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Friday, May 29, 2015

Why'd A 16-Year-Old Kid Shoot Into a Crowd At Last Thursday? Someone Was "Eying" Him

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 5:06 PM

Last Thursday. Not last night, though.
  • Zervas
  • Last Thursday. Not last night, though.

If you somehow suspected the shooting of three people at last night's piecemeal Last Thursday event was anything less than totally senseless, you're wrong.

Cops have charged the suspect, 16-year-old Turon Lamont Walker, Jr. with attempted murder and unlawful use of a weapon. They say bystanders helped them track the Vancouver resident down after the shooting, and that he's since admitted to the attack. The seriousness of those charges, under strict sentencing guidelines voters approved in 1994, means details of the case are being released (they're usually not with juvenile offenders).

So we can now say that, at least according to what police say he told them, Walker opened fire into a crowd because he felt someone was looking at him funny.

From a probable cause affidavit prosecutors filed today:

"Detective Brian Sims interviewed the defendant and after Miranda warnings the defendant admitted shooting the hand gun at an individual who he believed was "eying" him... The defendant then wrote an apology letter to the victims."

Cops are treating the shooting as a gang attack, though they've not released any description of Walker's alleged gang ties. (Police also say there have been 64 gang-related attacks this year. During 2012, the most violent year in recent memory, there'd been 57 through May.)

Walker was arraigned earlier today. So were two bystanders, local rapper Glenn Waco (Loren Ware) and Marcus Cooper, whose behavior immediately after the shooting landed them charges of interfering with a peace officer, harassment, and disorderly conduct. It's still not totally clear what happened to spur the arrests, but police are saying it's not that Cooper and Waco were trying to help victims, as has been claimed.

I've requested police reports and left a message for Waco. (The O has this account.)

Meanwhile, community members held a press conference at Woodlawn Park this afternoon, urging peace as violence spikes. Among the speakers was Kim Dixon McCleary, mother of 21-year-old Andreas Jones, who was killed in an attack in Gresham back in 2013.

"I represent a very real pain," Dixon McCleary said, as if speaking to teens who'd consider similar violence. "My son is not going to come back. That is not what you want to be part of. I’m appealing to you."

ANOTHER Cyclist Was Just Hit at SE Powell and 26th

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 12:42 PM


May is National Bike Month. That's an arbitrary designation, of course. I only bring it up because Portland's has been god-awful. Almost three weeks after a 22-year-old cyclists lost his leg in a crash at SE Powell and 26th (and just days after a cyclists was killed nearby) there's been ANOTHER crash at the intersection.

This one, thankfully, isn't catastrophic. According to Portland police, a still-unidentified cyclists was hit by a Jeep Cherokee at 11:12 am, and doesn't have life-threatening injuries.

In a city that's already seeing increased bike activism (after years of perceived apathy) this all feels like its reaching a tipping point. Activists were already planning a memorial ride this eveing for Mark Angeles, the 22-year-old Reed College graduate who was killed when a tow truck failed to yield on Wednesday. And it was just May 11 when protestors last took to SE Powell and 26th, in a slowdown to protest the Oregon Department of Transportation's stewardship of Powell. That action was a response to a crash where, once again, a truck driver failed to yield to 22-year-old cyclist Alistair Corkett.

Two days after the slowdown, the activist group BikeLoudPDX organized a "die-in" outside ODOT's Portland headquarters.


Today's crash creates more pressure to improve the 26th/Powell intersection, which most people agree needs better signals. And it'll likely renew calls that ODOT should relinquish control of the Powell to the City of Portland. Between 2004-2013 there were 73 traffic injuries attributed to the intersection, according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Of those, 60 were injuries to motorists, 8 were to cyclists. Injuries are rampant along that entire stretch of Powell, designated by PBOT as a high-crash corridor.

Update, 2:05 pm: Police now say the victim was a 37-year-old named Peter Anderson. He was stopped on 26th, headed north, and began to cross Powell when he was struck by 25-year-old Noah Gilbertson, who was going east. Cops aren't saying whether it was Gilbertson or Anderson who disobeyed the stop light at the intersection. No citations.

Continue reading »

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Three People Were Just Shot At Last Thursday—Or What Little Of It Exists This Month

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 8:38 PM

Last Thursday—in happier times.
  • Last Thursday—in happier times.

Normally, tonight would have been the first official Last Thursday event of the year on Alberta. The mayor's decided the May shindig should go, so streets weren't closed off like normal. That hasn't prevented mayhem.

Police report three people were shot at roughly 5:19 pm (cops have corrected this to 6:51 pm), as people gathered for a more low-key, less sanctioned version of the monthly arts festival. The official police bureau line at this point has no information about their conditions, but people on the scene report that they're expected to survive.

Also, randomly, local rapper Glen Waco, a visible figure in the Don't Shoot PDX demonstrations over the past year, was apparently arrested, the O's Casey Parks reports.

How did the folks who'd flocked to Alberta Street respond? Partly with indignation that quirky ice cream flavors weren't as available as they should be.

This is more bad news at a time Portland police are already dismayed over shootings as the weather warms up. That's not a new thing—it seems there's a similar message every year—but it's true incidents cops classify as gang-related are up over 2014.

On Tuesday, I asked PPB spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson about the shootings this year, asking whether curbing that violence was maybe more a priority than pushing homeless people out of the Central Eastside. He waffled, saying the bureau had to be responsive to the community, and it's gotten a ton of complaints about visible homelessness.

But he also noted that the blatant, broad-daylight aspect of recent shootings has been a concern for cops. This evening's incident isn't going to help.

Update, Friday 7 am: Police now say that the victims in the shooting were two 15-year-old boys and a 25-year-old woman. None of the wounds were life-threatening.

One reason—among many, many reasons—not to open fire at Last Thursday? Spectators who don't give a damn if you're arrested (police consistently rue the "no snitching" culture that they say prevents them from solving gang crimes). Spectators at the scene took pictures of the alleged shooter fleeing on foot, and cops caught up with him at NE Going and 22nd. They also found a gun.

As for Glenn Waco and the other guy who were arrested? Police say they were "were interfering with the investigation after the fact." The two men were arrested for "interfering with a peace officer," a catch-all that allows cops to arrest people for everything from being homeless to whatever Waco (real name Loren Ware) and co-defendant Marcus Cooper were doing. They've also got charges for disorderly conduct, harassment, and resisting arrest.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Portland Police Are Planning the Toughest Campsite Crackdown in Years, Starting Next Week

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Sat, May 23, 2015 at 9:58 AM

  • Adam Wickham

Portland police are planning their most intensive crackdown on homeless camping in years, saying complaints over "entrenched" homelessness have reached a tipping point. Beginning Tuesday and extending into June, officers will target encampments throughout the city's Central Eastside—demanding campers take down their tents, and pushing social services on them.

"For a couple of weeks there’s gonna be sort of an ongoing effort to address the entrenched camps," Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Simpson told the Mercury Friday afternoon, adding cops would be looking to "get people into services that are not connected now, or avoiding them. Clean up some of the garbage."

Portland's got a reputation for treating homeless camping with a relatively light touch, but it's nothing new for officers to cite people for living in tents throughout the city—cops have been doing so for a while now, even arresting campers by leveraging the state's law against "interfering with a peace officer."

The effort that will begin next week is more intense. In some respects, it sounds like the sweeps Mayor Charlie Hales ordered around City Hall in 2013. Simpson says orders for the action—he insists "sweep" is the wrong word, though many homeless people and homeless advocates would call it that—came at the direction of Assistant Chief Bob Day, who helped pioneer similar efforts when he oversaw the bureau's Central Precinct.

"It definitely is one of the most coordinated efforts to address the homeless problems on the Eastside and the entrenched camping there," Simpson said. Officers from each of the city's three police precincts will work the clean-up effort. Simpson didn't know how many cops would be involved all told.

Continue reading »


Friday, April 10, 2015

Portland's Chicago-Based Police Reform Watchdogs May Not Replace Their "Ears on the Ground"

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 10:46 AM

  • Illustration by Mark Markovich

The head of a team of Chicago academics being paid to watchdog Portland's police reform says he's not sure whether he'll hire a new person to be the team's "ears on the ground," after former state Chief Justice Paul De Muniz resigned for health reasons this week.

Following a sometimes-tense meeting with community members last night, Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum, a criminology professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, told the Mercury he's still trying to figure out whether De Muniz should be replaced.

"It's not clear whether we're gonna fill that role," he said, noting he and colleague Amy Watson plan to be on hand for periodic meetings of the citizen board also looking into police reform. "We can chair the meetings."

Rosenbaum made clear that a decision hasn't been made whether to replace De Muniz. But if the former justice's seat goes empty, it could lead to pushback. Both Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz have said Rosenbaum's team has to find a suitable replacement.

"We do need to engage another local leader," Fritz told the Mercury on Thursday morning. "Certainly it's the COCL's choice" who that is.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Former Justice Paul De Muniz Leaving Police Reform Efforts, Cites a "Health Issue"

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 6:40 PM

Oregon's ongoing police reform effort just lost a key figure.

Former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul De Muniz—a vital member of a team that's overseeing changes spelled out in the police bureau's settlement with the federal government—said today he's leaving the effort because of a health issue.

"I am sorry to inform you that as a result of a private and personal health issue, on the advice of my doctor, I have withdrawn from this project effective immediately," De Muniz wrote in an e-mail to members of a citizen board watching over reforms. "It has been a pleasure to get to know each of you and wish you every success."

The departure leaves big questions for the city's nascent efforts to change a police force the feds say has a pattern of beating up mentally ill people. De Muniz was a central reason Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz cited for hiring a team of researchers largely based in Chicago to oversee police progress under the settlement. The group beat out two other finalists for the contract, over the objections of members of a selection committee.

"I understand that fear and concern that experts from somewhere else might not have the grounding in Portland that's needed for this work," Hales said when announcing he'd selected professor Dennis Rosenbaum and other researchers to comprise the so-called Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) team "That’s why the critical importance of Paul De Muniz. He'll provide that link to the community, that deep understanding of Portland."

As the only team member based in Oregon, De Muniz had several roles. He was to be a listening ear for community concerns and the chair of a citizen board that's also scrutinizing reforms.

Continue reading »

Even in a Solid Budget Year, Horse Cops Are on the Chopping Block

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 12:14 PM

  • Denis C Theriault

Not long ago, representatives from the International Association of Athletics Federations visited Commissioner Steve Novick. The organization is planning to hold its 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland next year, and plans to ask the city for a lot of cash to make that happen.

Novick says he told his visitors what he tells anybody who comes around asking for money: "Whatever the odds might be that I’ll support your request, they'll go up if you'll say in public: 'This is more important than the mounted patrol.'"

Even in plush budget times (the city's got an estimated extra $31 million to play with last year), and with Portland City Council slated to hear of a new study recommending more cops this afternoon, Novick this budget season is continuing a refrain he's taken up since his early days in office: The city should ditch its five-officer horse cop unit.

As we explore in this week's Hall Monitor column, he's probably not alone. At a March 26 work session focusing on the police budget, Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman—the only elected officials present, beyond Novick—said the unit's future is an open question.

"It's time to talk about the mounted patrol again," Fritz said at the hearing.

Continue reading »

Saturday, April 4, 2015

That Police-Commissioned Staffing Report Everyone's Been Waiting On? It Calls for More Cops.

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Sat, Apr 4, 2015 at 12:59 PM

illustration by elizabeth bisegna
  • illustration by elizabeth bisegna

A year ago, as the scalpels of budget season were glinting in the March sunshine, the Portland Police Bureau seemed marked for some serious invasive surgery.

A city-wide budget study ordered up the previous year had just suggested the bureau was obscenely top-heavy, finding that 33 command officers supervised three or fewer underlings. It found redundancy among high level positions, and recommended 22 command staff be incised.

The police bureau— rumored to have been hostile to the budget inquiries in the first place—reacted how you'd expect. Then-Chief Mike Reese sent a curt memo to Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish, who'd helmed the study. He said the findings were oversimplified, and that the suggested cuts would "severely impact accountability and oversight." He also pointed out that "oversight and accountability" had been central tenets in ongoing police reform efforts, and said eliminating supervisors ran contrary to progress.

In the end—despite determined and studied arguments by Novick—the police bureau was spared the knife.

The reason? Mayor Charlie Hales, the police bureau, and others pointed out there needed to be more study. "Wait 'til Autumn," this argument went, "when the police bureau plans to release its own staffing study. Then we'll talk."

But Autumn came and went. The staffing study just landed.

On Wednesday afternoon, Hales will present a report—commissioned by the police bureau and carried out by a private consulting firm—that largely disagrees with the findings of a year ago.

Amid jargon-filled recommendations for tweaks and organizational shuffles, consultants say just three command staff should be shaved from the bureau's ranks. All told, the report says the police bureau should add 27.5 positions—largely focused in the ranks of officer (11), detective (7), and sergeant (5).

And researchers for Matrix Consulting Group say the problems highlighted in last city report—that captains and commanders perform redundant tasks—is incorrect. It recommends, as a "high" priority, that the police bureau "retain the Commander/Captain management structure in the precincts to focus accountability for operations and external responsibilities."

While last year's study found the bureau's "span of control" (the number of people command staff directly supervise) was too often too narrow, the new consulting report says, at the highest levels, police brass are overseeing too many people.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Are Your Questions About This Police Ruler?

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 3:28 PM

On Monday afternoon, the Portland Police Bureau offered up its most-detailed account yet of Portland's first deadly police shooting of the year. We learned the name of the man who cops say came at two officers with a knife (Christopher Ryan Healy, 36, of Pennsylvania). And we got a glimpse at the "double-bladed knife, 10 inches in length," police say Healy menaced officers with, describing how he wielded it in a "weaving, figure eight motion" and attempted to stab an officer before being shot, then tased. (This is by no means the only account of the incident, as we pointed out in yesterday's GMN.)

Here is the knife:


For an instant I was thinking "10 inches, just like they said." Then I realized, no, that knife's not a hair over nine inches (with blades that are closer to two inches), and for some reason the police bureau uses a ruler that begins after the first inch and looks homemade.

So we asked: Why are you calling this a 10-inch knife? Is this what the PPB measures evidence with?

Lead spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson understood why we were asking, and got back to us today.

"It was an unintended mistake," Simpson says. "The photo was taken for the release (not the official evidence photo) and the end of the cloth ruler folded under. It would accurately be called a 9” knife rather than 10"."

I'll admit I'm still curious about the ruler. Particularly that "7." How bout you, Blogtown? Any pressing questions about this ruler?


Monday, March 23, 2015

Portland Officers Shot, then Tased, the Knife-Wielding Man Killed Yesterday

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 11:14 AM

Christopher Ryan Healy
  • Christopher Ryan Healy

Update, 4:22 pm: Portland police just released the name of the man killed yesterday, apparently after coming at two officers with a two-bladed knife. He was Christopher Ryan Healy, of Erie, Pennsylvania, and it's still unclear what he has to do with a residential disagreement that spiraled into an East Portland resident calling cops to report a burglary.

Healy doesn't appear to have criminal offenses on the books in Portland, and police have said nothing further about his background. Here's the knife he was carrying when he was shot:


Meanwhile, the officer who shot Healy is Thomas Clark, who's been with the police bureau for six years. Clark's maintained a fairly low profile in that time. He was injured when a drunk driver rammed his patrol car in 2011, and in December 2013 helped save a pedestrian who was run down by a car.

He was also on scene when police gunned down Merle Mikal Hatch in February 2013—an incident which was largely uncontroversial as Portland police shootings go.

Clark shot Healy twice when he came at him with the knife. An officer named Royce Curtiss tased Healy when he didn't fall, police say.


We still don't know who police killed yesterday, or which officers were involved, but the Portland Police Bureau just released more information about the Sunday afternoon incident which left a 36-year-old man dead.

The first revelation: This may not have been a burglary as first reported, though cops were responding to a burglary call when the incident occurred. Police now say they've learned the incident "began as a neighborhood dispute over the weekend between the occupants of two residences"—presumably in the area of SE 130th and Sherman, where the shooting occurred.

And the white male police killed doesn't appear to be either of those "occupants." Police say he's from out of state and they're still trying to figure out what his involvement was. Here's the latest police version of events, which involves dramatic knife maneuvering:

As the officers approached the subject, he advanced toward them with a double-bladed knife, 10 inches in length, in a weaving, figure eight motion. The subject got very close to one of the officers, a 6-year veteran, who fired two rounds, striking the suspect. The subject remained on his feet and the other officer, a 9-year veteran, re-holstered his weapon and deployed a Taser. The subject then dropped to the ground and an ambulance immediately responded and transported him to a local hospital where he later died. The subject is a 36-year-old white male.

The two officers involved in the shooting have been on the force for 9 years and 6 years.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Portland Police Kill An Alleged Burglar Who Had A Knife

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 10:33 PM

The details are sketchy, but we know this much: A Portland police officer killed a man tonight, after the suspect apparently attacked with a knife.

Shortly after 6 pm, Portland police sent out a release saying a suspect had been shot when officers confronted him while responding to a burglary call near SE 130th and Sherman. Now, police have offered a more-concrete version of events—one that still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

Cops now say officers responding to the burglary call arrived to find the caller attempting to restrain a suspect.

"Officers attempted to take custody of the suspect, who attacked them," the release says. "The suspect attempted to stab one of the officers with a knife. The officer fired two rounds, striking the suspect."

It's unclear right now what type of building the confrontation took place in—some media reports say it occurred near an apartment complex—and whether the dead man was a stranger to the person who called police. Police also aren't releasing any information about the suspect, saying they'll provide updates tomorrow.

It's even unclear if it was a burglary. According to the Oregonian, police Sergeant Greg Stewart says "the circumstances were 'chaotic,' and the exact nature of what led to the call remain under investigation."

The incident marks Portland's first deadly police shooting of 2015, and the first since Officer Robert Brown shot Nicholas Davis, a homeless man, on the Springwater Corridor Trail last June. In that case, Davis approached officers with a crowbar, and Brown fell to the ground while attempting to retreat. When Davis kept coming, Brown fired.

We'll have more on this on Monday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

ACLU Sues Two Years After Gresham Transit Officer Forcibly Seizes, Searches Cop Watcher's Phone

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 7:42 PM

More than two years after a Gresham transit officer grabbed hold of a police accountability advocate filming the aftermath of a man's arrest in downtown Portland—seizing her phone against her will and searching it for video—the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has filed a complaint in federal court accusing that cop and three others of violating the woman's constitutional rights.

The 37-page complaint (pdf), filed Tuesday in US District Court, claims Gresham Officer Taylor Letsis—working under the command of the Portland Police Bureau as a member of TriMet's multi-agency Transit Police Division—forcefully grabbed the activist, Carrie Medina, in the middle of a live Internet broadcast on February 12, 2013, and snatched up her phone without any probable cause that she committed a crime or had captured evidence of a crime.

It says Medina had stayed at least 30 feet from the unfolding arrest, keeping out of officers' way. It also says she made clear to Letsis, when he approached her after seeing her phone, that she'd been on a bus and had only begun filming after the arrested man was in custody.

"Portland, Gresham, and TriMet failed to adequately train and supervise Officer Letsis and the other individual defendants before and during the incident," the complaint reads, "and maintained policies that allowed and condoned the acts and omissions of the police during the incident, and which showed deliberate indifference to the rights of Ms. Medina under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments."

The complaint appears to be the subject of a news conference announced outside ACLU headquarters at 2 pm tomorrow. The announcement for the presser said only that the ACLU had filed a suit today related to the filming of police officers. Officials at the ACLU weren't immediately available for comment. The Mercury obtained the complaint through a search of federal court records.

In demanding damages worth just several hundred dollars, plus attorney's fees, the complaint notes an email (pdf) sent by Gresham's police chief in March 2013 that discourages officers from seizing phones in similar circumstances—and all but prohibits them from searching them, in cases where it's not likely the evidence would be destroyed, without first seeking a warrant.


Local TV stations wrote about the incident a few days after it happened, quoting the Gresham Police Department's spokesman as saying Letsis' conduct was legal. The complaint says Letsis should have heeded Medina's protestations that she didn't witness the incident that led to the arrest and also that he should have accepted her officer to send him the video later via email.

The three other officers, all believed to be from Portland, weren't named. One of them, the complaint says, gave Letsis a look that persuaded him to let Medina's arm go. But all three were accused nonetheless of failing to intervene to stop the search of Medina's phone.

Continue reading »

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Portland's Camping Ban is Effectively Suspended Until February 3

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 1:19 PM

  • Photo by Adam Wickham

Camp at your leisure, Portland! Until Tuesday at least.

The city's anti-camping ordinance—currently under challenge in court—is on ice for the next week, courtesy of Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

Saltzman, the city's housing commissioner (for now), penned an email to 16 local entities last week, asking them to hold off on enforcing anti-camping laws or conducting sweeps, the Mercury has learned.

It's not a warm-hearted détente in Portland's ongoing struggles dealing with homelessness. Instead, Saltzman and Portland Housing Bureau officials want to make sure the county's homeless aren't going into hiding as an important effort begins: the every-other-year count of homeless people sleeping on the streets.

The count officially began last night, and continues until Tuesday. In that time, outreach workers and volunteers are combing alcoves, overpasses, and popular camp spots to get a picture of how many people in the county are sleeping outside. (Because the study is technically a one-night snapshot, they're now asking people if they slept outside last night, January 28). The 2013 count found 2,869 people were "literally homeless" up almost 140 from 2011.

The effort is made more difficult if police and other public employees are rousting encampments, making arrests for camping, and taking people's things. So Saltzman's asked city bureaus, county law enforcement, Metro, the Port of Portland, and Union Pacific to lay off. Only Union Pacific, which has its own security force, didn't affirm the requests, according to the housing bureau's Shannon Singleton.

"It's really important to us to get an accurate count," says Brendan Finn, Saltzman's chief of staff. "We don't know who schedules what, when."

Portland Police Bureau chief spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson confirms the bureau's on board.

"We'll still obviously respond to incidents," he notes. "We’re going to protect the public and respond to crime."

Here's Saltzman's "URGENT REMINDER":

From: Commissioner Saltzman
Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 11:03 AM
To: Singleton, Shannon
Subject: URGENT REMINDER: Suspension of enforcement for Homeless Street Count

As you know, the Homeless Street Count is an effort to capture a snapshot of the numbers, characteristics, and needs of people experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County. This is an additional reminder that the next biannual Homeless Street Count is scheduled for the week of January 28-February 3, 2015. To ensure that the count is as accurate as possible, we are requesting that all entities in Multnomah County that enforce the anti-camping ordinance or conduct homeless camp clean-ups suspend enforcement beginning tomorrow, January 21, to cover the week prior to and during the count (January 21 - February 3, 2015).

I believe most of you have already been in touch with Shannon Singleton of the Portland Housing Bureau to confirm your participation. If you have any questions please contact her at or by phone at (503) 823-4978.

Again, we appreciate your support for this important effort.


Dan Saltzman

Update, February 4: The Housing Bureau has asked us to stress that Shannon Singleton, named in Saltzman's e-mail, is not the best contact if you have questions about this. You can contact bureau spokesperson Martha Calhoon at, or 503.823.3239.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sheriff Dan Staton Won't Do Away With Face-To-Face Inmate Visits, After All

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 3:44 PM


Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton is backing off a contract provision that would have eliminated face-to-face visits in the county's two jails in favor of video kiosks.

That decision, announced today, comes after a Street Roots report earlier this month highlighted the change, suggesting it might be a sweet deal for a technology company the sheriff's office contracted with, but not for inmates.

Under that contract, with a Texas company called Securus Technologies, visiting via video/audio kiosks at the jail would have been free—the same as in-person visits today, in which inmates speak to well-wishers through a pane of glass—but would otherwise be no different in substance to video visiting Securus would make available online, for a fee. That could take away incentives for family and friends to visit incarcerated loved ones in the jail, and increase the likelihood they'd pay Securus—and Multnomah County— for a video visit.

The story raised concerns among Multnomah County commissioners, and today Staton announced he's got a "verbal agreement" to amend the contract with Securus.

Sheriff Staton has listened to feedback from the public regarding video visitation throughout this process. Sheriff Staton made the decision to maintain an in person "through the glass" visiting option for visitors. Sheriff Staton held discussions with Securus Technologies, the video visiting provider, to address this. The contract amendment has been verbally agreed to and will be completed by the end of the week. Sheriff Staton will continue to review social visiting processes and video visiting processes over the next six to eight months to ensure all concerns are taken into consideration.

Video visiting isn't intrinsically a bad thing. It allows people who might not otherwise see their imprisoned loved ones that chance, and during a wider range of days and hours. And the kiosks provide options for scheduling visits online, and even send would-be visitors an e-mail if an inmate is unavailable to receive company. Multnomah County, as the sheriff's office noted in the original Street Roots story, is hardly at the forefront of the trend.

Still, it makes little sense to force a video chat at the jail, when facilities already exist for face-to-face visits. According to Staton's announcement, kiosks are in place at both the Multnomah County Detention Center and the Inverness Jail, but face-to-face visits will remain available.

Hit the jump for Staton's full announcement.

Continue reading »


Police Watchdog to Probe Cops' Commitment to Outing Dishonest Officers

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 6:00 AM

  • illustration by neil perry
The US Constitution is painfully clear when it comes to cops and prosecutors' responsibility upon finding evidence that might prove helpful, instead of damaging, for a defendant: Before a case goes to trial, cops must share whatever "exculpatory" evidence they might possess with prosecutors, and prosecutors are then supposed to do the same with defense attorneys.

Has a cop been written up for dishonesty—thereby damaging her credibility on the stand? Or have investigators probing a murder maybe found a confession note suggesting someone besides the suspect pulled the trigger? In both cases, that evidence would have to be disclosed rules first sketched out in a 1963 US Supreme Court case called Brady v. Maryland.

Because of Brady, dishonesty often means the end of a cop's career—in that a cop no longer fit for the stand isn't worth much in the field. But as the Mercury reported almost two years ago—after noting at least three instances in which cops found to have lied by a review board kept their jobs—that's not always been the case in Portland.

Those concerns caught the eye of local prosecutors and advocates way back when. And now, after years of quiet concern, the city's Independent Police Review office has finally announced a cage-rattling investigation into how and whether the Portland Police Bureau is complying "with its obligation under the United States Constitution."

In a statement sent this morning, the IPR office—overseen by the city auditor's office, and not the cops—lays out the following areas of focus:

When the policy review is complete, IPR will issue a public report. IPR’s review will cover three areas:

1) How the Police Bureau’s current policy and procedures define Brady material and an officer’s constitutional duty.

2) Training received by officers on their obligations under Brady.

3) Police Bureau’s current policy on disclosing to prosecutors when the Police Bureau has material that would fall under Brady.

The timing is interesting. The city's latest batch of Police Review Board reports, first detailed earlier this month by the Mercury, shows some seeming improvement in how the bureau deals with cops found to have been dishonest. Three cops whose credibility and trustworthiness were impugned over lapses like dodging parking tickets or lying during internal affairs interviews all resigned after unanimous "termination" votes by the review board.

In previous years, the same kind of misconduct also earned unanimous or near-unanimous termination votes from the PRB—whose members were equally alarmed and troubled over the lapses in honesty. But as the Mercury reported, citing public records the city initially refused to provide, then-Chief Mike Reese softened the board's recommendations by going with demotions or a demerit letter.

Continue reading »

Friday, January 23, 2015

Portland-Area Police Unions Now Have Their Own Lobbying Group

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 2:29 PM

A month after the head of Portland's rank-and-file police union described to his members a "culture of hatred toward law enforcement," Portland-area police and deputy unions are banding together, they say, to fight back.

The unions—Clackamas County Peace Officers Association, Multnomah County Deputy Sheriff's Association, Portland Police Association, Troutdale Police Officers' Association, and Washington County Police Officers' Association—announced a new lobbying group this afternoon, the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs (ORCOPS). But they're not offering many specifics about what they want to accomplish.

"ORCOPS will work on public policy issues that impact law enforcement officers in Oregon and will also connect Oregonians to the role law enforcement plays in keeping our communities safe," says a release from the organization's president, Daryl Turner. "The formation of ORCOPS comes at a time when law enforcement is under deeper scrutiny in the wake of national events."

Turner's the Portland Police Association president who used the "culture of hatred line" on December 22, shortly after two New York City police officers were murdered at random by a man suffering a mental health crisis. The statement, a letter sent to union membership, upset local activists who've been railing against police abuses for months.

When the Mercury called Turner today to ask what policy tweaks and actions his new group had in mind, he said he wouldn't comment beyond the news release. That stance didn't apply, apparently, when the Oregonian called (thought Turner didn't offer them much more).

The release says the new organization is happy to welcome any interested Oregon law enforcement officer association on board.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Police Review Board Strongly Urged "Termination" for Four Portland Cops, All of Whom Resigned, According to Latest Reports

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 12:28 PM

  • illustration by neil perry
A police bureau advisory panel charged with reviewing officer misconduct strongly recommended four Portland cops lose their jobs over accusations including dishonesty, dodging parking tickets, and a positive test for steroids, according to a new batch of public released late Thursday.

The 59-page document (pdf)—which chronicles discipline cases that closed between June 15 and December 25, 2014—reveals that each of those officers chose to resign in lieu of facing punishment. One of those four, with the steroid test, resigned before the bureau's Police Review Board even met.

Board members also voted to fire a fifth officer, accused of lying about the reason he or she asked a colleague to run a credit check on someone. But members were conflicted about that case and said they'd also support an 80-hour unpaid suspension, especially if the officer were moved to a post where he or she would no longer have access to sensitive data. That's the discipline the officer ultimately received.

The memos are the second to be released since Portland City Council last year approved the Independent Police Review's request to add more detail, including not just the discipline recommended by the board, but also the final discipline approved by the police chief and police commissioner. That had long been an issue. They're the first to come out since the city began using a new "discipline matrix" to help standardize punishment outcomes for various types of misconduct.

Beyond the cases that ended in resignations, the board addressed two fatal police shootings last year, involving Kelly Swoboda and Nick Davis—ruling that both were "in policy" and commending the officers, in particular, who were part of the Swoboda shooting. It urged the bureau, after exonerating a cop accused of hurting a suspect's arm, to seek body cameras for cops and to push anew for Multnomah County jail to resume recording sound as part of its jail intake surveillance system—an issue the Mercury has so far been the only outlet to raise.

It also sought sanction for two officers described as "experienced" and respected veterans who chased down someone making threats despite being off-duty with their families and then punched the man even after he'd been detained, before on-duty officers could respond. Both of those cops received 20-hour unpaid suspensions.

"The entire evening in questioned seemed to be fraught with peril and poor decision-making," the board's writeup reads, reminding the cops that the bureau's use of force policy was tightened in 2008.

Continue reading »

Saturday, January 10, 2015

LIVE BLOG: The Mayor, the Police Union, the Community Gather to Talk About Police Reform

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Sat, Jan 10, 2015 at 10:57 AM

Daryl Turner, left, says hello to Mayor Charlie Hales before this mornings forum at NE Portlands Bethel AME Church.
As promised—after Don't Shoot Portland protesters held a series of brief sitdowns with Mayor Charlie Hales last month on the subject of police accountability in Portland—organizers and Hales this morning are about to hold their first in a series of six monthly public forums on how and whether to reform Portland.

But that's not precisely why today's hours-long forum, organized by Teressa Raiford, is interesting.

Joining Hales is Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner, who reflected on the murder of two New York cops last month with a long statement complaining about nationwide protests fomenting a culture of hatred against cops. After that speech went public, first reported by the Portland Tribune, protesters planned a rally at PPA headquarters but held a chat with Turner instead.

Hales' office is also taking time to talk about federal police reforms and ongoing oversight efforts, chiefly an entreaty to put in for a Community Oversight Advisory Board. The deadline for that board had been Friday. But it's been extended one more week, until next Friday, January 16.

Dozens of people are here—including retired state Supreme Court Justice Paul DeMuniz, who's been selected as the local face of a Chicago team of academics hired as the compliance officer/community liaison team for federal police reforms.

First to give substantive remarks is Hales' public safety advisor, Deanna Wesson-Mitchell. Wesson-Mitchell, who grew up on Northeast Portland, opened with remarks about how she got to be a police officer—a job she made clear to say she quit after 10 years before joining the mayor's office.

She's got a colorful story. She's talking about growing up as bi-racial, and learning about the need for social justice as a kid or university student. Her dad is a former Black Panther. The family once lived next to Hell's Angels who kept a pet lion.

She grew up not liking the police. But then she decided, with her sister, to join the bureau after attempting other careers, in part to serve the public. During her time in the bureau, she was one of the officers devoted to working on equity issues for the inside, she said.

"Portland is a very white city and people don't like to talk about race," says Wesson-Mitchell. "Trying to get people to talk about race is one of the things in the police bureau where we've made a lot of progress over the years."

Among the reforms she's also touting? A new test with better questions for officer hiring—something that requires input.


Hales is talking now. He's glad for the chance to come here to talk.

"The police bureau in Portland is a work in progress," he says. "But there's been progress."

He says community relationships are his top priority as police commissioner. He's talking up the federal reforms. He's also calling controversy over the city's clarifying appeal of a judge's order for regular updates on the reforms "a legal sideshow." He says he expects mediation to settle that next month.

Hales is also talking up his choice of police chief, Larry O'Dea (read our long conversation with O'Dea, which was published just this week). And he says the walking beats the bureau began on SE Hawthorne, where cops had been dealing with homeless youth and others, could be a model for Portland.

And now he's mentioned his willingness, first reported by the Mercury, to invest in a long-delayed drop-off/crisis center for people experiencing mental illness. He says that need flared anew after the Labor Day shooting, on Interstate 84, of DeNorris McClendon, who'd been in an emergency room the night before his shooting, only to leave, and now in the criminal justice system.

"This is a big deal," Hales says.

On the subject of body cameras, he says efforts to obtain them have been put on hold while the city works on legislation in Salem to balance privacy with the public's right to know what its police officers are doing.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Another Arrest, and Jail Time, for Hunger Striker Michael Meo

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 12:45 PM


Say this for Michael Meo's strategy: He's avoiding the unpleasantness of jail food.

Meo, a retired Portland high school teacher and three-time Pacific Green Party congressional candidate, has been starving himself since December 1. As we reported last month, he says he's prepared to die unless Mayor Charlie Hales takes "substantive action" to rein in the city's police force.

The latest action on that front: Meo was arrested in the antechamber of the mayor's office for a third time on Christmas Eve (judges have ordered him to keep at least 25 feet from the office at all times). And when he showed up for a court date two days later, Meo was held in the city's (sometimes overcrowded, deputy-overtime generating) jail for five days.

Court records show Multnomah County Circuit Judge Michael Greenlick ordered Meo booked in jail at a December 26 hearing. Bail was set at $1,000. Meo was released on his own recognizance on the 31st, and even given permission to travel to Seattle earlier this week.

The latest arrest in Hales' office means Meo is now facing four misdemeanor trespassing charges as a result of his protest, which involves little more than occasionally sitting in the mayor's office lobby, reading, and always announcing his presence and intentions in the mayor's official visitor's book.

And fasting, of course. Meo says he's ingested only liquids since the beginning of December.

"Today is Day 37—but who's counting, eh?" he wrote in an email yesterday. "I weigh 165 pounds, from 195."

Meo doesn't want to talk to Hales about his protest—he wants a "substantive action." Exactly what that needs to be is unclear. Meo has called on Hales to follow reform recommendations of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, but has also said he'll end his fast if the city severs its ties with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Taskforce, which officials will consider on February 5.

Hales' staff, meanwhile, say they're not sure how to placate Meo, and that he's not welcome in the office if he doesn't want to hash things out.

"I haven’t seen him since around Christmas," says Dana Haynes, the mayor's chief spokesman. "We talked for quite a while the last time he dropped by, but that’s been a while."

Update, 1:45 pm: Meo is back in Portland City Hall today. According to Denis, he told a group rallying outside the building he is preparing his will, only half jokingly. Denis says Meo was outside of Amanda Fritz's office when he last saw him, well outside the 25-foot distance he's been ordered to keep from Hales' office.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Protestors Upset at Portland's Police Union Sat Down with Its Top Officials Today

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Daryl Turner's cell phone rang shortly after 1 am this morning.

The president of Portland's rank-and-file police union, Turner often tells people he'll answer the phone at any hour of the day. So he answered.

On the line was Teressa Raiford, one of the leaders of the nascent protest movement that's begun calling for police reform in a series of well-attended protests and meetings since late last month.

"I couldn't sleep, because I was worried about my safety and the safety of my protestors," Raiford said today. "If I didn't call him I was just gonna keep crying."

Instead, the short conversation set the stage for an impromptu meeting this afternoon between members of the group Don't Shoot Portland and leadership at the Portland Police Association. The meeting—which was actually supposed to be nothing more than another vocal protest of police abuses and a lack of oversight over officers—came a day after Turner sent a message to union members, decrying a "culture of hatred toward law enforcement" that's springing up around the country and, he said, had led to the killing of two New York City police officers over the weekend.

Rather than locked doors and closed windows, protestors showed up at the PPA's Northwest Portland headquarters at 1 pm to Turner opening the door to them and calling for refreshments,

"We're gonna have a conversation," he said. "I have no problem having a conversation."

What ensued was nearly two hours of largely civil back-and-forth. Protestors trickled in over the course of that time, numbering about 20 eventually. The PPA refused to allow video or audio recording (I snapped four pictures, since no one said anything about photography, and got chastised).

The discussion touched many issues. People mostly wanted to know about Turner's statement—in particular a part that reads:

How did this happen? The cold-blooded assassination of two of New York's finest in broad daylight? For months now, the media, politicians and community activists have been vilifying the police. They call us murderers and racists. Now, these same people who so quickly crucified the police are backpedaling. They are blaming a crazed gunman for the deplorable shooting. But it is their very words that fueled his anger and the anger of many Americans with unfounded accusations characterizing all police as brutal thugs. They have created a culture of hatred towards law enforcement nationwide. This can’t go on.

Pressed about those comments, Turner stuck to a semantic argument, pointing out he never said a thing about the local movement, or that local protestors had contributed to this "culture of hatred." He never addressed whether he thought local protestors were contributing to that culture, only that his statement didn't say so.

"I didn't name anyone or say it's local," he said. "None of this says anything about the protestors."

There was a lot more. Hit the jump for a selection of tweets from the meeting.

Continue reading »

Monday, December 22, 2014

Police Union President Equates Police Reform Protests with "Culture of Hatred Toward Law Enforcement," Casts Blame for Murder of Two New York Cops

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 6:39 PM

The president of Portland's rank-and-file police union—clearly in an extremely emotional state over the slaying this weekend of two New York City police officers—has blamed the "cold-blooded assassination of two of New York's finest" on ongoing demands for stronger police accountability in the wake of several high-profile shootings and deaths in custody this year.

Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association, posted a letter to his members telling them that reasonable demands—for increased civilian oversight, expanded community policing, de-militarization of police forces, and a willingness to address and solve the racially disparate effects of policing, among others—are the very same thing as "creating a culture of hatred towards law enforcement nationwide."

Turner's statement casts his ire, and blame, equally at "media, politicians, and community activists [who] have been vilifying the police." He goes on to say their words "fueled" the anger of the man who shot the two officers in New York—along with "the anger of many Americans." It's a statement that echoes the inflammatory "wartime" comment of New York's leading police union boss.

How did this happen? The cold-blooded assassination of two of New York's finest in broad daylight? For months now, the media, politicians and community activists have been vilifying the police. They call us murderers and racists. Now, these same people who so quickly crucified the police are backpedaling. They are blaming a crazed gunman for the deplorable shooting. But it is their very words that fueled his anger and the anger of many Americans with unfounded accusations characterizing all police as brutal thugs. They have created a culture of hatred towards law enforcement nationwide. This can’t go on.

And it also misunderstands the community frustration that's fueling what have largely been peaceful and constructive protests (other than when the same few people shout expletives at riot cops), not the other way around. In Portland, organizers led by young people of color have taken the streets with specific demands for change—and those organizers have pledged to hold monthly meetings with Mayor Charlie Hales to see some of those details become reality.

The police accountability movement in Portland is one reason why some of the strains at play in Ferguson and elsewhere, which even incoming Police Chief Larry O'Dea definitively sees as important enough to address, are better here than in other parts of the country.

Turner's statement calls for a massive community conversation including cops and government officials so we can "stop the anti-police movement." But that fails to understand the thrust of many of the conversations this city's already been having—that they're not anti-police, but pro- the kind of police bureau Portlanders want to see.

A police bureau where this sentiment, expressed over the summer by Mayor Charlie Hales, is true.

No law-abiding people should ever have reason to fear the police. Yet we must honestly admit that, too often, this is not true for a wide swath of our community: people of color.

Read Turner's statement after the jump.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Police Watchdog Says Widespread "Belief" Cops Target Hip-Hop Shows, Black Patrons "Should Greatly Concern City Officials"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 12:01 AM

A long-awaited report by the city's Independent Police Review faults hazy or non-existent protocols and incomplete record-keeping for its inability to definitively prove—or disprove—a widespread "belief in the hip-hop community" that Portland cops heap disparate scrutiny on "hip-hop shows or other events perceived to have a significant portion of black patrons."

But despite that lack of hard data—blamed matter-of-factly on a "lack of transparency"—the review is unsparingly critical in parts. It gives credence to what's become a deeply held perception in the black community, especially in light of "historically strained relationships" with the police bureau. And it strongly urges city officials, no matter officers' actual intentions, to take those concerns to heart.

Even the perception of bias in Portland "should greatly concern city officials," the review says in the midst of a list of recommendations—including calls to start a more thorough dialog with hip-hop artists and to begin collecting and sharing the kind of empirical data that might put any worries about profiling to rest.

"Such a belief, if allowed to persist," the review continues, "will continue to do lasting damage to the community's perception of its city government and will undermine the trust and openness that city leaders have publicly embraced."

The unusual policy review was launched last winter, following outcry over a heavy-handed (now infamous) police visit to a show at the (now-closed) Blue Monk. The heavily publicized show, featuring Luck-One (Hanif Collins), Illmaculate (Gregory Poe), and Mikey Vegaz (Eddie Bynum Jr.), came to an abrupt end March 1 after gang officers, concerned about Vegaz, showed up for a few minutes—leading to concerns about the Blue Monk's capacity that night, a cavalcade of cops outside (at least 14!) after a few fans didn't like being told they couldn't re-enter, and a virtual "mic drop" by Illmaculate, who stopped his set out of disgust and later vowed never to play in Portland again.

And now, months later, the report lands in the midst of a burgeoning protest movement over police accountability—sparked by the police killings of black men and boys in Missouri and Cleveland and Staten Island—that's seen young black Portlanders take the streets to raise awareness about fractured community ties in Portland, too.

One of those protest leaders, rapper Glenn Waco (Loren Ware), is featured prominently in the 26 pages (pdf) released early this morning by the IPR, alongside Illamaculate, Rasheed Jamal, and Portland legend Cool Nutz (Terrance Scott). The report takes pains to give the artists a credible voice in the ensuing discussion. It also praises their engagement and their knowledge of black history in Oregon—mixing in the artists' stories with a probing audit of the city's and state's regulatory bodies, some quick-hit history lessons, frank talk from gang officers, and a fascinating snapshot of Portland's evolving cultural landscape.

"At the heart of the debate about hip-hop's future in Portland is the looming question of whether a music form heavily indebted to African American culture can thrive or even exist in the United States' whitest major city," the report says early on, just under a section heading titled "Gentrification."

Continue reading »

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fill Out an Application If You Want to Help Oversee Federal Police Reform in Portland

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Portland's police reform agreement with the US Department of Justice cleared some major hurdles this year—finally winning approval from a federal judge (even if the city's challenging a key part of his order) and then, this fall, gaining a compliance officer/community liaison.

But the most important piece of the reform deal had still been left undone: the seating of a 15-person advisory panel whose members are supposed to serve as the city's conscience over all the years the agreement's in effect—working with the compliance officer, issuing recommendations to police officials, and serving as a conduit for community concerns.

That's changing as of this month.

Last week, city officials sent notice they're accepting applications for what's officially known as the "Community Oversight Advisory Board" (COAB), the linchpin of an agreement that prescribes training, policy, and oversight changes in response to findings that Portland cops engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness.

The announcement came after Commissioner Amanda Fritz, city hall's point person on the COAB selection process, worked with advocates to refine how members would be selected.

The panel's 15 citizen spots (five cops also will sit on the board, but as advisory members) can be filled by anyone who lives, works, or studies in Portland, so long as they have no conflicts of interest with the city, real or perceived.

Five of the members will be chosen by a new selection committee, five more will then be appointed by the Portland Commission on Disability and Portland Human Rights Commission (both will be looking for people with mental illness/mental health), and the city council will then choose the final five citizens.

Here are some guidelines:


Here are some of the questions applicants will have answer:


It's a serious commitment—and it's not a stretch to suggest the success of the reform deal hinges partly on who applies for the COAB and who winds up selected.

Which means if you're interested and/or think you're well-suited for the work, you should really get moving. Applications are due by January 9!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cops: Two Victims in Shooting at North Portland Alternative High School

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 12:43 PM

The Portland Police Bureau just sent word its starting up a "shooting investigation" at North Portland's Rosemary Anderson High School—with at least two victims reported according to preliminary information.

The bureau's statement doesn't say whether the victims are injured or slain. The shooting also doesn't appear to fit the profile of a mass shooting. The police say "the suspect or suspects have left the area."

Rosemary Anderson is at 717 N Killingsworth Court, between N Albina and N Borthwick a block south of N Killingsworth. The bureau says its investigation's more than likely going to disrupt traffic. The school is an alternative high school, open since 1983, serving what can be a challenging, at-risk student population.

Parents have been asked to meet at Killingsworth Court and N Kerby. The bureau also says nearby Jefferson High School and Portland Community College are both on lockdown.

According to Rosemary Anderson's website, it has up to 190 students a year with a 90 percent graduation rate. The school is run by Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc.

"Our at-risk students have either been expelled or dropped out of public high school and many are homeless," the school's website says. "RAHS provides open-door year round access to the 'last chance' to complete a high school education, and is currently achieving a 90% graduation rate amongst students who enroll and attend classes."

We'll update with more details as they come in.

Update, 12:59 pm:

The word from media on the scene is that the shooting occurred outside the high school, and that all victims were alive when they were put into ambulances.

Update, 2:28 pm:

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Pete Simpson is drawing contrasts between today's attack and the many infamous school shootings that have played out across the country.

"This does not appear to fit that model,” Simpson told reporters. "It's an important distinction between somebody showing up like some of these active shooter scenes, versus someone that might be gang affiliated. There may be some sort of dispute we don’t know about."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Police Chief, Promising a More Diverse Command Staff, Promotes Senior Black Officer

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Larry O'Dea, Portland's incoming police chief, has kept one of the quietly significant promises he made during his introductory press conference last month.

In a reshuffling meant to add some diversity to the chief's inner circle, the bureau announced today that O'Dea has created a fourth assistant chief post and will fill it with one of the bureau's most senior African American officers, Transit Division Commander Kevin Modica.

Modica, who'd been tapped by retiring Chief Mike Reese to lead community discussion ahead of the Ferguson grand jury verdict last month, will head up the bureau's brand new Community Services branch. O'Dea will hand it some of the divisions that glutted the bureau's Operations branch, which he'd run for years: Traffic, Transit, Youth Services, and—significantly—Tactical Operations.

Those divisions are notable because they control many of the bureau's specialty units, including the gang enforcement team. The gang team has had some of the most racially disparate stops and search data, according to numbers provided by the bureau earlier this year. Modica had been part of the tactical operations team earlier in his career, telling the public, after the shooting death of Keaton Otis in 2010, that he didn't think gang cops were profiling people based on what they looked like.

O'Dea says giving "Community Services" its own branch will give the bureau more opportunities to work on equity initiatives and outreach in mending ties with community members. That outreach is another of O'Dea's top goals. The bureau says the reorganization won't cost any additional money and will comport with a staffing study the bureau commissioned this year; its results are expected next year.

"Just as we moved ahead with Department of Justice (DOJ) recommendations prior to the settlement agreement being finalized, it's important that we adopt this reorganization that the staffing study will be recommending," O'Dea said in a prepared statement. "I can tell you from firsthand knowledge the workload in both the Operations Branch and the Services Branch is very heavy and doesn't allow for the necessary time to tackle additional initiatives such as community engagement."

O'Dea's also made clear that a new hire for the bureau, an equity and diversity manager, will report directly to the chief. O'Dea has told the Mercury that person—a candidate is going through background checks before being formally introduced—will start next year and have a free hand to intercede anywhere in the bureau they see fit.

Longtime Central Precinct Commander Bob Day, formerly in charge of the bureau's training division, will take over for O'Dea as assistant chief of Operations. Day will oversee the bureau's three precincts and its riot squads. O'Dea is retaining the bureau's two other current assistant chiefs: Donna Henderson, who's in charge of detectives and the drugs and vice squad, among other units; and Mike Crebs, who's in charge of training, internal affairs, and budget matters.

Other names moving around? Former spokesman Lieutenant Robert King will be promoted to the captain's job in East Precinct, under new Commander Dave Hendrie. Current East Commander Sara Westbrook will take over Day's post in Central—giving her a similar career trajectory to former chief Rosie Sizer and Reese. North Precinct Commander Mike Leloff, meanwhile, will take over for Modica in Transit. He'll be followed in North by current youth services Captain Chris Uehara.

For those keeping track, two of O'Dea's assistant chiefs are either a woman or a person of color—along with two of his three precinct commanders.

Read the bureau's full statement after the cut.

Continue reading »

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