity,” Police Chief Mike Reese tells the Mercury. “The video warrants an internal review to determine when, where and what occurred.”
The video is short enough and hazy enough that it's not exactly clear if Hall was responding to someone using the word first, or if he was the first person to use it. That distinction is important, and it may help guide a police investigation. Or not. The bureau's own courtesy policy on epithets, unlike its policy on curse words, does not allow for context. It says officers may use racial epithets only when quoting them in official police reports or when testifying in court.
No member shall use epithets or terms that tend to denigrate any particular gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, ethnic or religious group, except when necessary to quote another person in reports or in testimony.
The police bureau says Martley and Hall are both assigned to the night shift at Central Precinct and that each have more than two years experience.
Race relations, in particular with Portland's African American community, have been a difficult subject for the Portland Police Bureau and something it's spent years trying to improve. It's even admitted publicly that racial bias affects some of its officers—a major step toward working on those improvements.
But the subject lingers as a sore spot in the light of several reports and studies showing persistent racial disparities in local police work, from enforcement of gun crime hotspots, to drug zone enforcement, to gang enforcement, to use of force reports, to basic stops and searches.
The bureau has begun training sergeants and command staff on racial sensitivity and awareness. That training has not yet started, if it does at all, for rank and file officers.
"Clearly, yes," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, "we need to have all officers participate in institutional racism training."
Officer Dane Reister, fired last month for mistakenly shooting a mentally ill man with live shotgun rounds, had a history of slip-ups and accidents involving police property, according to a copy of his termination letter obtained by the Mercury—including a 2006 incident in which he'd injured a fellow cop with a smoke grenade he'd forgotten to unload.
Beyond that glaring mistake, Reister was counseled for failing to keep adequate control of police property and for getting into an accident he could have prevented. He also was suspended early in his career for misuse of overtime.
That record factored heavily in the decision to fire Reister, who, in 19 years as a cop, had served as a crisis intervention officer and a training instructor for young cops. Chief Mike Reese was scathingly blunt in explaining his thinking in the six-page termination letter (pdf) he'd given to Reister on October 2. While Reese acknowledged that some changes could be made in bureau procedure on handling ammunition (and, indeed, have been made), the fault was all Reister's.
But Reese also made clear the horror of what happened to the man Reister shot in the summer of 2011, William Kyle Monroe, who survived but with permanent injuries, was equally important.
There is not an excuse sufficient enough to relieve you of responsiblity for not knowing what rounds you loaded in a weapon before firing it, particularly when that weapon is fired at another person with serious—and potentially deadly—consequences.
Reese's letter also confirmed he wasn't going out of his way to punish Reister. He said the city's Police Review Board, a panel made up of civilians, the city's Independent Police Review Director, and several officers—unanimously agreed that Reister deserved to be fired.
The bureau initially declined to release the termination letter when asked by the Mercury and the Oregonian. The papers appealed to the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, which referred the matter to its counterparts in Clackamas County in part because criminal charges against Reister, for negligent wounding, are still pending. The criminal case holdup involves, in part, the 2006 incident Reese cited in his letter.
The Clackamas County DA's Office ruled last week that the police bureau had to turn over the letter. It also ruled favorably (pdf) on three other document requests made, in this case, solely by the Mercury: the bureau's training review (pdf) of the shooting, the commander's findings memo (pdf), and the internal investigation (pdf) of the case.
The city had tried to argue that releasing the documents would embarrass Reister, who was just a low-level cop and not a commanding officer. It also argued that enough about the shooting had already been made public. The Clackamas County DA's office agreed with us, especially given the criminal case, that more information about the case—including a look at the bureau's response—was clearly in the public's interest.
Update 2:48 PM: So here's a quick recap of what's in those other documents. Reister worked an overtime shift in Old Town the night before, until 4 am, where he carried for reasons he wasn't clear about, a loaded lethal shotgun—a departure from his usual choice of an AR-15 rifle. He doesn't remember how he loaded lethal rounds into his less-lethal shotgun the next day. He also said he didn't realize, despite briefly pausing between trigger pulls, he was firing lethal rounds—which kick and sound differently than beanbag rounds.
This is relevant, because the bureau's investigation also found Reister was never actually certified to carry a less-lethal shotgun. He missed the two-day course for certified carriers and attended, instead, a class generally on less-lethal weapons as part of his training in 2002 before joining the bureau's riot squad. Reister was among a handful of cops who fell into that loophole, thinking that class certified them. It did not. And it wasn't clear beanbag guns were ever demonstrated in the class.
Lesson plans are missing—which the bureau's training division has identified as a broader problem among the police bureau's various specialty units. In essence, the training division currently can't vouch that officers' training records are as they seem.
The decision to use force, however, was blessed by bureau commanders. Central Precinct Commander Bob Day and witness cops all said this was a textbook case of when a beanbag gun should be used. Provided the right bullets had been loaded inside.
My mind is just sp- sp- spinning and I walk down the hill to where I believe I was standing and I see a spent 12 gage lethal round. And my heart sinks. And it makes sense. And my feelings of uh, of uh, relief that it was over, that it had, that we had safely uh, uh, stopped this guy before harming somebody went from relief to, oh my god, what just happened? A horrible mistake has been made. And uh - I see that round and it happens to be that a sergeant is standing right there, Sergeant MARTY SCHELL. And I look at the sergeant and I say immediately, I said Sergeant, I fired lethal rounds. That's a lethal round, I fired lethal rounds. I wanted him to know right away so that he knew what the deal, what was going on so he -I wanted that guy to get medical help."
Day looked into the confusion over Reister's certification and said the allegation that he violated bureau policy on less-lethal munitions was unproven. He counted the ammunition mistake as a matter of basic competency and said that allegation was sustained. Reese agreed with the first, but not the second. When the bureau announced Reister's dismissal last month, both directives—on competency and less-lethal procedures—were mentioned.
The most recent quarterly report from the police bureau on how its officers use force—and against whom—offers some cause for concern in the wake of news last week that the city and Portland Police Association had found relative peace over federal reforms.
For reasons still unknown, and due to be put under closer scrutiny over the next several months, Portland officers have seen a significant and steady increase in force incidents involving people identified as transient or mentally ill throughout 2013. The latest report, covering the three-month period between July 1 and September 30, lists 112 people between both categories—up from 93 during the quarter before and 76 during the first three months of 2013.
The most recent increase would have come during the city's crackdown on homeless campers. And it's got bureau number-crunchers concerned enough to take a look and try to figure out if this is a "seasonal" issue, under the premise that summer months are when Portland sees more homeless visitors and, thus, cops have more interactions with them in general. Or if it's something else. (The most recent report actually shows a decrease in overall reported incidents of force between this summer and last summer.)
The force reports, which started this year, are part of the bureau's efforts to get right with the US Department of Justice over accusations Portland cops unconstitutionally use excessive force against people with mental illness and are too quick, in general, to escalate force incidents and use Tasers.
Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch flagged the latest report for me after noticing the increase described above. But Handelman also noticed another interesting fluctuation: an increase, over the past three months, of instances when an officer had to cycle a Taser against someone more than twice. Policy changes are supposed to limit the circumstances in which officers are allowed to use multiple (50,000-volt) Taser cycles.
Handelman also noticed something else that's now been missing from all but the first force report: demographic data. The first report found that more than a third of all people involved in force incidents earlier this year were listed as African American and that white men made up less than half of the number.
The disproportionate number fits a pattern for police activity that's pretty well-established and has already been cause for soul-searching. Has that number gotten worse in the past three months? We don't know because the bureau has stopped including that information, despite Handelman's persistent entreaties.
None of the city commissioners took one of the report's central findings in stride: Of all the suspected gun criminals banned from the city's three gun exclusion "hotspots," 83 percent are African American. (Portland's black population is between 5 percent and 10 percent.) That discomfort, and the demands for change it sparked, were a marked change from the past two times, in 2011 and 2012, the committee brought similarly disparate numbers forward.
Previously, the council had taken at face value the oversight committee's (and the police bureau's) admitted reliance on anecdotal evidence to justify those numbers and even call them a decisive good thing for the city's African American community. The committee members, who work closely with cops and prosecutors, point to a higher percentage of African American gang members in Portland (55 percent) but go further to claim that "black-style gangs" are way more likely to use guns than other ethnic gangs.
This time, that didn't sit so well. City Commissioner Steve Novick led the way in demanding hard numbers to better back up the committee's claim, calling the report's findings, and the lack of rigor, "troubling."
"When we see an exclusion percentage that so much higher than the percentage of victims and offenders of gun crimes in general, how can we feel satisfied that's not the result of disparate treatment?" Novick asked at one point. "Any additional non-anecdotal evidence would be helpful."
Later, after the council started voting on the report—adopting a suggestion by Commissioner Nick Fish that the committee come back later this year with a plan to address concerns—Novick dropped velvet-dressed threat. (Though it was Fish who called the committee's justifications "thin gruel.")
"Without a really good explanation that goes beyond anecdotal concepts," he warned, "you have to reconsider a program with that rate of disparate impacts."
Treat was extremely lucky those other two times. And now her streak, as of today, remains intact.
Beatrice is back! PBOT crew was cleaning homeless camp with @portlandpolice Man rode up on my stolen bicycle. Busted! #ppbismyhero
— Leah Treat (@leahtreat) September 12, 2013
Portland police sent out their own release a bit ago mentioning the news. They say the suspect in the theft, Jason Lee Elmore, rode up to officers who were clearing the sidewalks of campers and protesters and tents along SW Madison between Chapman Square and Terry Schrunk Plaza. It's not clear, from the release, if he was among the group or just passing through. The release doesn't say what time the bike was recovered.
Update 4:42 PM: Police spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson tells me Elmore is homeless but that he's "not sure if he was a 'camper' there."
A point worth mentioning: Treat confessed to BikePortland that she'd secured her bike only with a cable lock. Don't ever do that. Even outside a bustling building like the Portland Building. Here's the best primer on bike security I've ever read. And remember, BikePortland also tracks stolen bike reports.
Bureau officials, working with the University of Illinois-Chicago, will start mailing letters to random Portlanders "who may have reported a crime, or been involved in a traffic stop or traffic collision." And those letters "will ask people to participate in a survey either by phone or online."
The surveys, the bureau has stressed, will be totally confidential and held not by police employees but by the university. The cops claim they won't even know whether someone even took a survey, let alone what that person might have said.
Both Mayor Charlie Hales and Chief Mike Reese, in statements, say the goal is to improve the bureau's customer service.
"This is a unique opportunity to receive feedback from those who have direct encounters with police officers," Reese's statement says. "Past surveys have talked to people who may or may not have had firsthand experience with an officer. This survey will be valuable in describing our customer service and how people feel about their experience with a Portland Police Officer."
But if the other cities who've done this are any example, Portland officials probably aren't quaking in their boots over what might turn up. In Chicago, where the scandals and violent crime make Portland's woes look like Mayberry's (look it up, kids), about eight in 10 respondents had kind things to say about officers. Including in the city's black and Latino communities. The Sun-Times reported in January:
“But the average person — what we call the ‘silent majority’ — is pleased with the performance of the police department,” said Dennis Rosenbaum, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which conducted the study.
“Too often, individual incidents and extreme cases get more attention in the media,” he said.
The Chicago results, however, did make a note of one blemish, though the paper didn't get into any detail: "Those involved in traffic stops didn’t feel as warm and fuzzy about the police as those involved in car crashes or those who reported a crime."
That's not surprising. People who call for help or get into crashes are not the people who feel profiled or picked on or marginalized. They're not the people who tend to be mistreated. It's the people singled out in traffic stops and pedestrian stops. It's the suspects or people detained or arrested after the report of a crime. Let's hear what they have to say.
Portland filmmaker Brian Lindstrom's brutal and bracing documentary about a horrifying 2006 death at the hands of Portland cops, Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, is receiving some well-deserved national attention months after its February premiere at Cinema 21.
The Rumpus sat down with Lindstrom (over Skype) for a long, deep interview about the film and Lindstrom's efforts to not just tell us about the horror of how Chasse died, but also bring to life the idea that Chasse, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was a human and local icon worth honoring. It's particularly timely. Alien Boy is screening at the Laurelhurst Theater on September 17, the anniversary of Chasse's death.
With Alien Boy, our main goal was to honor Jim and really to kind of restore the depth and dimension to Jim’s life. We wanted to restore his humanity and depth. When he died his whole existence was reduced to this headline, “42 Man with Schizophrenia Dies in Police Custody,” and that’s just such a desolate interpretation of his life. Actually, it’s really just an interpretation of his death not of his life. So we painstakingly researched his life, and found friends, family, his old girlfriend, his neighbors, all these people that could talk about him and give him the kind of fullness he deserved. He lived a life of hardship. He was dealt a hard hand but he played it well. He had a lot of integrity and drive. He built a meaningful life and we really wanted to show that in the film.
There's also this bit of insight from Lindstrom:
Lindstrom: We reached out to the Portland Police repeatedly, requesting permission to film “ride alongs” in order to show the challenges police face when confronting people with mental illness. Unfortunately, the police were unresponsive. One thing Alien Boy makes quite clear, I think, is that many officers themselves are perhaps not getting their mental health needs met. Two of the officers in the film had rather shocking road rage incidents that led to suspension or termination, and another of the officers used questionable judgment in shooting a combative twelve-year-old girl with a bean bag [gun] at dangerously close range. In the same way that we want to expand mental health service for people with mental illness, we also need to make sure that our police officers are getting the mental health help they need.
Rumpus: Do you know what, if any, mental health treatments are available or required of police officers? And do you think police officers operate under the assumption that most people fear them, and that then affects the way they perceive and approach people?
Lindstrom: I asked my co-producer Jason Renaud, who is a policy expert, and he reminded me that mental health treatment is most likely available to the officers, but they may be reluctant to access it due to cultural beliefs within the force, fear of stigma, etc.
Oh, and as a side note, we've learned about a strange bit of drama concerning the film's planned showing at a film festival in Astoria in October. Former Mercury news editor Matt Davis, credited as a story consultant in the film, has had a lawyer threaten to file a legal injunction to block the festival's screening of Alien Boy.
According to a release from the Astoria festival's president (who shamefully compares this "controversy" to the actual one over Chasse's death), Davis is upset he wasn't credited as writer—something of an honorific in a documentary. The Astoria International Film Festival says it plans to screen the movie anyway.
Surveillance is inevitable—I don't write about it because I think there's any real chance of it going away, but because the smarter we are about how we let it get introduced into our lives (and the more we know about how it's being introduced without our participation, permission, or consent), the better off we'll be down the road. That's the hope, anyway.
So here's a nugget of hopefulness about the effects of surveillance cameras in Rialto, California:
In the first year after the cameras were introduced here in February 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent over the same period.
And while Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg railed against the federal court, which ordered New York to arm some of its own police officers with cameras, the Rialto Police Department believes it stands as an example of how effective the cameras can be. Starting Sept. 1, all 66 uniformed officers here will be wearing a camera during every shift...
“When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” Chief Farrar said. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”
Here's the question—should those camera images stream directly onto some publicly accessible platform? That'd be the real way to democratize surveillance and to change police behavior. If we can be watched by law enforcement at any given time, and without our knowledge, why shouldn't we have the option of watching back?
Corollary: All police firearms should be equipped with cameras that automatically begin filming as soon as the gun's safety is switched off. If a public servant is firing the public's bullets out of a public gun, the public has every right to see exactly where those bullets are being aimed.
A meeting of the city's Gang Violence Task Force this morning took a testy turn, when an outreach worker affiliated with a Portland nonprofit complained he'd been treated "like a piece of shit" by police while working.
The outreach worker, who gave his name only as Choo-Choo (the Oregonian has reported in the past his name is Deandre Fair), said he'd recently been sent out to the Terri Lee apartments near E Burnside and 160th. The complex is one of several in the area police say have become of hotbed of criminal activity, partially as a result of increased gang activity in the area.
Choo-Choo, who works with Volunteers of America Oregon's Community Partners Reinvestment Project, said cops approached him and the person he'd been sent to speak with, rudely insisting on patting them down.
"I guess you're allowed whenever you see someone to search them," he said at the meeting, attended by a number of high-ranking police officials. "We have to respect you guys, but there's no respect for us."
It was an uncharacteristic turn—the task force meetings are usually focused on the city's trouble spots and positive community work. It was also a counterpoint to something I'd noticed riding around with Portland's Gang Enforcement Team. As we reported this week, the team's afternoon patrol squad spends a lot of its time pulling over black males in Portland's high-crime zones, almost always hauling them out of their cars to be patted down. The interactions I witnessed on several ride-alongs turned up no weapons or drugs, and were surprisingly civil. Choo-Choo's experience showed a side I'd more expected to see—people angry at being hassled and searched.
Police officials at the meeting asked Choo-Choo to stick around afterward but he declined, instead walking out after he'd made the complaint. He was followed out into the parking lot by East Precinct Lieutenant Vince Elmore and Captain Pat Walsh of the Gang Enforcement Team.
"They tried to take me to jail just for advocating for a client," Choo-Choo said to Elmore.
Elmore explained cops had been targeting the young man Choo-Choo was mentoring, and that they hadn't realized he was a social worker. Officers didn't arrest anyone at the time, but returned later to take the guy into custody. Elmore wouldn't say what the charge was, or give the person's name.
"It wasn't about you," Elmore told Choo-Choo. "We've addressed the issue, and I've talked to the officers about this interaction."
He added: "You gotta remember that officers don't like being called racist."
"I said 'profiling,'" Choo-Choo replied.
Something interesting actually emerged from public bargaining talks between the city of Portland and Portland Police Association, the first such session since fall 2010: The two sides, in some extracurricular bargaining last summer under the watch of former Mayor Sam Adams, came close to reconstituting the bureau's long dormant regimen of performance evaluations.
The two sides seem close to reaching a deal again.
The plan under discussion, in a draft protocol created by the police bureau, would have rated officers on dozens of points like customer service, tactics, integrity, communication, PPA counsel Anil Karia explained at the session. But the reviews could not be used as part of the discipline process or to fire a cop or transfer a cop against his or her will.
Evaluations were prized by Adams and loomed large on his list of wished-for reforms. Karia, in bringing the proposal back up this morning, said the city made a last-ditch push in Adams' final year in office. The city sent a letter in May 2012 and the two sides met in August 2012 before getting "within a whisker" of an agreement, Karia said.
But for whatever reason, that agreement never materialized—despite Karia's contentions that the two sides mostly agreed on its finer points.
That disagreement may stem from some of the details. Evaluations will create a heavier workload for sergeants and lieutenants, the union argued.
I'll post more when I'm allowed. There's a blackout here when they're in session.
Update 12:25 PM: Workload is a factor, the city's labor relations manager, Jerrell Gaddis, said after the meeting. A new protocol requires training and consistency. Supervisors will be required to go through a long checklist of subjects that they must document. They must also meet with employees quarterly in addition to an annual sitdown.
Former Chief Penny Harrington did away with reviews more than 20 years ago in part because of the time involved, leaving the police bureau as the only outlier in city government.
Last time the city of Portland tried to sit down with the Portland Police Association to negotiate a new contract, back on August 1, the union never showed up. And the city waited half an hour or so before pulling the plug and going on with the rest of its day.
The no-show wasn't much of a surprise, given that, just days before, the PPA filed an unfair labor practice complaint over the city's insistence that meetings on city property would be public.
But now the city says that likely won't be a problem moving forward. The city has planned another meeting, for tomorrow, August 15, and it says the PPA has sent an RSVP confirming it will be there and acknowledging that reporters and others, presumably Portland Copwatch, will be there, too.
The meeting is set for 8:30 to noon in Room 2500A in the city's 1900 Building at 1900 SW 4th.
"They're going to be there," says Karen Sorensen, executive assistant to Human Resources Director Anna Kanwit.
But what about the labor practice complaint? Sorensen, checking with labor relations manager Jerrell Gaddis, says it's still in place. "It is as stands," she says.
Not that there weren't some talks. A sign-in sheet at the Bureau of Human Resources' front desk lists a visit from PPA President Daryl Turner at 4:45 PM yesterday. Deputy City Attorney Mark Amberg, named in the union's complaint, also signed in around the same time.
So what's behind the union's seeming shift—embracing a compromise from Mayor Charlie Hales' first reported by the Mercury this spring? I haven't heard back from Turner yet. Turner, however, has twice written lengthy posts on the union's online newsletter on the state of negotiations. In the first, he said no meetings should be held public. In the second, he chastised Hales for insisting the two sides had compromised when, Turner says, they hadn't yet.
Update 2:20 PM: Turner posted a statement on his newsletter, half-an-hour after this post went up, confirming that the two sides met yesterday, as I first reported above, and reached an agreement along the lines of what Hales laid out (and something a lot like what they did last time the contract was up). Turner casts the decision as a victory for collaboration.
Tomorrow morning, the PPA will meet with the city for a negotiation session over our successor collective bargaining agreement. Yesterday, we sat down with the city’s labor negotiators and collaboratively worked out an agreement with the city over how our bargaining sessions will proceed. As we did in 2010, we have agreed to alternate locations for our bargaining sessions. When the session is held at the city, it will be open to the public. However, public observers must comply with specific rules, such as no blogging, recording, or disrupting the negotiations session. When held at the PPA, the session will be private, with no observers allowed. We came to this agreement with the city because the complex issues concerning our wages, hours and working conditions are far too important to be bogged down by a dispute about the mechanics of bargaining.
This is how collective bargaining is supposed to work. The parties meet, discuss the issues, and collaborate over an agreement that satisfies both parties’ interest. We hope that this example of collaboration that will set the tone for a positive outcome to our contract negotiations. After all, the PPA and the city do share one important thing in common: the need to have a collective bargaining agreement that protects the safety, benefits, and rights of the police officers who make Portland one of the safest, most livable, and business friendly cities in the country.
Hillsboro is hiring a new police chief, with applications due in September. It's unclear who's been applying so far, but it's pretty clear the rank-and-file really wants their new boss to be "funny."
I'll accept bets, in the comments, on which recently retired senior Portland cop you think might get the gig and receive a nice, big suburban salary alongside his or her nice, big pension.
No one on the Citizen Review Committee last night used Officer Todd Tackett's name when they voted his commanding officer erred in declaring "unproven" an allegation Tackett acted rudely by referring to a 62-year-old black man as a pimp, before citing him for jaywalking, and talking about his low-income housing.
But as the Mercury first reported in May, Tackett was one of two cops accused of racial profiling and other bureau violations in a complaint filed by community volunteer Floyd McCorvey last summer. (The other was a training officer, William Green.)
Not only did the board vote 4-2 to ask the bureau to change its discipline finding to "sustained," but its members had extremely harsh words for the cop in the face of an investigation that found the two officers were mixed up on several basic details and that Tackett had taken McCorvey's medical pot pipe and thrown it away without giving him an evidence receipt. Tackett was merely given a debriefing by his commanding officer, Central Precinct's Lieutenant Mike Fort.
"It saddens me this particular officer would be put in a position of training our new and upcoming officers," said CRC member Rochelle Silver, "when he doesn't recognize what it is he's doing until you have to tell him what he's doing."
Little did the CRC realize, however, that Tackett wasn't just trusted as a trainer. He also was about to be promoted to sergeant, giving him supervisory responsibilities over several current police officers. Tackett, who has worked for the bureau since 2004, was on a promotion list made public by the bureau this morning, several hours after the late-night CRC vote to seek greater discipline.
"Typical," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch.
I've written twice, in May and July, about McCorvey's case—chiefly about a racial profiling complaint that the city's Independent Police Review lightly investigated before deciding it couldn't be proven. (This time, the Oregonian was there, and also KOIN.)
The CRC had asked IPR to reconsider its stance back in May. IPR, under former director Mary-Beth Baptista, refused almost immediately because the CRC lacks the power to make that request under city code. The two sides went back and forth over the next two months, holding meetings and exchanging emails, until CRC decided to give up the fight in July.
But as much as we knew about McCorvey's case so far—he says Tackett and Green accosted him near NW 19th and Couch, asked him if a nearby black woman he didn't know was his "whore," put his hands on his head, searched him, confiscated his pot pipe, mocked the Central City Concern apartment where he lives, and then let him go with the jaywalking citation—the appeal hearing revealed some additional distressing information.
We're still waiting on a number of records requests from the city regarding the claims of Portland Police Officer Kevin Macho, who says he's been passed up for promotion in favor of "lesser-qualified women and others" and has threatened to sue. They're simple requests, including a copy of the police bureau's diversity and promotion policies, and a list of officers who've been promoted in the last year.
The cops have said they don't have that stuff yet. Then they just sent out a press release detailing a bunch of their promotions and inviting media to attend a fancy ceremony. I'm still sighing.
The list shows that just two of ten officers being promoted to the rank of sergeant are female. The rest must be the "others" Macho's tort claim notice [pdf] mentions.
In order to make sergeant, officers have to have at least 4.5 years with the department and undergo a written exam and interviews. Qualified candidates get put on a promotional list (which Macho says he was on, and which we've also asked for).
It depends on how long an officer's been with the department, but the move up to sergeant doesn't involve an enormous pay bump right away. Officers with four years of experience earn $71,864, which steps up to $76,389 at five years. Starting pay for a police sergeant is $77,730 and salaries top out at nearly $88,000.
Here's the full list of promotions the police bureau sent out.
Commander Mike Crebs to Assistant Chief of Services
Commander Donna Henderson to Assistant Chief of Investigations
Captain George Burke to Commander of Detectives
Captain Kevin Modica to Commander of Transit
Captain Sara Westbrook to Commander of East Precinct
Officer James Crooker to Sergeant
Officer Jennifer Baxter to Sergeant
Officer Heidi Brockmann to Sergeant
Officer Darke Hull to Sergeant
Officer Matthew Jamison to Sergeant
Officer Jason Lile to Sergeant
Officer James Quackenbush to Sergeant
Officer Robert Quick to Sergeant
Officer Robert Slyter to Sergeant
Officer Todd Tackett to Sergeant
The Police Bureau will also be promoting and honoring four non-sworn personnel:
Michelle Sparks to Police Administrative Support Specialist Senior
Nicole Wrigley to Police Administrative Support Specialist Senior
Tyson Estes to Police Administrative Support Specialist
Mary Prottsman to Police Administrative Support Specialist
An Office of Equity and Human Rights staffer told Portland Police Captain Mark Kruger not to show up for a public awards ceremony just hours before the July 26 event was set to begin, according to emails (here and here) obtained by the Mercury in a public records request.
Ronault LS Catalani, who also goes by Polo, emailed Kruger a little after 9 pm on Thursday, July 25, and mentioned that "one of our important community partners" had raised "some serious concerns" about Kruger and his record.
Catalani's email didn't get into those issues, but it did include an apology for the "short notice" of the request. It was followed a few minutes later by an update to Equity Director Dante James. Catalani wrote he tried calling Kruger and new East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook but that he didn't copy James on the email to Kruger because he wanted to "keep this talk contained until we have a better set of facts."
Kruger, back in 2010, was suspended for building a shrine to Nazi Germany soldiers and faces a fresh investigation of retaliation after he was cleared in a recent harassment complaint. He was due to receive an award for his work helping welcome recent immigrants to the police bureau's East Precinct.
The Oregonian first reported that Kruger was asked not to show up. The Office of Equity formally apologized yesterday but declined to identify the person who complained about Kruger.
So how did Kruger respond to Catalani's request? Calmly—and without any questions.
Catalani apologized one more time—but this time with no reply from Kruger.
The emails go on to confirm that Mayor Charlie Hales' office was briefed on the situation and that the police bureau was taken a bit by surprise, but they don't include any reference to Hales' office interfering. His office has said he has no comment. The emails also show that Hales' office and the police bureau both signed off on the apology sent out Monday morning and that the Equity office decided not to put a statement out on Friday, lest they be accused of burying the news.
James and his spokesman, Jeff Selby, closely watched the reaction to the O's story the following Monday and subsequent headlines. At one point they wondered if the story by Maxine Bernstein would be good or bad.
"Uh, is that good or bad? What does it help, or which way I wonder," James wrote after Bernstein thanked Selby for providing details on the award Kruger would have received at the ceremony if he'd been allowed to attend.
Selby had a reply: "She's inscrutable!"
Portland police officers earning tens of thousands in overtime pay to patrol Portland's rowdy Last Thursday event in July would have had no shortage of misdeeds to wade through.
But officers had marching orders to use restraint in enforcing applicable law at the popular, if controversial, summer street fair, according to an "incident objectives" document [pdf] obtained by the Mercury. And police weren't told to focus on one of the more-frequent criticisms of Last Thursday: that it is often redolent of marijuana smoke.
From the document:
I'm still waiting for a response from the police bureau as to the report's authenticity, but it matches past incident objectives sheets the Mercury's looked over.
The document is hardly earth-shattering, but it's a rare and candid look at the Police Bureau's mindset around an event that's seen fresh scrutiny lately. And it shows what taxpayers can expect for the thousands of dollars— nearly $46,000 in 2012 alone—cops who work the event claim in overtime pay.
The objectives report, prepared by Sgt. Mark Friedman, places a premium on cops' mere presence to deter crime, and seems to focus more on being a positive, friendly presence than one that dispatches hard justice. It also includes a handy weather forecast ("Sunny with a high temperature if 86 degrees low of 56") for officers who might not have access to television, radio, newspapers, smart phones or the Internet.
While the bureau didn't have any specific threats on the radar for the July 25 event, it did detail a number of past problems for officers to be alert for, including "large crowds of youth (12-15 yrs old) committing 'flash robs' and engaging in disorderly conduct."
Recent tallies by the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement have, for the first time, started to quantify the unruly behavior that's earned the summertime event ill will from some neighbors.
And Mayor Charlie Hales' office has sought stronger oversight of Last Thursday, setting forth a permit process for the event that prompted organizers to resign. Hales has since held meetings with stakeholders that have failed to turn up a new lead organization, meaning the city is paying out all Last Thursday's expenses—portable toilets, barricades, security, police overtime and myriad other costs—rather than just most of them.
The city's Office of Equity and Human Rights has apologized after asking a Portland police captain—Mark Kruger, previously suspended for curating an illegal shrine to Nazi Germany-era soldiers on Rocky Butte—to stay away from a public ceremony last month where he and dozens of other city employees would have been feted for their work helping immigrants.
The equity office issued the apology in a statement this morning. It said the office had sought to heed the concern of a "community opinion leader" who had gotten in touch with equity staffers and told them about Kruger's controversial history. Beyond the Nazi-era shrine, he's been involved in a harassment case against a former subordinate, facing accusations of retaliation after he posted a letter from the city clearing him of the charges. That case, because of text messages mocking Kruger as a Nazi, ended the police career of one of Police Chief Mike Reese's best friends and top confidants.
“Postponing the award presentation to Capt. Kruger was my judgment call based on the last minute concern of a respected community leader. It was ultimately not the right decision,” said Dante James, OEHR Bureau Director. “Any concerns about his past should be addressed in a separate venue. We will recognize Capt. Kruger for his current work and dedication to our city’s immigrant and refugee community with our apologies for the delay.”
Kruger, recently working at as a captain in East Portland, a landing spot for many of the city's new immigrants, had been scheduled to receive his "We Are Portland" award July 26. The equity office's apology says Kruger "fostered working relationships" with immigrant groups and leaders and participated in orientation and public safety programs designed to build trust between cops and newly arrived immigrants.
"The programs brought 40 refugee tenants with critical residence and neighborhood livability issues into the East Precinct for trainings on Oregon tenant rights, crime prevention, and law enforcement services," the statement says.
Equity office spokesman Jeff Selby declined to identify the "community opinion leader" whose call spurred the move. The Oregonian first reported that Kruger had been asked to stay away last week. Kruger is now expected to receive his award August 13. Kruger was moved from the bureau's East Precinct last month and now leads the bureau's drugs and vice division.
Mayor Charlie Hales oversees both bureaus. I've emailed his spokesman asking whether Hales or anyone on his staff played any role in James' apology.
Update 3:30 PM: Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, says the office was "briefed on this" but that Hales has been out of town. "He has no comment on this."
Things Officer Kevin Macho has done in almost six years with the Portland Police Bureau: rescued a missing baby from the chill of an east Portland lawn; been named in a civil suit alleging he roughly handled a transgendered motorist in a 2008 traffic stop; and predicted a settlement between the city and the US Department of Justice over police abuses could cost officer lives.
Something he hasn't done: received a promotion.
Now, Macho's threatening to sue, the Mercury's learned. In a tort claim notice filed June 28, the East Precinct officer claims the police bureau's discriminated against him, citing its "continued failure to promote him above the rank of officer."
That failure, Macho's claim says, is due to "discrimination in favor of lesser-qualified females and others over white males, including Officer Macho, in promoting from within PPB ranks." The document notes: "PPB has repeatedly failed to promote Officer Macho above the rank of officer and has failed to promote Officer Macho from the 2012-2013 Promotional List."
Police Spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said he hadn't heard of the claim, a required procedural document for people planning to sue the city. Macho did not appear to have filed suit Thursday, and a message for his attorney hasn't been returned.
The "promotional list" Macho's tort claim cites is a roster the bureau cobbles together of people fit for promotion, based on written tests, interviews and, occasionally, skills tests, said Simpson, noting he didn't recall the exact procedure. He also said he couldn't provide specifics on short notice about any diversity policy the police bureau has.
"In general, the police bureau can't offer comment on a tort claim," Simpson said.
A lawsuit, if it's ever filed, would likely launch fresh debates about diversity in the police department. In 2011, the bureau received the city's "Diversity Champion Award" after hiring seven racial minorities in a crop of 33 recruits. The previous two years, the bureau had only one black officer—and no latino recruits—amid its 67 hires.
Here's a photo of Macho's (pronounced like Mocko, by the way) tort claim notice:
Despite Friday's formal state complaint over the Mayor Charlie Hales' insistence on partially public contract talks with the Portland Police Association—presumably stalling those talks for the foreseeable future—the city remains hopeful the sides can continue bargaining all the same.
City negotiators let themselves into a Portland Building conference room around 8:30 this morning, for a bargaining meeting the two sides had apparently only emailed about scheduling.
They were joined bright and early by Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch—whom I checked with this afternoon after hearing whispers of the meeting. Handelman usually knows when and where to show up. And he says he was welcomed into the room, despite the dustup over whether meetings on city property would be public.
But, then, that was it. The PPA—the city's guest of honor—never showed. Nor did its representatives call ahead to let anyone know. Handelman says they all waited for half an hour, until labor relations manager Jerrell Gaddis pulled the plug.
"That was it," Handelman says. "That was the entirety of it."
The union argues the city has no legal basis to open contract talks, even partially, without the PPA's consent. PPA President Daryl Turner wrote in the PPA's newsletter that he doesn't want any of the talks open, despite favoring a half-open/half-closed approach during negotiations nearly three years ago. As reported by the Mercury this week, the city even admitted in 2010 that union talks, when they're handled by negotiators and not elected officials, don't qualify as public.
Asked about this morning's would-be meeting, Turner declined to comment, citing the complaint process in front of the Oregon Employment Relations Board.
Today's meeting was mentioned alongside an August 15 meeting in emails attached to the union's complaint. It's not clear if the union ever actually agreed to show for either, given the impasse over letting the public in. I'm waiting for confirmation from the city on whether it's planning to show up for the meeting in two weeks, too, likely in vain. I'm also curious to know if the city was merely trying to make a point.
During the last round of talks in 2010, as I reported exclusively, the city approached the PPA with a deal in which talks would be declared public, but with the stickiest issues still discussed behind closed doors. The PPA is clearly concerned, as Turner wrote, about the "court of public opinion" if bargaining ideas are freely discussed. But being perceived as unwilling to be transparent also raises the prospect of a different kind of verdict from that court of opinion.
"This does not work well for their public relations," says Handelman.
Jones, 21, was just written up favorably in the Oregonian, in a story that praised his athletic development. The alleged stomping happened near Tube. When revelers aren't coursing around Old Town's nightclub district, the neighborhood's doorways are a mostly quiet place for dozens of men and women to bunk down for the night.
Dirk VanderHart points out that Jones has not tweeted about his arrest yet.
Here's the release from the cops.
On Wednesday July 31, 2013, at 2:04 a.m., Central Precinct officers arrested 21-year-old Terrence Alexander Jones in Old Town after Jones was seen stomping on a sleeping homeless man's leg. After the arrest, officers learned that Jones is currently on the roster of the Houston Rockets NBA team.
A sergeant patrolling the area saw a large group of people exit the Tube nightclub, located at 18 Northwest 3rd Avenue, and spill out into the street and sidewalk. An officer patrolling the area used a PA system to tell the crowd to get out of the street and get back onto the sidewalk. The sergeant pulled around the block to assist in case there was any further crowd issue.
While watching the group walk away from the bar, the sergeant observed a man, later identified as Terrence Jones, walk by a doorway where two homeless men were sleeping. Jones yelled, "Wake up," then raised his leg and stomped down on one of the men's legs. The men were sleeping in the doorway of 114 Northwest 3rd Avenue.
Officers contacted Jones among the group of approximately eight people about a half a block away and took him into custody.
The victim, 46-year-old Daniel John Kellerher, received a minor leg injury and did not require immediate medical attention.
Jones was transported to Central Precinct then to the Multnomah County Jail on a charge of Harassment.
Last night's update on our drawn-out quest for freshly updated data showing how discipline decisions by Chief Mike Reese sometimes veer from Police Review Board recommendations—including a statement of support from Mayor Charlie Hales' office—finally stirred a response from the police bureau.
That response, however, was not the one we wanted. It was a big, fat no. Police bureau spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson sent me a statement last night.
After consulting with Chief Reese and the City Attorney late yesterday [Wednesday, July 24], we are unable to release specific discipline imposed in the cases of the recent review board memo for the following reasons:
ORS 192.501(12) exempts from disclosure "A personnel action, or materials or documents supporting that action" unless the "public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance." The Portland Police Bureau cannot comment on personnel matters because we must protect public employees’ privacy interests consistent with Oregon Public Records Law and relevant collective bargaining agreements.
We believe that releasing specific discipline imposed on employees would violate our obligation as the employer.
It's a curious response, given that the bureau in February sent me exactly the same kind of data (pdf) they now say they can't provide. And that data is valuable. It provides an important window into how the chief respects the work of a board that's supposed to provide a civilian check on discipline. My reporting found that while in most cases the chief adopts the review board's recommendations, he also saved the jobs of three cops overwhelmingly targeted for dismissal on accusations of dishonesty. He also went easy on some other cops facing strict discipline, including Sergeant Kyle Nice.
So why the change of tune? Allow me to ask and answer some questions.
What's the problem here?
Blame Oregon's public records law, and also concerns over the bureau's contracts with the Portland Police Association and the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association.
Hall Monitor this week was essentially a poke at Police Chief Mike Reese, who hasn't decided yet whether he'll update a document we found very useful when we got our hands on it earlier this year: a matrix comparing discipline recommendations by the bureau's Police Review Board against whatever discipline, if any, the chief actually metes out.
The column explained why that's crucial information to have:
The PRB is an important step in misconduct and use-of-force probes. I asked for that matrix after an Oregonian story that Reese merely demoted a police captain, Todd Wyatt, whom the review board wanted to fire over charges including dishonesty and harassment. It led to reporting that Reese saved the jobs of two other cops targeted for dismissal because of lying.
The story also revealed that Reese pretty regularly freelances his own discipline, including taking it easy on controversial cop Kyle Nice (one of the cops in the beating death of James Chasse Jr.). The review board wanted to give Nice one to two weeks of suspension, plus anger management sessions, after a road rage incident where Nice pulled his gun. Reese gave him a letter of reprimand.
That matrix—created only because Mayor Charlie Hales' office asked—was good only through January. When the next batch of review board reports came out in July, it seemed only natural to ask for an update. At first, the bureau said it wouldn't do that. It never planned to do it. But then it said it would ask Reese. And I've been waiting for an answer ever since.
But now, this afternoon, something came along that might goose Reese into making a decision—presumably to produce an updated matrix. Hales' office, contacted by the Mercury, firmly agreed that the chief should keep on producing the data because, says Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes, Hales and his staff find it "useful." Haynes says the mayor hasn't asked the chief to update the data yet but will "likely" do so.
“The mayor believes timely, consistent discipline is a key part of public administration, and is important to strengthening police credibility," Hales' chief of staff, Gail Shibley, said in a statement. "A matrix can be a helpful tool for police supervisors and managers in this regard, so the mayor will continue to work with police leadership to refine and use this or similar tools.”
Interestingly, as my column also pointed out, the city's Independent Police Review director is looking to enshrine the release of this kind of data in city code. But that won't happen until later this year at the earliest, as part of other changes held up by the delay in the feds' civil rights case against the police. So why wait when clearly the cops can put that data out right now?
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