On Wednesday, Police Chief Mike Reese heads back in front of Portland City Council to present his bureau's second annual report on its case-by-case dealings with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). And, as it should turn out, the message in this year's report is pretty much the same as last year's: "Trust us. Everything is fine."
Despite outcry last year—including the public silencing of Commissioner Amanda Fritz—and a now-permanent reprieve meant to give Reese and the city attorney's office and Mayor Charlie Hales' office more time to wrangle a report otherwise due much earlier in the year, the JTTF report still swims in a mist of secrecy and classified privilege.
It details only the number of investigations our cops helped with (one this year, outside of Portland, down from two last year) and gives no details about the nature of those investigations or how many officers or hours the police bureau spent on them. (The city has previously said our cops didn't work on the case involving wastewater plant worker Reaz Khan.)
It also provides—on the central question of whether city commissioners can sleep at night knowing that our cops aren't letting the FBI lead them astray of Oregon's stricter free speech laws—earnest assurances at best.
Reese writes in the report, prepared last month but released only last week:
"I have directed the Assistant Chief of Investigations and the CIU Lieutenant to attend JTTF Executive Committee meetings along with me or in my place when I am absent so that I have several perspectives on our work with the JTTF. Using this strategy, I can be confident that when officers work on JTTF investigations, they are only allowed to work on investigations related to terrorism as defined in federal criminal law and that their investigative methods meet the requirements of Oregon law."
Reese, just as he did last year, says giving up more details on the time spent on JTTF would jeopardize national security. He based his confidence on constitutionality on the assessment of a veteran deputy city attorney.
A Multnomah County grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing in the March 4 police shooting of Santiago A. Cisneros III, an Iraq war vet who cops say fired a shotgun at two officers atop a Lloyd District parking garage.
From the district attorney's office, sent a little after 5 tonight:
Today the Multnomah County grand jury returned a not true bill in the death investigation of Santiago Cisneros III. At approximately 10:45 p.m. on March 4, 2013, Mr. Cisneros was shot by police on the top deck of a parking structure located at NE 7th and Lloyd Blvd. in Portland. Mr. Cisneros later died of his injuries in the early morning hours of March 5, 2013. The grand jury determined that the shooting by members of the Portland Police Bureau was justified under the criminal law.
Transcripts of the testimony before the grand jury should be completed next week. A motion to publicly disclose the transcripts will be presented to the court. If the motion is granted, notification will be sent out and the transcripts will be posted on the public Multnomah County District Attorney’s website.
Cisneros, 32, was shot by officers Brad Kula and Michele Boer who had been driving their cars to the top of the parking garage only to find Cisneros already there. The police bureau says Cisneros confronted them and fired first, with a shotgun, missing both.
Cisneros had told a Seattle TV station in 2009 that he had attempted suicide at least once before, months after leaving Iraq. Hours before the shooting, he was spending time at the camping protest on the sidewalk and curbsides outside Portland City Hall. He was the second man shot by police this year.
The announcement comes two days after the DA's office released transcripts of grand jury interviews in the city's first police shooting of 2013, involving Merle Mikal Hatch.
Fox admitted he was three days down from a meth binge and he had the oozing, pockmarked arms of an addict who just couldn't stop picking at his skin. He was nervous. Antsy. Pacing back and forth and refusing to sit down to have his vitals checked. And he made the hospital staff nervous in turn.
Right around 7 pm on Sunday, February 17, he was sent back to a part of the ER known as "security lane." Adventist is known for its mental health intake facility, and that's usually where the psych cases, or the people coming down from drugs, are tucked in while waiting for someone to see if they qualify for a police hold.
The long wait was grinding on Fox. He spent a lot of time telling one guard, Richard Butler, all about the men he thought were chasing him, down to their clothing, in intense detail. In between, he'd settle down and talk about sports. He did say, at one point, "today is a not a bad day to die." Weird, but not so uncommon for psych patients, Butler said.
Two hours later, it was guard Carol Graff's turn to mind Fox and attempt what coworkers call "her mom routine." He refused water, and he didn't need a blanket, so she got into doing some paperwork. But by 9:20, something in Fox had changed. He was eerily calm, like "Cool Hand Luke," Graff says. And very decisive. And he said he had a gun. And he wanted out.
What no one knew—and what a lot of people wouldn't know for hours and days afterward—was that "Fox" was really a federal fugitive named Merle Mikal Hatch who was supposed to be headed to Denver to finish out a sentence for bank robbery. He also was unarmed. He had taken a black phone handset from his room, smashed it outside, and then did what robbers do: He pretended it was a gun and pulled off the con very convincingly.
City council yesterday agreed to pay rider Jason Wallace $50,402.14 for bodily injuries associated with a crash on August 25, 2011, adding to the $11,000 the city approved earlier this year to cover the cost of Wallace's motorcycle. The combined payout, according to a Mercury database of police settlements and legal payouts, is among the highest in the past 20 years.
The documents on the city council agenda don't identify the officer. But the Mercury first reported yesterday, thanks to the city's risk management office, that the officer involved is detective Jason Lobaugh—a cop who's had a controversial career, to say the least.
Lobaugh's racked up a long history of tort claims over the way he polices. He once sort of endorsed torture in a post supporting the Iraq war. He complained about a 20-day suspension under former Chief Mark Kroeker, praised Bill O'Reilly, said certain people on Portland's streets were "scumbags" and called racial profiling a "myth."
And he's had kind words about police accountability advocates: "This is for all you knuckleheads looking for police misconduct around every corner— Go back to smoking your weed, eat some ho-ho's and stay out of our way."
"Sounds like a real nice guy," says a sarcastic Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch.
Lobaugh also was involved in two previous collision payouts. In 2001, another intersection crash, this time with a stop sign, cost the city $3,500. Lobaugh also was named in claim involving a clipped parked car that cost the city $627.
The city budget office yesterday posted its "reviews" of all the things city bureaus say they want to cut to help solve a $25 million deficit—and all the things they would love to keep if Mayor Charlie Hales and the rest of the Portland City Council saw fit to let them.
It's pretty ugly—especially when it comes to the bureau that eats up the largest share of the city's operating revenue: the Portland Police Bureau. I hit some of this on Twitter last night, but here's the big news: After years of avoiding the ax at the expense of other bureaus, the cops are now being told to expect layoffs.
The bureau also faces a world where it doesn't spend money on the Hooper Detox Center and CHIERS van. Where its mounted patrol loses all public funding. Where it takes cuts to its property crimes, gang, and traffic units. And, perhaps controversially, the bureau would shift all but two officers away from its school police unit.
It's hardly better throughout the other city bureaus.
Fire is the other big budget taker. And the CBO is telling it to go without three fire stations out of seven (from a total of 30) it hoped to restore, while urging it to continue using rapid-response vehicles instead of large rigs for certain calls. It's also telling fire to explore ditching American Medical Response for ambulance calls and taking that on itself.
In a bright spot, the CBO is telling the housing bureau it makes sense to keep one of its proposed cuts at bay: shutting down the Clark Center shelter, which would kick 90 men to the streets and dramatically lengthen already stressed waiting times for shelter space.
One note: This is all just one more step before the mayor's office proposes a budget in several more weeks. And then commissioners and, this year, citizen advisers will pore over all of this stuff as they bargain with city unions and negotiate with other government partners to ease, as much as possible, the size of the cut in the first place.
So... you know... keep following the bouncing ball.
Be honest: You’ve made a Harlem Shake video by now and you watch it ALL THE TIME.
Well the men and women who patrol our streets haven't had the time, people. They are busy — depending on your outlook — protecting you while you sleep or stripping you of sundry inalienable rights.
But it's not a party if the cops don't show up to wreck it, right? They're late, sure. Everyone's passed out or gone home and the Gin Blossoms are playing from a lonely computer speaker. But they made it.
"Just hours" before Cisneros was shot, the station says, he was filmed by one of their camera operators at the longstanding anti-camping-ban protest outside Portland City Hall. KATU was talking to participants in teh protest while reporting a story on the Portland Business Alliance's sidewalk bill in Salem. Later, they circled back to the protest and asked if anyone remembered Cisneros—they did, and some said he didn't seem well.
One of the mainstays at the protest, a funny and warm guy who guys by the name "99," told KATU about their talks together.
KATU's cameras captured Cisneros in the corner of its video while a reporter interviewed a man who goes by the name "99" – for the 99 percent. Cisneros stood quietly nearby a few feet away and listened. He stayed at City Hall until just hours before the shootout. Cisneros never said anything to the reporter, but "99" remembered him well.
"He said, 'Man you guys, you're surrounded by great people.' And I says, 'Yeah, you're one of them.'"
Cisneros, an Iraq war veteran, was known to have struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and admitted having tried suicide before in an interview with a Seattle TV news station in 2009. The Oregonian, citing sources who leaked details about the shooting before the two cops who shot Cisneros spoke to internal affairs investigators (the PPA?), wrote a piece last week concluding Cisneros' death was a foregone conclusion.
Police Chief Mike Reese's comments that "inappropriate touching" by a former captain he demoted last year wasn't "sexual in nature" appear to be drawn from a Bureau of Human Resources report filed in late 2011 that reached the same conclusion.
A copy of the report (pdf) and dozens of pages of redacted transcripts of interviews with complainants and several witnesses—obtained by the Mercury through a public records request—reveal investigators clearly believed now-Lieutenant Todd Wyatt violated city harassment rules by touching three women on the leg, two of them his employees, in an "intimate" fashion. The report also raps Wyatt by noting his extensive training on the policy and says he "should have known" he was violating it.
But it also includes the same phrase Reese invoked when he was interviewed about Wyatt's case last month by the Oregonian's editorial board: "There was no evidence that Wyatt's touching was sexual in nature."
Reese seized on that to justify a decision, since revoked, to put Wyatt in charge of the detectives who investigate sex crimes. Reese told the daily he backtracked only because he loused up by not realizing one of the women Wyatt touched had previously been transferred there. Wyatt was demoted for a handful of other reasons, including an off-duty road-rage incident in which he pulled his gun and complaints he wasn't truthful during his investigation.
That line, however, is a very fine one—and the questioning could be in play in the distinction. Two of the women touched by Wyatt on their legs said they were bothered by it, though neither overtly told investigators they thought it was sexual touching. One woman said, according to the report, that it was "intimate, something a date might do or a best friend might do, but not an acquaintance or co-worker." The third woman, an employee, said she didn't think the touching was meant to be intimate or offensive, saying "I didn't think anything of it at the time, no."
A Multnomah County grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing in the February 17 police shooting of Merle Mikal Hatch, a patient killed outside Portland Adventist Medical Center after goading and taunting officers and then running at them while holding a broken black phone handset.
From the district attorney's office this afternoon:
Hatch's shooting, and the hollering that preceded it, was captured on a cell phone video shown to reporters at a carefully managed press conference three days later. The implied result of the video is "suicide by cop." But the police bureau, citing the grand jury process, has declined to comment on whether three cops who shot Hatch considered using less-lethal weapons as he shot them. The bureau and the hospital have both declined to comment on why Hatch was at Portland Adventist, citing medical privacy laws. Those answers might come out in the grand jury transcripts.
Hatch, 50, wasn't even identified until the Tuesday after the shooting, lacking identification. It turned out, though officers didn't know it at the time they shot him, that Hatch was a recent federal fugitive who left an Oregon prison with a plane ticket to a Colorado halfway house he never used. At the presser where Hatch's death was shown, police also tied him to two recent bank robberies. His family told the Oregonian he struggled with drug addiction.
The findings by the grand jury come just two days after the second police shooting of 2013. Santiago A. Cisneros III, a 32-year-old Iraq War vet, was shot and killed atop Metro's Lloyd District parking garage after police say he fired a shotgun at two cops. Cisneros had told a Seattle TV station in 2009 that he had attempted suicide at least once before, months after leaving Iraq.
The bureau today identified the officers involved: Brad Kula, who's worked in Portland for 10 years, and Michele Boer, who's worked here for four years. Both are scheduled for interviews tomorrow.
Guys! This guy invented a "TASER SWORD"! It's a sword AND a taser rolled into one, because sometimes you just don't feel like chopping a guy's arm off. However, some people aren't all that afraid of tasers, so they need to know that you WILL chop their arm off if the tasering doesn't go as planned. WATCH.
UPDATE 11:50 AM: I'm trying to piece together some sense of what Cisneros was doing atop the garage. A Linked In profile listed for Santiago A. Cisneros III had him as a legal intern at a Seattle-area law firm, said he'd studied at Portland Community College, and said also he'd been a mechanic in the US Army.
A 2009 news story from Seattle's KOMO makes mention of a Santiago Cisneros who struggled with PTSD and tried to commit suicide months after leaving Iraq. Again, Portland police say they are still investigating why Cisneros was atop the garage and why he fired a shotgun at officers.
The woman who answered the phone at the firm listed in the profile, Chung, Malhas, Mantel & Robinson, told me she wasn't authorized to provide any information, but took a message, when asked about Cisneros.
UPDATE 10:13 AM: Right when I was posting this, the bureau sent out a lengthy update.
The dead man shot atop the Metro garage in Lloyd Center last night has been identified as 32-year-old Santiago A. Cisneros III. And the bureau says Cisneros had a shotgun that he fired "multiple" times at two cops, missing them, before they fired back a few seconds later, knocking him to the ground. The two cops were driving their cars to the top of the garage when, "unexpectedly, the officers were immediately confronted by a man associated with a vehicle," according to a police bureau statement.
The statement doesn't say why were headed to the garage or why Cisneros was there—was he suicidal? wanted? Sergeant Pete Simpson tells me "all of those things are still being investigated."
The bureau says the North Precinct cops who shot Cisneros, one with 10 years in Portland, the other four, won't be identified until tomorrow. They'll also be interviewed on Thursday, as per the police union contract's 48-hour waiting period on internal investigations.
But the cops who shot Cisneros weren't the cops who approached him to get him medical help. A team of "cover" officers and a sergeant showed up, and one of those officers grabbed a ballistic shield to get closer to Cisneros, who was still moving and "next to" the shotgun. He was "put in custody" and then paramedics worked on him before running him to an unidentified hospital.
Separately, the mayor's office has since confirmed that Mayor Charlie Hales did not come down to the Lloyd District last night. He was represented by his chief of staff, Gail Shibley, and his public safety director, Baruti Artharee.
Original post resumes here: The Portland Police Bureau says officers last night shot and injured an unidentified man atop Metro's Lloyd District parking garage—marking the city's second police shooting this year and, of note, the second in just the past 15 days.
The man wasn't killed immediately. An ambulance took him to a hospital, Sergeant Pete Simpson told me about an hour after the 10:45 shooting, as investigators and officials from Chief Mike Reese's and Mayor Charlie Hales' offices and others huddled outside a mobile command unit on NE 7th and Lloyd.
But the man died overnight, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed this morning, declining to release any other details. Police also haven't said much more this morning, owing to the ongoing investigation and while awaiting autopsy results.
UPDATE: See the comments for details, but the short version is that, embarrassingly, I have a hard time figuring out what week I'm currently living in. Alien Boy plays at Cinema 21 through next Thursday, March 7, at Cinema 21. That said. Tonight is your last chance to see a screening with director Brian Lindstrom in attendance, so at least part of this post isn't a total waste of pixels. Original post follows. Just ignore all the parts about tonight being the last night it's playing.
ORIGINAL POST: Okay, probably not your last chance to see Alien Boy—given the film's local relevance, it'll likely be screening again somewhere else sometime soonish, and I imagine it'll have occasional screenings far into the future. But tonight's your last night to see it at Cinema 21—and at the 7 pm show, it's your last chance to see a screening with director Brian Lindstrom in attendance for a Q&A.
From Denis' review:
Nearly seven years ago, James Chasse Jr. was chased and beaten by cops, kept from the medical care that would have saved his life, and left to die in the back of a police car. Lies were whispered in the minutes and hours that followed, and years have passed without any meaningful reckoning.
And ever since, Lindstrom and the film's producers, some who knew Chasse personally, worked when they could to painstakingly assemble the most definitive—and unflinching—account of a tragedy Portland should never forget.
The final screenings at Cinema 21 (616 NW 21st) are tonight at 4:30, 7, and 9, with Lindstrom in attendance for the show at 7.
An awful story down in Santa Cruz, California—a 35-year-old man is suspected of shooting and killing two cops checking up on a reported sex crime—has a brief but notorious Portland footnote. Jeremy Peter Goulet was arrested in Northwest Portland in 2007 after he fired a gun during a beatdown by neighbors who recognized him as a creepy window peeper.
Police sent out a statement at the time along with a mugshot showing Goulet all nicked up.
The area resident stated that about a month ago they saw a peeping tom in the area but did not call police. Tonight when they arrived home they saw Goulet and recognized him as the peeping tom. The resident confronted Goulet who, unbeknownst to the area resident, was armed with a handgun. The area resident and Goulet began to struggle and as they were fighting, Goulet discharged the handgun several times. A large crowd began to gather and about a dozen people stood around watching the resident fighting with Goulet. While several people called 911, no one would intervene to help the resident who was calling out for help. In fact, one person told the 911 dispatcher that he was not going to get involved.
At the time, writing about the scuffle in Blogtown, Matt Davis wondered about the "rough justice" neighbors meted out.
What do you think? Should the person beating him have been arrested, too? Does Goulet have civil recourse against the citizen who beat him? Or did he probably deserve it, for his alleged crimes? What would you have done in the neighbor’s position, and would you feel bad about it afterwards? For clarity: Goulet is yet to be convicted of any crime.
Commenters mostly tried to shout Matt down. And Goulet was convicted in connection with the peeping incident, in 2008. He also had to register as a sex offender. Eventually, he served time because he found his probation terms too confining. Then he moved down to California.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel interviewed the man who fought with Goulet, Danny Thomas, who admitted that he "bit part of his ear off.” Thomas also said he'd never stopped checking up on Goulet's whereabouts.
"I feel horrible for the families of the police officers,” Thomas said. "To me and my family, this is mostly a relief.”
Days after a federal judge granted the Portland Police Association the right to intervene in the city's settlement with the feds over use of force and mental health reforms—essentially letting the union negotiate over the shape of those changes—union president Daryl Turner now says the police bureau has shut him out of the process.
Turner issued a statement this morning saying proposed changes to use of force and Taser policies are "fundamentally flawed" and will lead to officer injuries.
Yesterday, Chief [Mike] Reese circulated ”final drafts” of the PPB’s new Use of Force and Taser polices as part of the PPB’s implementation of USDOJ reforms. Please be clear that the PPA has not been a party to nor have we agreed to these “final drafts” that the PPB has issued!
The PPA’s input regarding these policies has been continuously ignored by the PPB, and Chief Reese’s assertion that the policies are a collaborative effort is incorrect. The PPA has sought and will continue to seek changes to the PPB’s versions of the policies, which are fundamentally flawed and will place officers at a safety risk and at risk for baseless discipline.
The city and union have been arguing for months over whether changes in the bureau's force policies is a matter for contract negotiations (which start up this spring). The city is asking the Oregon Employment Relations Board to make a ruling in the next several weeks.
The bureau wants changes that include requiring cops to better articulate why they used force, whether they reassessed if they could have eased off, and whether they accounted for someone maybe suffering from mental illness. The union says that changes working conditions and officer safety; the city argues changing rules like that is a "management right."
The statement comes right when semi-retired PPA counsel Will Aitchison is scheduled to sit down with police commissioner Mayor Charlie Hales.
Reese, when he and I sat down earlier this year, has claimed he was seeking PPA feedback on policy changes all along.
We want to move forward on the Taser policy. We want to make sure our officers are trained on recent court rulings and community expectations. We are at the final stages of getting feedback from the Portland Police Association and the Department of Justice. Then we're going to start training on it. And our overall use of force policy? Same thing.
Turner has also railed about injuries before, after a weird, public run of hurt cops last fall... and Reese has also said, before, that he didn't think the DOJ settlement was an issue.
I haven't seen any of the recent injuries tied to the settlement agreement. One, the agreement hasn't been finalized yet. It's in the court process now. Certainly officers now are, I think, considering it. They want to know what our Taser policy will be, where it will end up. And our force policy, where will that end up. They want to be trained so they can be in sync with court rulings around Tasers and use of force. Those officer injuries occurred because we interacted with people who were violent and intent on hurting us and the community.
Read Turner's full statement after the jump.
Upon learning for sure last night that Merle Hatch had only a broken phone handle when he was shot dead by the cops he cussed at and then ran toward on Sunday, Portland Copwatch graciously decided to send flashcards to Police Chief Mike Reese so his officers might better distinguish between real weapons and fake guns.
The flashcards are something of a history lesson.
"Portland Copwatch has prepared a flash card set for the Portland Police Bureau," Dan Handelman wrote Reese this afternoon. "We hope you will distribute it to all members."
I'll go out on a limb and guess Reese will decline. The bureau made a point last night of airing not just video of Hatch's shooting but also audio in which everyone kept saying he had a "gun" or "weapon" in his hand.
But Hatch never got any closer than 40 or so feet, falling to the ground when those three officers unloaded their weapons into him outside Adventist Medical Center on Sunday night.
Portland police still won't say how many shots were fired, what Hatch was doing in Adventist's emergency room, or whether the cops who shot Hatch had even thought about using less-lethal weapons to subdue a man who kept calling them from behind an SUV to "come on" and "come play." Those things will wait for a yet-to-be scheduled grand jury hearing.
But the bureau, in a carefully programmed press conference, did release a subtitled cell phone video, police radio audio (mp3), and surveillance camera stills to begin to fill in the picture of a death that happened just 12 minutes after the first calls came to East Precinct.
"They intentionally kept their distance," Police Chief Mike Reese, flanked at one point by Mayor Charlie Hales and newly promoted Assistant Chief Donna Henderson, said of the cops who shot Hatch. "The situation unfolded very quickly."
The total impression left by the bureau's materials, without knowing why Hatch was hospitalized, is pretty much going to be "suicide by cop." The cops for the first time said a security guard at Adventist did see a black object that appeared to be a gun. And the police audio repeatedly describes Hatch's phone handle as a "weapon" and "gun," even warning after he collapsed that "the weapon is just a few inches from his right hand."
"Detectives believe the suspect used this to simulate a handgun... during this incident with Portland police officers," Reese said.
Henderson said the video, taken by someone leaning out his window across the street from the hospital, "was very critical. It was a very good video." It played while Reese lightly narrated it. Hatch can be heard shouting various incendiary things at the cops he's spotted: "Come on." "I'm gonna take hostages, motherfucker. You stupid motherfucker." "You're making it fucking hard for me and you." "You want some? You wanna play? Come on." "You and that dog are killing people tonight. I can guarantee that. That's a promise."
Then, before he runs toward the officers, he can be heard shouting: "Okay. I'm gonna come to you. I'm coming to you, pig. Let's go. Let's go." As he raced closer, the officers didn't apparently budge. And Hatch started counting up, "ONE"... as the cops shouted "Stop."... then "TWO"... "Hands up!"... then "THREE" and a loud burst of gunfire followed by one stray shot at the very end. The autopsy results show, unsurprisingly, that Hatch died of multiple gunshot wounds.
(Watch the video after the jump, but be warned, if these kinds of things are hard to watch for you, that it's extremely upsetting and violent.)
It's looking more and more like three Portland cops shot an unarmed man Sunday night—the still-missing "gun" parroted in early media reports is likely just black plastic—and now Portland Police Chief Mike Reese and Mayor Charlie Hales are planning an extensive press event tonight where they'll provide photos and video showing more of what happened outside Portland Adventist Hospital.
It's set for 5:30 tonight, in time for the top of the evening newscasts. Here's the release the bureau and mayor's office sent out:
Today, Wednesday February 20, 2013, at 5:30 p.m., the Portland Police Bureau will be holding news conference to release updated information about Sunday's officer-involved shooting at Portland Adventist Medical Center.
The news conference will be held in the conference room outside the Chief's Office on the 15th floor of the Justice Center. This is a small room so interested media is asked to plan accordingly.
The news conference is expected to last no more than 30 minutes and will include an audio and a video presentation.
Links and photographs being shared at the news conference will be released to the public at 5:30 p.m.
Expected to speak at the news conference are Mayor Charlie Hales, Chief Mike Reese and other Portland Police Bureau personnel.
There's also been a lot of talk about Merle Hatch's status as a career criminal and federal prisoner who never showed up, like he was supposed to, at a halfway house in Colorado. Or as a suspect in a bank robbery in Clackamas County. That's all true. But let's remember: No one knew any of that on Sunday when he died. Back then, he was an emergency room patient without ID. Or, apparently, a gun.
The long twisting saga of the Portland Police Bureau’s deal with the US Department of Justice over its abysmal record dealing with the mentally ill took a strange turn this week when a judge ruled that both the cops and their critics deserve a spot at the table during the remedy phase.
On Tuesday, February 19, US District Court Judge Michael Simon ruled that both the Portland Police Association, the city’s rank-and-file police union, and the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, a police accountability group, will be allowed weigh in on proposed mental health and use-of-force reforms.
Simon wants the two to sit down with the city and the feds in front of a mediator, where they can talk about how to make changes.
But the judge’s ruling comes with some constraints.
Simon upheld the police union’s request to join the city as a partial defendant, citing an earlier federal court decision that allowed Los Angeles’ police union the same right. But Simon didn’t grant the AMA the same courtesy. Instead he gave the group “enhanced amicus” status. This lets the AMA submit briefs and testify, but it won’t have the right to appeal the judge’s final decision. The AMA had wanted the settlement to expand to racial issues. The Judge ruled that went beyond the scope of the mental health reforms the DOJ says the city needs.
Mediation is expected to start in March and could last into the spring. That puts off a public “fairness hearing” where the community will be invited to sound off on the deal and a final decision by Simon.
“It’s not as much we would have hoped for,” says AMA lawyer Ashlee Albies, “but it’s more than we expected… we have a seat at the table and we certainly appreciate that.”
Update 6 PM: All of this agitating yesterday and today about the "missing" gun wasn't for nothing. Look what the O is reporting, citing police roll calls:
Merle M. Hatch was carrying a black piece of plastic that police thought was a gun and had no firearm on him, some Portland officers were told at roll calls Tuesday.
Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson declined to comment on the new information, saying police would release no additional details until detectives had interviewed the sergeant and two officers who fired at Hatch. The interviews are scheduled Wednesday.
Told you so./end update
The Adventist Medical Center emergency room patient shot dead by Portland police officers Sunday night has been identified by the state medical examiner's office. And despite front-page headlines, ahem, referring to the man as "armed," the Portland Police Bureau still isn't confirming whether a gun or replica gun has been recovered.
According to the Oregonian, the dead man is Merle Hatch. He was 50 years old. And, according to an interview with his mother, he spent years in and out of prison for crimes including bank robbery while battling a decades-long drug addiction.
Update 12:15 PM: The O now says Hatch was a federal "escapee" who was released from the medium security federal prison in Sheridan on February 12 but never showed up at a halfway house back in Colorado.
Mary Hatch, Merle Hatch’s mother, said she hadn’t seen her son in two decades. She said Hatch lived in Colorado. She didn’t know how he ended up in Portland.
“He was troubled,” said Hatch, who lives in Iowa. “He was in and out of prison most of his adult life. He got into drugs early. There wasn’t much left of the person we knew as a kid growing up.”
The medical examiner's office tells me Hatch wasn't carrying any identification and that he was identified using fingerprints. The office also couldn't find a listed residence for Hatch, but it can't confirm, on the other hand, that he was homeless.
Sergeant Pete Simpson said the bureau is waiting until detectives finish their interviews before releasing more information, something that he says won't happen until tomorrow. He told me that after I asked him whether a gun or replica handgun had been recovered. In other police shootings where guns or replica guns had been recovered, the bureau released that information within hours. Simpson also declined to confirm the O's use of the word "armed" in its print headline today.
A hospital spokeswoman yesterday said the man only told a worker at the emergency room he had a gun—enough, all the same, to send Adventist into a "code silver" lockdown. It was 911 dispatchers who told cops on the way to the hospital that the man was reportedly armed.
"I can only confirm the information that I released, which was that we responded to the report of an armed man," Simpson told me this morning.
The man shot dead by cops at Portland Adventist Medical Center last night may have been a patient at the hospital, according to the latest update from the police bureau, and was killed only minutes after officers first responded to a call about someone in the hospital's parking lot wielding a gun.
The bureau has identified the three officers who shot at the man—Sergeant Nathan Voeller (12 years with the bureau, and a training instructor who thought the 2010 shooting of Aaron Campbell was in policy), Officer Andrew Hearst (three years), and Officer Royce Curtiss (seven years). And it also made sure to mention the fact that officers used a ballistic shield to approach him "immediately" after he went down to see about giving any aid—a sore point in other shootings.
But as to what kind of patient the man was, or his name, that information remains forthcoming. The bureau is waiting to identify the dead man and won't release his name even then until his next of kin are notified. Most of the people shot by police in Portland are experiencing some kind of a mental health crisis, and Adventist has a 24-hour intake facility for its inpatient psychiatric center.
"That's the information we received," police spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson told the Mercury when asked about the description of the man as a patient. "I can't confirm he was a patient. That's the information the officers received in the call."
Update 4:20 PM: Judy Leach, spokeswoman for Adventist, has confirmed the man was a patient in the hospital's emergency department but declined to comment on the nature of the emergency, citing medical privacy laws.
But in a statement (attached at the bottom of the post), she says the man only said he was armed—and that he threatened to shoot an employee inside. The hospital called the police and went in lockdown all the same, with the threatened employee leading the man to an exit that he then bolted through. Security kept an eye on him, but let the cops take over once they arrived./end update//
The bureau also hasn't included any more details about whether the man did, in fact, have a gun or anything that looked like a gun. Or whether, like in several other officer-involved shootings, the man had a replica firearm.
But the timeline from the bureau roughly jibes with what our reporter Nathan Gilles said witnesses told him. Edward Dass, who lives in an apartment complex across from the hospital said he heard eight shots around 9:30 last night and ran outside.
"I put my shoes on, ran out the door," he said, "and then I heard someone say the 'suspect was down' about five minutes after."
The bureau puts the shooting in the employee parking lot at Adventist, near a parking garage along SE Main and said cops from East Precinct showed up at 9:24 pm "on the report of someone in the courtyard armed with a black handgun." Later, 911 dispatchers heard the man pointed a gun at a security vehicle.
As more cops flooded in, and as officers tried to figure out what to do—calling in the bureau's airplane, medical personnel, a canine unit, and Project Respond—cops somehow "encountered the suspect," gave him "commands," and then shot him until he fell to the ground.
The autopsy is planned for tomorrow morning—right when a federal judge is scheduled to discuss what a "fairness hearing" on federal reform of the Portland Police Bureau (and its rough handling of the mentally ill) might look like. Read the bureau's release after the jump.
Update 12:30 PM: Mayor Charlie Hales' spokesman just sent out a statement explaining that the mayor would not be sending out a statement on last night's shooting. It was followed by another email explaining that Hales would also be cancelling tomorrow's planned press conference on what's expected to be a scathing audit of Portland's street-paving funding.
Mayor Hales will not release a statement today regarding the officer-involved shooting that took place Sunday, Feb. 17 at Portland Adventist Medical Center.
The mayor was on scene during the incident, having been contacted by Portland Police. He did not observe the confrontation.
The mayor received a briefing today (Monday, Feb. 18) from Portland Police. The topics of the briefing included the process of the investigation, and how it must proceed in order to find out what happened. Participants in the process include the district attorney’s office, the medical examiner’s office and the Independent Police Review Division for the city of Portland.
Mayor Hales intends to maintain the integrity of that process.
We are anticipating the release of further information in a couple of days. We will work with Portland Police to get information out as quickly as we can.
Update 11:15 PM: Mercury reporter Nathan Gilles says the shooting happened in a parking lot behind the hospital, sprawling from a parking garage along SE Main to a church along SW Market. Officers and techs are still in the lot, about 300 or so feet Southeast of the parking structure, near a fence that divides the lot from the hospital campus.
Adventist spokeswoman Judy Leach says the hospital lifted the lockdown by 11 last night, and that it went into effect at 9:30 after the hospital issued a "code silver," aka there was a "a combative person with a weapon on the premises of the hospital." Leach wouldn't comment on what anyone from the hospital may or may not have seen.
We also don't know whether the man who died was experiencing a mental health crisis. Adventist is home to an in-patient psychiatric center with a 24-hour intake center.
Original post resumes here: It's always a bad sign when the Portland Police Bureau issues a late-night release about a shooting, with practically zero details, and then makes a point of saying the bureau's public information officer will be suiting up and driving over to the scene. It's usually code for a police shooting.
So it went with an alert last night about a shooting at Portland Adventist Medical Center. At 1:20 this morning, as Steve mentioned briefly in GMN, the bureau issued an update confirming that officers were involved and that one man was dead.
This is what the release said—the only accounting so far of what happened. The whole thing started with a report of an armed man in the parking lot. That man presumably was the one shot—although there's no confirmation yet of whether the man was armed or had his weapon out and was threatening officers.
The shooting on the grounds of Portland Adventist Medical Center (PAMC) is an officer-involved shooting. One subject is deceased. No officers were injured during the shooting.
The investigation began on Sunday evening at approximately 9:30 p.m. when officers were called to PAMC on the report of a man with a gun in the parking lot. Several officers responded to the area and began to get containment on the large PAMC complex. The hospital went into lock-down to keep patients and staff safe.
As officers were continuing to get containment on the complex, some officers encountered the suspect and shots were fired. The suspect died at the scene and no officers were injured.
Homicide detectives and Criminalists from the Forensic Evidence Division are at the scene in the very early stages of the investigation.
Per policy, any involved officers will be placed on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues.
This is the first police shooting of Mayor Charlie Hales' tenure as police commissioner. And his office has confirmed that Hales, like his predecessor, Sam Adams, used to do, was on scene during the initial stages of the investigation. An update from the police bureau is promised no earlier than noon... we'll update earlier, though, if anything else pops up.
Yesterday, the Portland Police Bureau issued a fretful statement about an unpermitted anti-violence-against-women rally and march planned for downtown at the (slightly) tender hour of 3 o'clock this afternoon.
And, coincidentally, it came just after Central Precinct Commander Bob Day, the bureau's point person for so-called crowd control, held forth for a Citizen Review Committee subgroup—quite candidly—on his philosophy for handling protests and keeping traffic moving.
Today's big event—one of many across the world—is called One Billion Rising, and it's launching from Director Park. Organizers here have been clear that they believe the issue they're marching for is too vital to require permission. Which falls into the situation Day described above. As such, the bureau's announcement came with CYA language in case things go sour:
The Portland Police Bureau has been in communication with event organizers but to date, the organizers are refusing to obtain a permit for the march and have stated that they may share the march route information but not until right before the event begins.
Rally and march organizers have further expressed that they will not comply with requests to remain on the sidewalks or stop for traffic signals.
"I had an epiphany," Day said at the sitdown. "If it were me trying to get home, I'd be frustrated. But then these people who are stuck drive by and they're waving and giving people the thumbs up. If they're okay with it, why does it matter than I'm not okay with it. But there are other people who are frustrated this unpermitted event is occurring, and they're going to be late."
"In some respects, it's not all that significant," Day also said of today's march. "On the other hand, this is a significant holiday for businesses. People want to go home and see their significant others on that. We're trying to balance all those needs out."
So look out downtown—and maybe show up and march. Because when enough people show up, permits and routes tend to matter even less. Cops back off and let the crowd mostly do what it wants. And if you want to read more thoughts from Day about policing protests and marches, what works and what doesn't, hit the jump.
It's fitting this comes out the same week Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse makes its debut at the Portland International Film Festival. The Mercury has obtained new information about a very public gun-waving road-rage incident involving Sergeant Kyle Nice, one of the officers who waved off an ambulance ride that might have saved Chasse's life.
Despite being urged by all five Police Review Board members to suspend Nice without pay (with four members voting for at least 40 hours) and also require anger management classes, Police Chief Mike Reese took it easier on Nice and handed out, instead, a letter of reprimand.
That's just one more nugget tucked inside an exclusive Mercury database, obtained through a records request, comparing Police Review Board findings against whatever discipline the chief actually ordered. Last week, we reported that Reese set aside calls to terminate two more officers, besides the demoted Lieutenant Todd Wyatt, who had been found untruthful by the PRB.
In its deliberations on Nice's road-rage case, the board was especially clear about his anger issues. It's unclear whether Reese's letter required anger management counseling.
Nice has been among the police bureau's most controversial officers. He went back on street duty in September only to be photographed, several weeks later, pepper-spraying teenagers during an unpermitted march against school budget cuts. He was suspended two weeks in the Chasse case, but just for not insisting on medical care, and even that suspension was overturned in arbitration. He was accused of intimidating a jailed protester in 2007.
A fellow cop, Thomas Brennan, had complained about Nice and his anger issues to Reese (still just Central Precinct commander) before the road-rage case. Brennan wound up suing the city and the police bureau after Reese—in a very unusual move—transferred Brennan to the bureau's evidence warehouse.
Here's something important tucked all hush-hush on the city council's no-discussion "consent agenda."
Mayor Charlie Hales and the city attorney's office want to haul the Portland Police Association in front of the state Employment Relations Board over an impasse in how the cops can implement a new use-of-force policy as part of federal police form.
It's a complicated debate. The city wants to require officers to better articulate why they used force in the first place, whether they reassessed as an encounter progressed if they could have eased off, and whether they accounted for someone maybe suffering from mental illness.
The PPA, on the other hand, thinks that's unfair and unsafe and is arguing for a strictly in-the-moment standard. A standard that will keep it easy for arbitrators to continue siding against the city in force cases.
The loggerheads come into play over whether the city is contractually obligated to negotiate that change with the union. The city is planning on bargaining over other federal reforms, like oversight and internal investigations. But it strongly believes that force policies are a management right. The union, meanwhile, is worried it will lead to unsafe working conditions, and argues that working conditions are an issue for contract talks.
Police officials want an answer sooner than later. As in 45 days. They say the US Department of Justice is nearly finished reviewing Chief Mike Reese's proposed changes to force and Taser policies. The bureau also wants to start retraining before renovations at their new training facility in Northeast make that difficult.
I reported back in November, the day the tentative agreement with the feds was up for debate, that this would be an issue.
After the hearing, PPA counsel Anil Karia huddled privately with one of his city counterparts, Stephanie Harper. [Harper prepared the ordinance council will be voting on Wednesday.] City leaders might think all those "the cops shall" phrases are ironclad. The union? Not so much.
Karia told Harper he wanted to work "constructively" but that he still needs breathing room when contract talks resume next year. Already, he's worried that one of the settlement's centerpieces—stricter limits on the use of force and a new rule requiring cops to explain their decision-making—might not be "trainable."
That's a code word for the status quo: cops fired in fatal shootings always getting their jobs back. And if that's what "real change" ends up looking like? No wonder everyone's so freaked out about what we'll get.
Hopefully you remember: In the latest batch of reports from the semi-secret Police Review Board, Police Chief Mike Reese was urged to fire three cops—including the now-infamous Lieutenant Todd Wyatt—either partly or wholly because of allegations of untruthfulness.
The chief's decision to demote Wyatt from captain, despite a 5-1 vote, has become a well-known PR nightmare for the bureau. But the Mercury has since learned, according to data obtained through a public records request, that all three cops, in fact, were allowed to keep their jobs.
That revelation comes at the same time the Mercury has learned the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office is talking with the bureau about how to better identify officers whose credibility is in such doubt they won't be called as witnesses at trial. That conversation started before the outcry over the Wyatt case because of evolving case law, Deputy District Attorney Don Rees tells me.
"This office currently is in discussions with the city attorney and the police bureau," Rees says. "But in a general way. It's not linked to one specific incident or officer."
No cop even currently holds that verboten status, Rees says. And it turns out, only one cop has even had that black mark in recent history: former Portland Police Association President Scott Westerman. It's a big deal for cops. Westerman quit the bureau and didn't get support from his union for a grievance challenging the discipline. But if he'd stayed, he'd have been consigned to a job where he'd never be in position to testify in court—a career death sentence for a cop.
But the timing, in light of the Police Review Board information, is compelling. And it suggests the bureau and the DA's office ought to have deep discussions about whether certain kinds of untruthfulness and other criminal conduct, like are worse than others.
In the most eyebrow-raising of the two new examples, Reese set aside a unanimous dismissal vote for a cop accused of failing to file a use of force report and then lying and dodging questions to cover his tracks. Board members were so upset by the allegations, they basically said the officer fundamentally lacked the credibility to continue working as a cop.
Reese, though, gave the officer a letter of reprimand. In doing so he rejected the word of the entire five-person panel—including a peer officer, the accused cop's supervisor, and a representative directly in the chief's office.
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