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Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Are Portland's Top Justice Officials Fighting a Requirement for Testing Costly Court Programs?

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 4:34 PM

EVERYONE CLAPPED two months ago, as Kayla Ballew strolled up to a courthouse lectern in downtown Portland to accept a rarefied piece of paper.

The certificate announced the 22-year-old had completed START Court, a treatment program run out of Multnomah County Circuit Court aimed at addicts with a penchant for theft.

Ballew, a heroin addict who was caught pawning a stolen ring, had done what more than 80 percent of others in her shoes had not. She'd navigated a strict regimen of counseling, drug screens, and constant court dates while avoiding further trouble. She was a year clean, she told county staff on hand. A stint at a Subway had lasted longer than any other job she'd ever had.

Ballew earned her applause. But for skeptical prosecutors around the state, an uncomfortable question hangs over those good feelings: Is START Court, and scads of costly programs like it, actually worth the money?

As Oregon prepares to throw tens of millions of dollars at slowing prison growth in the next two years, that question is taking center stage for public safety officials, who have turned it into another front in an ongoing debate over prison reform.

District attorneys have long argued programs like START too often skate by on a combination of good intentions and protective bureaucracy. For years, some of Oregon's most-vocal DAs have urged strict and rigorous experiments to prove, once and for all, whether such efforts successfully cut down on crime.

"They're basic principles of science that are applied everywhere," says Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner, "and for some reason in corrections and criminal justice, folks have been willing to accept very poor science."


Which One of You Hung the Tripwire—You Know, the One Tied to the Pipe Loaded With a Shotgun Shell—Up Near Forest Park?

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Good thing whoever tried to booby trap a trailhead leading into Forest Park just south of that one cemetery up on NW Skyline Boulevard doesn't seem terribly skilled.

Cops this morning say they found a slack tripwire along Firelane 3 and that it was connected to a pipe loaded with a shotgun shell. And apparently, it had been there for days before a regional explosives task force showed up to take it away. But the reassuring news: Though someone even tripped it, nothing actually happened, according to a statement from the Portland Police Bureau that called the device "inoperable."

It's not an unpopular trail for hikers, most of whom have been stepping over the failed tripwire. It could be some kind of dumb prank. Or the work of someone too crude to do any real danger. Either way... maybe keep your eyes peeled if you hike around the same environs. Just to be safe.

On Saturday October 18, 2014, at approximately 5:00 p.m., the Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit (MEDU) responded to the report of a tripwire device on a trail from the 4000 block of Northwest Thunder Crest Drive into Forest Park. The trail is described as "Firelane 3" on area maps.

The device was an improvised firearm with a pipe loaded with a shotgun shell. The device was connected to a tripwire across the trail. The tripwire was slack and it appeared that it had been tripped and the device was inoperable.

The device was safely removed by a bomb tech and taken as evidence. Officers spoke with some area residents and learned that the device may have been there since Tuesday but was not reported to police until Saturday.

There have been no instances of other items such as this being discovered or reported and it is unclear why someone would place this device on what is believed to be a well-used trail by hikers, bikers and equestrians.

Officers checked the immediate area and did not find anything else suspicious or of note.

Although this trail is not in Forest Park, Portland Parks & Recreation has been made aware of this incident.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mayor's Office Confirms: Hales, Fritz Hope to "Clarify" Annual Court Hearings on Police Reform

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 9:00 AM

The legal drama over police reform in Portland isn't quite over yet.

Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz are going to ask their colleagues to consider pushing back at one of the more contentious elements of a federal judge's decision to accept a package of police reforms negotiated between the city and the federal Department of Justice: an order that the city and feds, along with the Portland Police Association and community advocates return to court for annual updates.

They're seeking a vote during next week's council meeting, according to a resolution (pdf) obtained by the Mercury. The announcement was reported this morning by the Oregonian, although it was cast as a move to toss out the requirement for updates. Both elected officials say they're addressing only the requirement for the updates, not the reforms themselves. Hales and Fritz, in an announcement, insist they want to "clarify" what US District Court Judge Michael Simon's role in overseeing the progress of reform might be.


“This appeal does not challenge the settlement that four stakeholders—the U.S. Department of Justice, the City, Portland Police Association, and Albina Ministerial Alliance—agreed to," Hales said in comments emailed to the Mercury. "The City and the Police Bureau are fully committed to the reforms outlined in the settlement agreement. Chief Mike Reese, our next chief Larry O’Dea, and the entire bureau remain dedicated to continually improving the service our police officers deliver to the community. This resolution authorizes a narrow appeal to clarify the judge’s role in the implementation. We all want to move forward, get out of court and get to work.”

"It clearly identifies that the Council is directly responsible for oversight, which ensures that Portlanders know who is responsible and accountable for managing the Police Bureau in conformance with the community’s values," Fritz is quoted as saying in the city's announcement. "The settlement emphasizes community engagement. I believe that public trust in policing in Portland depends on all Council members demonstrating that we are committed to implementing the Agreement fully. I accept that responsibility. I look forward to collaborating with all Portlanders on this crucial work, especially those with lived experience enduring mental illnesses.”

The possibility of an appeal has always loomed over Simon's ruling, issued August 29, as first reported by the Mercury. The city had long chafed at Simon's insistence on regular updates, concerned about the implications of that extra oversight and questioning Simon's authority, even though the feds and the Albina Ministerial Alliance both agreed Simon could order them if he wished.

Hales' office pointedly didn't respond to our questions, after the ruling came down, on whether an appeal might come or if the city would knuckle under to Simon's insistence.

Not everyone sees this as a modest bump on the road to an otherwise cheery acceptance of the reforms, which are meant to answer federal accusations Portland officers have engaged in a pattern or practice of using force against Portlanders with mental illness.

One advocate, Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland—who's been critical of Hales' decision not to try funding mental health facilities called for in the federal settlement along with the city's process for hiring a compliance officer/community liaison to oversee reforms—issued a blistering statement this morning. Renaud was responding to the O's reporting.

Mayor Hales has taken every opportunity to delay, diminish and disregard the settlement agreement in DOJ v City of Portland. Today's proposal to council to appeal Judge Simon's modest requirement for annual reporting on progress of the settlement to the court should be rejected by Council members. Persons with mental illness have been admittedly harmed by Portland's police and after three years of dawdling there is still no independent assurance anything has changed.

Without timely redress, justice is again effectively denied.

The full announcement by Hales and Fritz is here (pdf).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mayor Charlie Hales Finally Has Support for Street Closures! Provided He Drastically Changes Them

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 1:39 PM


Mayor Charlie Hales seems as surprised as anyone that crime-stopping efforts in gin-and-tonic-happy Old Town are suddenly popular.

"This has gone from management of a liability to an opportunity," Hales said earlier this afternoon, at a hearing on the weekly street closures that have raised hackles in Old Town/Chinatown since they began in December 2012. "This could be really great."

As first reported by the Mercury, Hales bucked the will of bar and restaurant owners by insisting the weekend closures of Old Town's "entertainment district"—currently NW 3rd from Everett to Burnside, and NW Davis and Couch from 2nd to 4th—continue as a formal matter of city law.

City council today took its first, and probably only, substantive look at extending the street closures for another year, and commissioners were mostly glowing as they announced their unanimity behind the measure.

But the closures have always earned council approval. What is new is how supportive Old Town businesses are of the notion. Just a few months ago, word that Hales wanted to extend the closures for a third time might have drawn street-fee-caliber outrage from Old Town's businesses, neighbors and social services. Knocks against the program range from reduced business, to the eerie atmosphere the closures cause, to a concern from neighbors that the program tacitly approves irresponsible drinking.

Pretty much the only consistent positive to come out of the project has been a reduction of crime—though serious crimes have ticked up in the entertainment district recently, led by an increase in aggravated assaults.

Today though? The ordinance Hales put forward was lauded by the Old Town Chinatown Community Association (which has recommended, with two other groups, the closures end), by business owners, and even by a couple guys who show up on weekends to make sure cops are behaving themselves.

The thing is: That support isn't because people have warmed to the closure. It's because they can sense its demise is near—at least in the current form.

Embedded in the new ordinance is an explicit commitment by the city to experimenting with the barricades and tow-trucks that proliferate in Old Town on weekends. That might mean less streets are closed, or that the barricades only come in during certain seasons and busy holidays. It could mean some streets—like NW 3rd—allow a lane of traffic to trickle through. Or that closures begin an hour later.

No one really knows what it means, just that it probably is going to change much-loathed situation that's in place right now.

Continue reading »


Monday, October 13, 2014

Should the Governor Budget for Prison Savings that Might Not Exist?

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Oct 13, 2014 at 12:25 PM

  • Source: Oregon Criminal Justice Commission

IDENTITY THIEVES can ruin anything in the digital age—including, it turns out, attempts to give them less prison time.

With a year of data to go by, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) reaffirmed on Wednesday, October 1, that more lenient sentences are working to cut Oregon's prison growth, with a year-to-year reduction in prison use, and hundreds fewer prisoners than 2012 forecasts predicted.

But the announcement came with a surprising admission: All of the earlier estimates of the effects of those reforms had been flawed. Reduced consequences for ID theft have failed to produce any change, the CJC now says. The commission has rejiggered its estimates to put nearly 150 ID thieves back into its forecasts.

"We didn't take into account that, for most ID thieves, you can convict on 10 counts, 20 counts. It's not like a robbery, where there's one offense," says Craig Prins, executive director of the commission, which forecasts Oregon's prison growth twice a year.

Slackened rules for certain drug crimes aren't having much of an overall effect, either.

The findings aren't catastrophic, but the change means Oregon may save far less money in the short term than previously anticipated. And since those savings—formerly estimated at $66 million in 2015-2017—are supposed to be reinvested back into Oregon's 36 counties, ambitious efforts in Portland and elsewhere may have to temper their expectations.

The development has officials in some of Oregon's most populous counties making an interesting request of Governor John Kitzhaber. In a letter sent on Friday, October 3, officials from Multnomah, Lane, Marion, and Clackamas counties asked Kitzhaber to go ahead and budget that $66 million anyway—regardless of the new projections.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Letter Sheds Light on Police Chief's Compromise Offer in Pepper-Spray Case

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 3:36 PM

As you may recall, police officials announced earlier this month that Chief Mike Reese had offered to meet a citizen appeal panel halfway in a discipline case involving an officer who pepper-sprayed homeless campers during a chaotic confrontation last year beneath the Morrison Bridge.

That panel, the Citizen Review Committee (CRC), had voted 6-1 in August to urge Reese to sustain allegations that Officer Todd Engstrom used improper force—challenging the chief's initial finding that Engstrom ought to be exonerated. And Reese, upon further review, eventually came back with a counteroffer, contained in a letter sent to the CRC: He wouldn't go that far, but he would be willing to rule the accusation unproven and order a "debriefing."

But although the outline of that compromise was revealed during the CRC's October 1 meeting—described by Professional Standards Captain Dave Famous—the police bureau still wasn't ready, at the time, to release the chief's letter or even detail his reasoning. That is, until today. The Mercury, through a public records request, has obtained a copy of Reese's letter (pdf), albeit redacted to keep Engstrom's name from public view. (The Mercury had identified Engstrom through records previously provided, on a somewhat related story, by the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office.)


Reese, in his fairly short letter, directly addresses the main point the CRC raised in its decision to challenge Engstrom's exoneration. Although the panel was concerned that Engstrom had pepper-sprayed a man, Angel Lopez, who'd confronted cops during a camp sweep, it was even more upset about Engstrom's decision to pepper-spray Lopez's girlfriend.

Engstrom told investigators he'd sprayed her because she was grabbing on Lopez to "un-arrest" him. The CRC members, however, seized on the fact that Engstrom hadn't ever announced that Lopez was arrested, meaning it wasn't clear that when his girlfriend was trying to pull him away that she was doing something wrong, let alone something that deserved having her face pepper-sprayed without warning.

Reese explained he didn't fault Engstrom for not announcing his arrest of Lopez, because there just wasn't time. He also said he thought Lopez's girlfriend, by moving quickly, put herself at risk in the midst of a chaotic confrontation with officers. Further, Reese said he wished more of the witnesses in the scrum had been willing to talk to investigators and that there was even more video of the encounter.

"I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to determine whether [Engstrom's] action in deploying the pepper spray was or wasn't within policy," Reese wrote.

He specified, afterward, that any debriefing would entail a discussion about Engstrom's lack of a warning and some talk about de-escalation options.

Engstrom was already disciplined for actions that helped turn the sweep into the chaotic mess that it became—grabbing a dog and pinning it down, something the bureau argued he should have known would escalate things.

The CRC will consider Reese's letter at a hearing November 5. If it holds fast, and so does Reese, the appeal could go to the Portland City Council for a binding decision. That's only ever happened once before.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Police Spokesman: Spitting Arrest Was Legit

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 5:50 PM

The Portland Police Bureau had its share of media attention to deal with yesterday, and when we called the bureau's primary spokesman about a homeless woman who was arrested and charged for spitting in a downtown encounter, Sgt. Pete Simpson could only offer cursory comment.

We wanted to know how he squared spitting on the sidewalk, which is unquestionably a breach of city ordinance, with "offensive littering" the misdemeanor offense for which 25-year-old Alexandra Barrett was arrested last month (along with "interfering with a peace officer," a favored tool of city police, because she also spat after Officer Justin Damerville ordered her not to).

Barrett's conduct, according to Damerville, was plenty ugly during the incident near SW 3rd and Stark. The officer wrote in his September 22 report she cursed him vilely, including the use of a racial slur and middle fingers flying high, because she felt he'd arrested her improperly a couple days earlier. That's legal. But when Barrett spat, Damerville warned her not to. She spat again, and was arrested.

Does this make her guilty of "offensive littering?" Simpson looked over the case and called back earlier today. He says absolutely.

"Officers have a tremendous amount of discretion when dealing with people," Simpson says. "They exercise that discretion far more than they exercise their right of enforcement."

Simpson says Portland cops "aren't the spit patrol by any stretch of the imagination." But he notes: "You have people sitting there and saying, 'You’re going to let some one spit at you and talk to you like that?' The words matter. The words definitely matter."

According to Simpson, the state's offensive littering statute covers bodily fluids (it never specifically mentions them), and so Damerville was within his rights to enforce the law. Jim Hayden, a deputy district attorney, said as much in a conversation yesterday, arguing Damerville had probable cause to make the littering arrest. But prosecutors also found the littering charge specious enough that they reduced it to an ordinance violation when charging Barrett (they've since said they'll drop the whole case).

"Maybe it would do good if it was prosecuted, but we don’t make those decisions," Simpson says. "It’s not a common occurrence, that’s the thing. But what should we do with her? Let her behave however she wants in public? That doesn’t seem like the answer either."

Advocates Hopeful About New Police Chief, Still Wish They'd Been Consulted First

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Incoming police chief Larry ODea is known for his engagement with minority communities.
Most people who follow police issues in Portland had a pretty good sense Police Chief Mike Reese would be ready to hand over the reins once a federal judge approved a long-awaited police reform settlement between the city and the US Department of Justice.

But that's not to say the precise timing of that announcement—yesterday afternoon—wasn't a surprise to a few prominent community members and accountability advocates who'd expected some kind of private warning, along with the chance to chime in on how any transition might play out. At the same time as Mayor Charlie Hales announced Reese would be retiring as of January 2, 2015, he also declared that Reese's longest-tenured assistant chief, Larry O'Dea, would be Reese's replacement.

"We didn't have any input," says Doctor LeRoy Haynes, chairman of Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform—which was granted enhanced status, meaning it could file papers and lobby for changes, during the court fight over Portland's police reforms. "The AMA Coalition will work with anyone the mayor selects. At the same time, we would have want to give some input on the process."

Haynes said he'd hoped Hales—who has touted the orderly changeover atop the police bureau—would have taken the opportunity, at a "crucial time" for the city, to reach out to the city's African American and police justice communities before formally making such a major decision. Haynes said the AMA had similarly criticized Mayor Sam Adams when Reese was hired in a sudden coup of former Chief Rosie Sizer. But with the federal reforms finally ready for implementation, Haynes argues the stakes are even higher.

"It's interesting that the mayor, even after the great criticism that went to former Mayor Adams, he followed that same process," Haynes says, "which is antithetical to what Portland has represented throughout the years, which is having community input."

Haynes did allow that O'Dea is known for his openness to working with minority communities (O'Dea, for instance, was lauded by the city's Human Rights Commission in a statement yesterday.) The AMA, he says, has a meeting with Hales at 4 this afternoon where O'Dea will be formally introduced. Haynes says O'Dea hadn't previously been a regular participant in Hales and Reese's regular meetings with the AMA.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Police Union President Praises Reese's "Personal Touch," Says Retiring Chief Helped Move Bureau in "Positive Direction"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Police Chief Mike Reese, who announced his retirement today, has earned some kind words this afternoon from a frequent sparring partner on management, discipline, and labor issues: Officer Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association.

Turner, in a note sent to his rank-and-file members—sergeants, officers, and detectives—praised Reese for leading the police bureau in a "positive direction" and talked about his "personal touch," before going on to note some of the accomplishments other have called out: Reese's fortitude during the federal police reform negotiations and his delivery of a new training facility, something that eluded chiefs for years.

But Turner's comments on Reese and he DOJ settlement were more interesting than those of, say, Mayor Charlie Hales because of the nuance they highlighted. Turner correctly remembered that Reese made a distinction between going along with the feds—who accused our cops of engaging in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness—and agreeing that what they said was correct.

Reese, back in 2012, when those findings were announced, was clear that he didn't personally agree with those findings even as he pledged "no daylight" between the feds and the cops when it comes to reforms.

"He stood his ground with the USDOJ by asserting that he did not agree that Portland Police officers had engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force when dealing with the mentally ill," Turner wrote.

The graciousness from Turner—who's been PPA president for all but the first few months of Reese's tenure as chief—belies a handful of spats over the years.

Most famously, Turner accused the chief of conspiring with then-Mayor Sam Adams in 2010 to punish the cop, Ron Frashour, who shot and killed Aaron Campbell, with the reward being Reese's promotion. Turner accused the chief's office of cooking a training review to ensure Frashour would be canned. The PPA also leaked transcripts of Reese's testimony in an arbitration hearing that eventually overturned Frashour's dismissal.

An investigation by the city auditor's office, demanded by the PPA, found those accusations unfounded.

Interestingly, Reese's successor, Larry O'Dea, used that investigation to accuse the PPA of trying to cook outcomes and tamper with witnesses, implying that Turner had intervened in the Frashour matter before arbitration. "I'll tell you it just felt like I was hearing one orchestrated story in there," O'Dea told investigators, "and not individual opinions." (Turner's statement praises O'Dea, too.)

Later, Turner argued that the federal reforms Reese was pursuing, especially with regards to the use of force, would make it difficult for officers to work. He blamed a spate of freak injuries on the talk of reforms.

Reese answered questions about that tension in a long sitdown with me in January 2013.

"Daryl and I get along very well," he said. "There's always going to be tension between labor and management. He has a role to play. He has a bully pulpit as the elected union president. Some of it's because we are in a contract year, so he's positioning for a contract. You'll have to ask Daryl why he's messaging things that way. Certainly, just on a personal level, Daryl and I like each other. We get along very well."

Turner's full statement is after the jump.

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BREAKING: Mike Reese Retiring as Police Chief; Hales Names Larry O'Dea as Successor

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 11:37 AM

Police Chief Mike Reese has announced his impending retirement from the Portland Police Bureau this morning—an unsurprising development for city hall watchers who'd been waiting for such a decision after a federal judge this summer finally approved a package of police reforms between the city and the US Department of Justice.

Reese, who's led the bureau for a little more than four years, making him one of the longer-tenured chiefs in recent history, will be succeeded for the time being by one of his longest-tenured assistant chiefs, Larry O'Dea. Reese will serve through the end of this year.

All three—Hales, Reese, and O'Dea—will appear at a press conference at noon. An announcement from the mayor's office has touted the "smooth transition" as the city's first in two decades.

“Larry O’Dea is one of the most decorated officers in the bureau—11 medals and 75 letters of commendation,” Hales wrote in a letter to city employees this morning. “He shares my goals and aspirations. He has been living the idea of community engagement. He has led the bureau’s equity work. He has the respect of the command staff, the rank-and-file, and the community. He is the right leader at the right time.”

Much of an announcement from the mayor's office praises Reese's implementation of the DOJ reforms, which have included a new emphasis on de-escalation and changes in the bureau's use of force policies. Reese was praised for increasing diversity hiring. He's also worked in recent years to beef up the bureau's data analysis capacity. Reese also stood firm in the Aaron Campbell shooting, firing Officer Ron Frashour for firing the shots that killed Campbell and defending his stance in an arbitration hearing the city ultimately lost.

But Reese also presided over several personnel and harassment scandals involving high-ranking officers, including the long saga over Captain Mark Kruger, which culminated in a legal deal that wiped away Kruger's discipline for a shrine to Nazi-era German soldiers. Kruger also saw police discipline wiped away in a retaliation case that saw him try to shame an officer who'd complained to the bureau about harassment. Kruger was cleared, but posted the letter saying so on his door. Reese's office, according to an investigation, initially tried to bury the retaliation claims until a whistleblower leaked it to the Independent Police Review in the city auditor's office.

Reese also once flirted with running for political office, considering a mayoral run, even opening a campaign account. That would have made him an opponent of Hales, who became his boss. Reese pulled out before ever really diving in, shortly after he was accused of exaggerating a slow response to a rape claim by his officers to discredit the Occupy Portland movement.

“I thank Mike Reese for his leadership and his service,” said Hales, who signed off on the Kruger deal while claiming he never saw it. “Mike saw us through the investigation and settlement with the DOJ. This was a key milestone for our city and the community’s relationship with the bureau.”

Going with O'Dea means Hales will depart from past practice with senior management openings by hiring from within absent a lengthy national search. His announcement lists the following priorities for O'Dea, who is now Hales' chief.

● Expanding community engagement. That includes the walking beats re-introduced this year.

● Focusing on equity and diversity issues, including training for officers and continued recruitment of a more representative workforce.

● Critiquing the Police Bureau’s budget, ensuring taxpayers’ dollars are used wisely.

● Implementing the DOJ settlement on schedule.

“My four primary focus areas are: Community trust and relationship building; diversifying the bureau and bureau leadership; communications and collaboration; and being fiscally smart and responsible,” O’Dea said. “I am so excited about the direction we’re moving,” he added. “You can see it in the command staff and in the rank-and-file. It’s about relationships with the community. It’s not about the number of arrests; it’s about working on the things that are important to the community.”

Read the full statement after the jump.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Police Chief Is Willing to Back Off Exonerating a Cop Who Pepper-Sprayed Campers. But He Says No to Discipline.

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Police Chief Mike Reese, asked by a citizen panel this August to punish a cop who pepper-sprayed homeless campers beneath the Morrison Bridge last fall, has decided to try for a compromise measure, police officials have announced.

In a letter last month to the Citizen Review Committee, which advises the city on police policy issues and handles appeals in misconduct cases, Reese offered to change the bureau's outright exoneration of Officer Todd Engstrom's use of pepper spray into a hazier "unproven" finding and also order a debriefing.

It's a significant gesture—but it's also a step short of what the CRC voted 6-1 to request back in August: that Reese find Engstrom out of policy. And that means the case will come back to the CRC for a "conference" hearing in November, where Reese will have a chance to change the CRC's minds in person. If he fails to do so, the CRC can send the appeal to the Portland City Council for a hearing, something that's happened only once before, according to Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch.

The stakes, however, are decidedly high. It's the first time in more than four years that the CRC has demanded punishment over the use of force. The last time was in February 2010, when the CRC asked then-Chief Rosie Sizer to punish Officer Ron Frashour for improperly Tasering a man named Frank Waterhouse in 2006. Sizer refused at first, relenting only after the CRC voted to send the case to Portland City Council, averting a council hearing.

Reese's gesture was described during this month's CRC meeting by Captain Dave Famous, who leads the bureau's Professional Standards division. The letter was not released at the hearing. The Mercury first asked for the letter on September 17, initially through the Independent Police Review Division, which deferred to the bureau because it wasn't the document's custodian, and then through the bureau itself. The bureau is expected to turn the letter over imminently.

"The chief, upon further review, is currently at unproven with a debriefing and looks forward to further discussion with the CRC at a conference hearing," Famous told the CRC.

Engstrom was already found out of policy over the incident, for another reason. Before ever using pepper-spray, he grabbed one of the camper's dogs, which Engstrom's superiors agreed had turned a tense situation into something that wound up requiring force.

Monday, September 29, 2014

All Three Police Reform Finalists Pass Muster. Now It's Your Turn.

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Remember earlier this afternoon, when we offered a brief rundown of the three contenders who may oversee Portland police reform?

It turns out the committee that is helping select that person found each of the finalists compelling enough to move them to the next step of the process. That's where you come in.

According to a release from Mayor Charlie Hales' office, the special selection committee forwarded each finalist (and their respective teams) on for public scrutiny. That comes after a day of persistent grilling of the three men, local consultant John Campbell, Chicago criminology professor Dennis Rosenbaum, and Oregon Drug and Alcohol Policy Commission Executive Director Daniel Ward.

“The community members who committed their time to the interview process were tremendous," Hales said in a press release. "Now I ask the community as a whole to participate and contribute feedback on the candidates.”

To that end, the mayor's office will include an online form for offering your input on his website this afternoon. You'll also be able to watch candidate interviews, and read their applications (which we've posted before).

In a city with no end of public process, this is one of the more important bits of input you can provide. Whoever gets the lucrative "compliance officer/community liaison" gig will help set the tone for the city's federally mandated police reform, and will have a huge role in seeing that the police don't beat up mentally ill people for no good reason. Candidates have also voiced a hope that the reforms will help address all types of disproportionate use of force, including against minorities.

It's worth your time to take an interest. Full release after the jump.

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Who Should Oversee Portland's Police Reform? The Finalists Make Their Pitches

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 1:21 PM

The three finalists for the important job of overseeing Portland's federally mandated police reform made their formal introductions this morning—and two of them had backup.

The city's got until late November to pick a "compliance officer/community liaison" that will scrutinize police activity, listen to community concerns, and, hopefully, shepherd Portland toward a future where the mentally ill aren't at outsized risk of being beaten by cops, as the US Department of Justice says they have been. The job pays handsomely—$240,000 a year—but two of the finalists will be divvying that money if selected.

John Campbell, a local facilitator and consultant who's worked extensively with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) over the years, unveiled a team of seven people he'd bring to bear if selected. Campbell made clear he'd be the primary actor, along with local labor attorney (and German-car blamer) Akin Blitz. But he'll have help— notably from local mental health professionals and former police officials (including erstwhile Hillsboro Police Chief Ron Louie, who saw controversy in efforts to reform his former department). As Denis has pointed out, Campbell was the only of the finalists not to have some personal history in dealing with people in mental health crises. The size and scope of his team is plainly one way to address that.

John Campbell
  • John Campbell

Campbell spent much of his 25-minute presentation discussing his background as a Portlander, including efforts as a neighborhood activist and experience working to bolster citizen oversight of cops. And he stressed that the settlement is confusing, and will require diligence.

"If there's people who understand the opportunity for this to accomplish not a lot, that would be us," Campbell told the selection committee. "Let's make this one matter."

Continue reading »

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Police Union Has "Many Concerns" About Talk of Outfitting Cops with Body Cameras

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 2:18 PM

  • Illustration by dylan goldberger
The leader of the city's rank-and-file police union has taken issue with Mayor Charlie Hales' recently declared interest in outfitting patrol cops with body-mounted cameras—raising concerns about the overall usefulness of the cameras, questioning the police bureau's diligence, and telling officers that any such program would first need to be hashed out with union brass.

In a letter to his members, obtained by the Mercury, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner enumerated 11 specific concerns/points, ranging from the cost of purchasing and maintaining the cameras to worries that officers will need to divert more time from patrolling their beats to worry about uploading and reviewing video.

Turner says he heard about the program only through media reports (the Oregonian first reported Hales' interest in shifting unspent money initially earmarked for dashboard cameras), and that the PPA has yet to officially oppose or support body cameras.

"The PPB’s desired implementation of body cams immediately triggers several subjects of mandatory bargaining, including officer safety, discipline, job security, minimum fairness, and workload concerns," Turner writes. "Before body cams are implemented, the PPB needs to carefully develop the body cam program and associated policies with the PPA to account for operational realities and collective bargaining issues. The PPA has many concerns that need to be addressed and resolved."

Body cameras were called out by the federal judge who signed off, last month, on a package of police reforms negotiated between the city, the federal Department of Justice, the PPA, and the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform. The cameras have become increasingly popular nationally as a means of reducing use of force—but also in reducing potentially frivolous misconduct complaints.

The reforms are meant to answer accusations that Portland police officers engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with, or perceived to have, mental illness. US District Court Judge Michael Simon asked about cameras while evaluating the reforms. He noted that the cameras weren't included when he signed off on the agreement August 29, but said it wasn't enough of a reason to reject it.

Turner, later in his letter, took the judge, the feds, and the mayor to task for, as he put it, failing to abide by "the most important component to the success" of the federal deal: Increasing "the authorized staffing level of PPB by 20 percent." In the fall of 2012, the city approved new expenditures and positions for the bureau in light of the expected reforms. But in 2013, the city council also cut the overall number of authorized officers, avoiding layoffs by allowing the bureau to gradually ease the number down through retirements and departures. This year, the council held the line.

Read Turner's full statement after the cut.

Continue reading »


Brass Ones: An Enterprising Thief Stole Metal From the Cops' New Training Center

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Sean Michael Kearney
  • Sean Michael Kearney

The Portland Police Bureau, after months of work and millions in bond money spent, is ready to unveil its new training center this afternoon.

There will be tours and refreshments and local dignitaries, the PPB said in a news release sent out this morning. What the bureau didn't mention, until another release a few moments ago, is that they've had some difficulties with the site this week.

Turns out a guy named Sean Michael Kearney (allegedly) decided to pluck some of the center's taxpayer-funded treasure (well, some metal panelling waiting to be installed) before the place was swarming with cops. And the bureau needed barely any of the training officers will receive at the facility to get the stuff back. From the release:

On Monday September 15, 2014, at approximately 6:30 p.m., a suspect stole several thousand dollars worth of metal panels to be used as the entry facade to the new Portland Police Training Complex, located at 14902 Northeast Airport Way.

A North Precinct detective was able to obtain surveillance video of the suspect vehicle, which was a fairly distinct looking Chevy S-10 pick-up truck.

On Wednesday September 17, 2014, the detective spotted the vehicle as it drove by him on his way home. Uniform officers were called to stop the vehicle and the suspect was arrested without incident.

The detective continued to investigate and late last night recovered all of the stolen metal but it is unlikely it can be used at the Training Complex as some of it has been damaged.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Police Taser Teen After Scuffle—Promptly Share Reports, 911 Calls, Videos

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 2:16 PM

Portland police officers answering several vandalism and disturbance calls involving a group of kids in downtown St. Johns early Sunday wound up scuffling with—and Tasering—someone they thought was in that group: a 16-year-old African American football player at Roosevelt High School.

Other than the age of the boy who was Tasered, what happened was not all that unusual—even if it's still upsetting to many in the community who've been sharing video of the incident in social media. (And even if that doesn't mean advocates should accept that nothing else should change. Saying something is usual isn't the same as saying something's right—that determination is yet to come in this case.)

Officers use their Tasers on someone one to three times a week, according to police bureau statistics. African American males also make up a disproportionate share of the people on the receiving end of force overall, some 27 percent in the second quarter of 2014. And injuries to officers and the people they fight with are all occasionally bad enough to warrant treatment.

And yet? Perhaps owing to national conversations about police work and race and tensions in the wake of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri—and locally, in light of federal use-of-force reforms that are now, as of August 29, endorsed by a court of law—the police bureau has done something decidedly uncommon.

Instead of merely issuing a statement summarizing the incident, the bureau also proactively shared links to private videos of the incident, released 911 audio, and shared several redacted police reports (pdf) detailing how and why officers thought they were right to use force. It's the kind of thing that usually happens in deadly force cases, and usually only after several days of inquiries and reporting. In this case, the bureau issued the information before anyone even posted stories about what happened. (Normally, even in smaller cases, the bureau will decline to release reports weeks and months later, citing ongoing investigations.)

"This is very unusual," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. "I can't think of any case where, within two days, we saw this kind of paperwork."

The police bureau has yet to respond to questions asking about the release. But Dana Haynes, a spokesman for police commissioner Mayor Charlie Hales, says Hales' office wasn't part of the decision-making. Haynes said the mayor's police liaison, Deanna Wesson-Mitchell (a former police officer) sent a letter praising the bureau's release after the fact.

"We thought getting the information out with alacrity was smart and a really good idea," Haynes says.

The reports and audio fill in some of what's seen in two Facebook videos that have made the rounds pretty widely in the hours after the incident. Handelman mused whether the police bureau was trying to get ahead of outrage, because of those videos, by working harder than usual to get its side of the story out more quickly. The Mercury (and probably some other outlets) had asked for details only to see the mass release come out this morning.

A status update accompanying one of the videos identifies the boy in the fight as 16-year-old Thai Gurule, a sophomore defensive back/running back for Roosevelt. Thai's brother, Giovanni, also was arrested early Sunday after watching among a group of friends and becoming enraged. Officers also tackled and scuffled with him, at one point, putting their arm around his head and taking him to the ground.

The 911 calls show several people calling about a group of young people roaming out of Cathedral Park, with reports of damage to a vehicle, general noise, a confrontation with a resident who complained that the kids were pulling up a decorative fence in her yard, and an overheard threat that someone was going to potentially shoot someone. They also reveal that the several of the callers reported seeing white kids, or a group of kids from varying ethnicities.

Cops found the kids up near the Burgerville in St. Johns. They say that's when Thai Gurule tried to get away from the cops who'd begun questioning and identifying the suspects. Officers Betsy Hornstein and David Hughes said they grabbed Gurule after he wouldn't submit to handcuffing or take off his backpack. They say he tensed up and that as they tried to bring his arms behind his back, they all fell to the ground after trying to sweep his legs out.

In the ensuing scuffle, which Sergeant Jason Lile said had "the makings of a riot," Hornstein says Gurule twice got his arm around her neck, the second time after she and Lile pinned Gurule against a nearby wall. She says she punched Gurule six to eight times, but with little effect. Later, she says, she was punched in the face. She kneed Gurule when he was against the wall and got out her Taser when that slowed Gurule down. Lile also had his Taser out and said he used it—once, per new policy because of federal reforms—after giving three warnings that he would.

The bureau's statement says Chief Mike Reese "has asked that the Professional Standards Division review this entire incident." Read the statement after the jump.

Continue reading »

Friday, September 12, 2014

Police Union President Ripped Kruger, Command Staff in Retaliation Probe

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 4:29 PM

We got a taste, thanks to the Mercury's copy of an Independent Police Review investigative report, of what Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner thought about a retaliation complaint one of his members brought against the controversial Captain Mark Kruger last year.

Turner, according to the report, called the claim "totally 100 percent" valid—a blunt quote that offered an unusually candid look at the union president's involvement in a high-profile case. But the full transcript of Turner's comments, obtained in a public records request, shows Turner was just getting warmed up.

He not only railed against Kruger, but he also accused command staff of (1) playing favorites by letting Kruger continue to serve as a supervisor in the midst of an investigation and (2), maybe worse, joining in the alleged retaliation by not initially acting with vigor and appearing to take Kruger's side.

Kruger, you may recall, had been accused of harassing then-Sergeant Kristy Galvan, in a case that exploded into public view last year. Except, after he was cleared, he posted the letter saying so to his office door—marking Galvan's name in red marker. And Galvan, after another cop told her the letter went up, filed a complaint with her superiors that wound soft-pedaled until a bureau management whistle-blower alerted the IPR.

(The claim was eventually substantiated, only to be wiped from Kruger's police record as part of a legal settlement that also wiped away his discipline for setting up a shrine to Nazi soldiers in a public park.)

The Mercury isn't publishing the full two-page-plus transcript, to avoid airing personal details about Galvan, who has left the bureau, officials said, in a "medical separation." She's since won a $50,000 settlement from the city, the other side of the deal that cleared Kruger's record and paid him $5,000.

Turner referenced Kruger's affection for Nazi Germany history the harassment claims Galvan filed against Kruger as part of his argument that bureau should have gone harder, not softer, on Kruger.

No. 1, this was a totally 100 percent retaliatory act by the captain. I will tell you that every—almost every officer in that precinct walks by there. It is a corridor between where you can go to your mailbox, so everybody's mailbox is right by the front desk, so you have to walk past there to go to your mailbox. And everybody goes—within a three- to four-day period, everybody walks to their mailbox at least once during their shift, either beginning, end or sometime in between. It's also the corridor from the front door to where people walk to do reports and to write reports and people bring custodies in.

Writing the name in red Sharpie obviously stands out to every other part of the letter showing whose name is on there. And this is a gloating and this is a l-can-get-away-with-anything-type act, but also it's an act of tarnishing her reputation and saying that I can get to you even when you're not here and that—that doesn't just mean Sergeant Galvan, but anybody-who-goes-against-me-type retaliation.

I am shocked and surprised that he is still allowed to supervise people at this point while there's an investigation going on. If that was a rank-and-file officer, they would have been sent to true or put on administrative leave, yet he is allowed to—even with past allegations, he's allowed to still supervise officers and work in his daily functions.

He also blames management's reportedly blasé handling of the claim, accusing the command staff of retaliation, for making Galvan feel like she'd have to quit. As the report and other documents have made clear, key members of the bureau brass decided before investigating that Kruger hadn't engaged in retaliation. The city's Bureau of Human Resources and the bureau's own Police Review Board both disagreed and put a (temporary) mark on Kruger's record.

She believes those are the same people that not just—along with Captain Kruger who are retaliating against her and who are tarnishing her reputation and will make it very difficult for her to come back and finish her career as a Portland police officer after putting, you know, a large portion of her adult life into this organization.

This is all interesting for another reason. Turner has criticized and negotiated with IPR as it's worked to expand its powers and mission to do the kind of independent investigation it conducted into Kruger. Turner has said he'd rather have internal affairs investigators or better-trained IPR investigators leading investigations. This was a case when having IPR around to do that work was in his and his members' interests, too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tracking Police Shootings: Someone Has to Do It

Posted by Jason Renaud and Jenny Westberg on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Art: Cam Floyd
  • Art: Cam Floyd

SINCE THE DEATH of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, attention has been riveted on the issue of police brutality.

Pundits were shocked to discover no national oversight of local police departments—and no national database of persons killed by law enforcement officers.

On August 15, an article in USA Today cited FBI estimates of 400 police-involved deaths a year. But, it went on to note, those estimates were based on a small fraction of the 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide—those that chose to report "justifiable" police homicides.

Frankly, we're more interested in police homicides that are not justifiable. Who keeps that list?

For more than a dozen years, Wikipedia has crowd-sourced a list of deaths caused by US law enforcement officers. Last month, we collaborated with 44 "Wikipedians"—the highly involved, active volunteers at the heart of Wikipedia—to source, distill, and verify a comprehensive-as-possible list of people killed by US law enforcement officers in August 2014, and add to the existing list for prior months and years. Names were culled from thousands of mainstream media articles. Each case was confirmed in at least one media source, often the paper of record for its community.

The total for August alone? One hundred and four deaths.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Meet the Three Remaining Candidates for the City's New Police Reform Monitor Post

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Sep 5, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Only two of three candidates still vying for the job of making sure the Portland Police Bureau complies with a court-approved package of reforms—aimed at reducing officers' use of force against people with mental illness—have notably deep expertise with mental health policy or training, the Mercury has learned after obtaining and reviewing copies of their applications.

And while all three men who've applied to serve as the city's new "compliance officer/community liaison," or (COCL), appear familiar with police issues in general, none would be particularly high-profile and come with the kind of gravity that might help an independent monitor stand up to city hall and police leadership, if that kind of tough stance ever was needed.

In addition, they're also somewhat familiar faces for police brass—having either written letters praising officers, or having previously run surveys from the bureau or taken the city's money to do consulting work.

The city is expected to officially release the list any day—ahead of a planned session, later this month, by a selection committee that may yet decide to reopen the hiring process in hopes of attracting more applicants. Some mental health advocates are rooting for precisely that outcome—making clear they never had much faith in what was a notably small list of initial applicants. The city didn't expect to whittle the list down to three names quite this quickly—but had its hands tied in part because so few serious applications were received.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, briefly reached for comment this morning, said she hadn't seen the list herself yet and couldn't confirm the names. But sources familiar with the selection process say these are the only three people left. So consider this a sneak preview.

• Daniel Ward, executive director of the Oregon Drug and Alcohol Policy Commission, (pdf)

Ward, who has studied psychology, has led this commission, which advises both the governor's office and Oregon Legislature, only since last year. He last worked for a Denver-area nonprofit that worked with police agencies on mental health issues. In 2002-2003, he ran Cowlitz County's human services department.

Earlier this year, before he submitted his application, he wrote a letter to the city praising two Portland officers' handling of a mental health call downtown. The letter, as reported by the Oregonian, was read aloud by Mayor Charlie Hales at a Gang Violence Task Force meeting—and eventually earned the two cops Starbucks gift cards, courtesy of Hales.

Ward has confirmed he's one of the three finalists.

• Dennis Rosenbaum, executive director of the National Police Research Platform and a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of Illinois-Chicago, (pdf)

Rosenbaum is known in national academic and police circles for his work helping police agencies across the county survey people in crashes, traffic stops, or who call police on how they think they're being treated by officers. Portland, as was reported last fall, was one of those cities. When reporting on the local survey, we noted that results from a similar survey in Chicago, according to Rosenbaum, confirmed a "silent majority" of respondents thought favorably of officers.

Rosenbaum's also worked on minority-police relations in Chicago and says he's been invited to apply for monitoring jobs in other cities. He would bring along a team of three academics familiar with community policing, mental health, and justice issues. One of those scholars has worked with police agencies on crisis and mental health training and is working on a research project on crisis intervention training.

• John Campbell, Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc., (pdf)

Campbell is a facilitator and consultant who's done some work on police issues over the years. He lists his job as providing research, training, facilitation, and planning for the purpose of public safety problem-solving, community-oriented policing, and the goal of more effective law enforcement results."

But this appears to be one of the most relevant items in his application: He was chosen, in 2010, to run then-Commissioner Randy Leonard's Police Oversight Stakeholder Committee. That group—pulling in IPR, police, the police union, and accountability advocates—brainstormed ideas for further strengthening police oversight changes approved by the council, amid some controversy, in the summer of 2010. But with those changes in place, there was little political will to push harder. And the stakeholder report languished for months until it was tepidly accepted by the council in 2011. Some of the easily agreed-upon refinements waited for this year, under code changes pushed as part of federal reforms.

Campbell's also worked for a couple of other police bureau initiatives: He's helped shape the scope of the bureau's Service Coordination Team, which officials love but which also relied on secret lists to find the frequent offenders who fit its criteria for counseling and treatment. Campbell, in 2011, also facilitated the bureau's Business Optimization Task Force. And he's taught cops on landlord-tenant relations.

He counts among his strategic advisers the former director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (aka COPS) under Bill Clinton, Joe Brann. Brann, Campbell says, is a suburban former police chief who's been a reform monitor or helped reform monitors, in several other cities.

Answering a question on his mental health experience, Campbell writes, "Some, but we are not experts and would likely bring in advisory team members."


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Man Shot by Police Had Been Placed on a Mental Health Hold the Night Before

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 12:36 PM

DeNorris McClendon, 27
  • DeNorris McClendon, 27
The Portland Police Bureau this morning has confirmed TV reports, citing relatives, that the man shot by an officer along Interstate 84 yesterday was deep in a mental health crisis when he reportedly waved a replica handgun at drivers on a freeway ramp and then again at responding cops.

DeNorris Laron McClendon, 27, had been taken to a hospital and placed on a police mental health hold the night before his encounter on I-84, police said in a statement. His grandmother called because he was having delusions, swinging a stick at the bushes in her yard and looking for the FBI. In between his release from the hospital and his shooting, police say, McClendon got his hands on an undetermined amount of methamphetamine.

While investigating the circumstances of the shooting and McClendon's background, detectives learned that 27-year-old Denorris Laron McClendon had contact with Portland Police officers on Sunday August 31, 2014, at approximately 8:00 p.m., the night before the incident on I-84.

The police contact was the result of a call from McClendon's grandmother, who told police that McClendon was suffering from a paranoid delusion and was in the backyard of her home swinging a wooden dowel at shrubbery, looking for the FBI. McClendon's grandmother told officers that McClendon had been doing this for a good part of the day. Additionally, she told officers that McClendon had broken both arms approximately 4 days earlier and had removed both casts himself.

Officers spoke with McClendon and noted the apparent injuries to his arms and he agreed to go a Portland hospital by ambulance, where he was placed on a police hold for a mental health evaluation and medical treatment.

McClendon, as the Mercury seemed first to note yesterday, was involved in another high-profile encounter with police back when he was 15. Officer Paul Ware fired a Taser at McClendon in McClendon's own home. McClendon had been trying to lock up his family's house in preparation for a trip to the hospital with his brother. Ware, responding to the family's call for help, came inside the house with his gun drawn and though McClendon meant to attack him.

His mother, who appealed a police decision to clear Ware a decade ago and described McClendon as a "special needs" child, died this summer. Relatives told KOIN that McClendon suffered a breakdown after his mother passed.

The bureau also identified the officer who shot McClendon: Michael Honl, an East Precinct cop who's worked in Portland for 10 years. Honl, in 2011, was given an award after helping two other officers save a woman trying to jump onto Interstate 205. Honl was one of two officers involved in a 2005 nonfatal shooting, according to Portland Copwatch's archives.

The third incident, which happened most recently, was the March 28 shooting of Gilbert Thomas King, 35. King allegedly put the pickup he was driving into reverse as officers approached him, and rammed the police car. The officers, Michael Honl (#33525) and Dell Stroh (#39607) shot nine bullets, missing both King and his passenger. King received a head wound from the crash (Oregonian, March 30-31 & April 12 and PPB). It is unclear why King is being charged with attempted aggravated murder, since the officers were not in their car at the time. It is similarly unclear whether these officers' actions would violate the new policy proposed by Chief Foxworth restricting shooting at vehicles

Monday, September 1, 2014

Police Swarm to Report of Gunman, Shut Down Interstate 84; One Report Says Cops Fired at Man

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Sep 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM

DeNorris McClendon, 27
  • DeNorris McClendon, 27
UPDATE 10:17 PM: Police have just identified the man shot and wounded by an officer this morning near Interstate 84—and a bit of research shows he's dealt not only with mental health issues, as has been reported, but also with the aftermath of a nearly 12-year-old high-profile encounter with police.

DeNorris Laron McClendon, 27, was treated at a Portland hospital and released into custody. He's since been booked into jail, police have announced, and faces 12 counts of menacing, two counts of reckless endangerment, and two counts of second-degree disorderly conduct in connection with today's confrontation. He'll be arraigned in the morning.

Several people called police this morning to complain McClendon was stalking up and down an Interstate 84 on-ramp and maybe threatening to carjack them, according to police. McClendon eventually faced responding officers from North Precinct, police said, ran through freeway traffic to get away from them, and was shot after he reportedly pointed what looked like a gun at another of the officers. He was arrested a couple of blocks away after tactical officers and negotiators approached him in an armored vehicle.

Police are actively looking to add to the pile of charges, asking anyone else who encountered McClenodon to phone detectives. Two TV stations have reported McClendon was in a mental health crisis, and the O, citing a source, says he was the subject of a mental health hold.

A quick Internet search also turns up the fact that this isn't McClendon's first prominent run-in with Portland officers. When he was 15, in September 2002, an officer Tasered him in his own home—in a case that was appealed to the city's Citizen Review Committee.

McClendon's mother had called 911 after his brother had come home beaten up, and after a dispatcher told them to prepare for a trip to the hospital, McClendon had gone downstairs to help to secure the house. McClendon had taken a pipe he meant to place in the track of a sliding patio door, his family said, except that police had already come to the house and went in without knocking.

An officer who'd come in with his gun drawn ordered McClendon to drop the pipe, twice, before a confused McClendon finally listened. That was when the officer zapped him—only to be cleared after telling his superiors that McClendon was much bigger than he actually was and also that the pipe was more than twice as big as it actually was.

The Portland Alliance covered the case in 2004:

Suddenly, he felt excruciating pain as Officer Ware fired the Taser. Two barbs entered the boy’s bare torso, allowing 50,000 volts of electricity to travel through wires attached to the Taser. He begged the officer to stop and tried to pull the barbs out, burning his fingers in the process. Jones and her sons claimed that they heard the officer pull the trigger more than once (each trigger pull results in a 5 second pulse of electricity.) The ambulance originally designated to take his wounded brother to the hospital ended up taking DeNorris there in order to cut the barbs out of his skin.

Officer Ware’s explanation for firing the Taser at the youth in his home contradicted Jones and DeNorris’s account. Ware described how he initially responded to a call to break up a fight amongst “kids.” No one was at the fight location except a witness who said he saw one of the kids —who was injured — walk off in a certain direction. In the meantime, Ware heard over the car’s radio that the mother of a victim injured in a fight called 911 for medical help.

Ware then arrived at the home of Andria Jones, where the front door was open. Ware knocked and announced his presence more than once with no response. Claiming that he heard yelling and screaming inside, Ware entered the home under the Bureau’s “community caretaking” policy, which allows officers to go inside residences without owner permission to render assistance, including first aid.

Ware claimed that DeNorris walked past him, about five feet away, and picked up a metal bar to “cock” it over his head while turning around to face and cuss at the officer. Ware pulled out his Taser and ordered the boy to drop the bar. The boy did so on Ware’s second command; however, Ware claimed the boy then came towards him with his fists raised in a threatening manner, a “fact” the youth disputes. Because Ware believed his safety was threatened by DeNorris, he subsequently charged the boy with menacing, interfering with a peace officer, and disorderly conduct - all of which the District Attorney dismissed.

Those charges are similar to what McClendon faces now. McClendon, in 2004, was described by his mother as a lifelong "special needs" child. The Tasering, his mother said at the time, set him back greatly.

After the hearing, Jones stated that her son has been a “special needs” child all of his life. After being tasered in his own home, his doctor found that DeNorris’s emotional state regressed about 75%. DeNorris cringed for months whenever he saw a police car and continues to have nightmares over the incident. Jones said that for a while immediately after the incident, her son started cutting himself - something he had never done prior to being shot with the Taser.

McClendon has had other troubles with the law over the years. But KOIN has reported, citing family, that McClendon had a breakdown this summer after the death of Jones, his mother. The Portland Observer published her obituary in July.

UPDATE 1:12 PM: Chief Mike Reese spoke during a brief news conference and said the man shot by police is expected to survive his injuries. Police also say the man was trying to carjack various drivers and had threatened several people with something that looked like a gun.

According to KGW, Reese confirmed reports the man, while walking along Interstate 84, had pointed the presumed weapon at the officers who arrived to investigate all those calls, with one of them firing and apparently hitting the man. The man ran off but collapsed a couple of blocks away. Police say he was telling officers he wanted them to kill him. It's not yet been determined if he was waving a real handgun... or a replica.

KPTV has since joined KOIN in reporting that the man's family is saying he was in a mental health crisis.

The Oregonian is reporting that some 100 officers showed up and that Interstate 84 will remain closed for several more hours because it's now part of a crime scene. The closure's in both directions, and the detour directions are like so:

• Eastbound traffic will be directed to southbound Interstate 205

• Westbound traffic is being dumped onto NE 121st

The full police account is here. The police statement says tactical officers and negotiators used an armored vehicle to get close to the man. It also says the officer who fired at the man will be identified tomorrow.

UPDATE 12:13 PM: Whatever's gone on, it's no longer active. "The scene is now safe," police officials said in an email, promising an update in a few minutes. Still no ETA, it seems, on when the highway might reopen.

KOIN, still citing sources ahead of an official police statement, now says the man sought by police has "been detained and required medical attention."

They've also tweeted the following, saying the man shot was in a mental health crisis. They've since sourced that to the man's uncle.

Original post:

Portland police have shut down Interstate 84 in East Portland—swarming around NE 107th and Fremont and sending in tactical officers and crisis negotiators—while they try to contact a "suspect" in what's been officially called an ongoing tactical incident with "shots fired.

The Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) and the Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) are responding to assist North Precinct officers in the 11200 block of Northeast Fremont Street on an active, ongoing tactical incident with shots fired.

Residents along this section of Fremont are asked to shelter-in-place unless directed otherwise by police at the scene.

The suspect in the incident is contained and officers are attempting to communicate with him.

No additional information can be confirmed or released at this time.

But least one media outlet, citing a "law enforcement source," is reporting the incident as a police shooting. KOIN says a man believed to be armed with a handgun, walking along the highway, and suspected in a carjacking was fired at by police officers after he reportedly waved what looked like a weapon at them. KGW has posted a tweet claiming that Police Chief Mike Reese has shown up, which would follow protocol if police fired their weapons.

Just before 10 a.m., emergency dispatchers received multiple reports of a man armed with a gun in the area of NE 122nd and I-84, a law enforcement source told KOIN 6 News.

Responding officers saw the man, who was seen running on I-84, and the railroad tracks adjacent to it. The suspect may have tried to carjack a vehicle, the law enforcement source said, but the driver was able to get out of the way.

The suspect kept running onto NE Fremont, then toward NE 112th. He pointed his weapon at the officers, who fired at him, the law enforcement source said.

KATU's also reported that people had taken to social media this morning and posted about a man walking along the freeway with a large gun.

It's unclear if anyone's been injured or worse at this point. KOIN's saying no officers have been injured. The last definitive police statement, posted above, says only that a suspect was contained. Police officials also have asked media outlets not to broadcast tactical locations and movements, suggesting whatever's going is far from over yet.

This is all happening not so far from a motel near NE 117th and Sandy that tactical officers had visited yesterday while checking on reports of a kidnapping.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fortunate Timing? City Pushing Ahead With Three Finalists for Police Reform Monitor

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Among the many newly firm deadlines looming over the city's finally approved package of police reforms with the US Department of Justice: the need to hire someone credible and qualified to monitor the deal—an independent compliance officer/community liaison (COCL)—within the next 90 days.

That might sound ambitious. But thanks to all the time bought by all the months of legal wrangling leading up to today's ruling, city officials say they're hoping they'll hit that mark.

The city, as the Mercury reported in June, is now several months into an occasionally contentious hiring process—choosing not to wait for Simon's blessing to bring the COCL on board. And as soon as next week, officials say, the city's Office of Equity and Human Rights is expected to announce it's already down to three finalists whose names will be aired in a public meeting by a special city selection committee.

That's a major step, coming after some tension between mental health advocates and those who were hoping the COCL would also focus on racial justice issues. It's also coming earlier than expected, in part because fewer qualified candidates applied than expected, despite outreach by groups like the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform.

Originally, the city had hoped to send more candidates to its selection committee, with that committee picking three finalists who would be sent on to interview with Portland's elected officials. But because so few candidates applied, about a dozen, the city's early screening panels managed to do that winnowing.

"We all are somewhat disappointed there aren't more viable candidates," says Commissioner Amanda Fritz, helping lead the hiring process on behalf of Mayor Charlie Hales' office. "But we're all happy there are three."

That's not to say another hiccup couldn't emerge. Fritz, who says officials have not yet finalized the selection committee's roster of about 20, allowed that the committee could still rule out one or more of the remaining candidates. And without three names sent on for city commissioners and the city auditor to review, building to a public comment process, the application process would have to start over again.

One advocate who's been minding the process, Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland, says he remains disappointed in the caliber of candidates and is still hoping to see more substantial names like former Governor Ted Kulongoski or Paul DeMuniz, former chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.

"We're going to regret going with persons who are inexperienced or unfamiliar with our issues," he says. "If the advisory group can say, 'No, these people are not sufficient,' then we can shift gears and go out and recruit and repost this position."

But other favored candidates, who'd been part of this process since January, might decide to drop out, Fritz warns. She's hoping momentum will be maintained.

"We're anticipating they will be" sent along, Fritz says. "But that is something that makes us all very nervous. We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

BREAKING: Federal Judge Approves Police Reform Deal Between City, Union, and Feds

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 12:19 PM

A federal judge this afternoon has decided to accept a proposed package of police reforms negotiated between the city, the US Department of Justice, the Portland Police Association and the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform—setting in motion a rapid series of deadlines for putting the deal in place nearly two years after it was first tentatively announced.

But nodding to one of his concerns as he considered the deal, US District Court Judge Michael Simon has insisted on bringing all of the parties to the case into his courtroom for annual hearings, potentially risking an appeal that could, once more, throw a wrench into the process.

Simon also touched on another concern that's become even more relevant in light of events in Ferguson, Missouri: that the deal doesn't require police here to wear body cameras. He said he didn't think it was enough of a limitation to reject all of the other reforms, meant to answer federal accusations that Portland police have engaged in an unconstitutional pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness and that officers improperly used Tasers and generally were too quick to use force in contacts with subjects.

The deal negotiated by the city and the feds adds new rules for Tasers, allows cops to be graded on how their decisions before using force, created a new behavioral health unit in the police bureau, along with an enhanced team of crisis-trained officeres, and seeks to dramatically speed up misconduct investigations.

It seemed to call—most importantly—for at least one new drop-off or walk-in center for people with mental illness. But in a hearing this winter, the city and feds both acknowledged that such a goal was never more than "aspirational"—despite no one ever saying that back in the fall of 2012.

Read his ruling here (pdf). We'll have updates in a bit.

Update 12:45 PM: The most obvious question, for now, is whether the city or PPA can and/or will challenge Simon's ruling requiring annual updates. I've left a message asking that question with Deputy City Attorney Ellen Osoinach, one of the main city litigators assigned to the police reform settlement. Daryl Turner, president of the PPA, told me he didn't have an immediate comment on the ruling.

Update 2:29 PM: The AMA coalition has issued a statement praising Simon's ruling—in particular the call for annual updates, something the AMA argued for over and over again in hearings with Simon this year.

Simon this spring signaled he was interested in regular updates, prompting disagreement from the PPA and city, who questioned the particulars and worried it would undo a delicate mediation agreement between the two last year that lifted the reforms out of legal and labor limbo.

The AMA's attorneys argued Simon was free to order hearings even if the parties in the case didn't agree to them. Simon ultimately took up their reasoning, rejecting a compromise effort to have the city's police reform monitor come to court and present a report in the parties' stead. The DOJ, despite signing onto that compromise this summer, also told Simon it wouldn't stand in the way of a more robust protocol for updates.

The Coalition is particularly grateful that Judge Simon has insisted on the participation of all four parties to the lawsuit—the DOJ, the AMA Coalition, the City and the Police Association—as well as reports from the Compliance Officer/ Community Liaison.

The Settlement Agreement, while primarily focused on those experiencing mental health issues, should lead to better treatment of all Portlanders.

This ruling is a major step to creating a true community policing culture within the Portland Police Bureau in light of the national attention on Deadly Force and Excessive Force by the Police Department in the Michael Brown death in Ferguson, Missouri.

Yet, there is an intensified need for community engagement and community dialogue to prevent a Ferguson upheaval in Portland and keep Portland striving to create a national model of community policing.

The AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform is working toward these five goals:

1. A federal investigation by the Justice Department to include criminal and civil rights violations, as well as a federal audit of patterns and practices of the Portland Police Bureau.

2. Strengthening the Independent Police Review Division and the Citizen Review Committee with the goal of adding power to compel testimony.

3. A full review of the Bureau's excessive force and deadly force policies and training with diverse citizen participation for the purpose of making recommendations to change policies and training.

4. The Oregon State Legislature narrowing the language of the State statute for deadly force used by police officers.

5. Establishing a special prosecutor for police excessive force and deadly force cases.

Update 4:17 PM: Mayor Charlie Hales has issued a statement on Simon's ruling that suggests the city won't argue with the judge's call for annual updates that will start, per his order, in September 2015.

“We all want our Police Bureau to treat all people with humanity and dignity, and to have the tools and training necessary to deal with the complexities of mental illness. This agreement, now affirmed, solidifies Portland’s commitment to serving our diverse community.

“Judge Simon’s order, approving the settlement, helps move us forward in implementing reforms related to hiring, training, rules of force and discipline of police officers. We are in the process of hiring a Compliance Officer/Community Liaison. We’re serious about having a police force that appreciates the issues around mental illness and that utilizes de-escalation tactics.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cops Crew Member Shot... by Cops

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Not exactly sure why this hasn't happened before now... BUT. A robbery in an Omaha Wendy's restaurant went from bad to terrible when officers shot the suspect... AND audio technician Bryce Dion, a crew member for the long-running TV show Cops. From WOWT News:

Omaha Deputy Police Chief Dave Baker said Tuesday night that a man was holding a clerk at gunpoint and demanded cash.

The chief said Wednesday all three officers entered the restaurant and confronted the suspect. The Cops crew - a photographer and Dion, the audio tech - went in with them.

Schmaderer said according to witnesses, the suspect discharged a handgun that turned out to be an Airsoft pellet gun. He says witnesses reported hearing the gun and seeing the recoil.

“The first two audible shots were from Mr. Washington’s gun,” the chief said. Officers returned fire. Washington was shot.

The chief said, “Mr. Dion was also injured by a single gunshot and collapsed.” Dion was in the vestibule at the entrance of the restaurant.

Both men were taken to the Nebraska Medical Center and pronounced dead a short time later.

According to Chief Todd Schmaderer, “The officers had no choice other than to respond in the way that they did.” Again, not sure why this hasn't happened before.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

St. Louis Police Killed Kajieme Powell in a Barrage of Bullets

Posted by Ansel Herz on Thu, Aug 21, 2014 at 3:29 PM

"Over two fucking sodas," says a witness who caught the incident, which occurred on Tuesday, on camera. Twenty-three-year-old Kajieme Powell, who is alleged to have stolen a few drinks and pastries from a nearby store, reportedly had a history of mental illness. This video, released by the police, is not easy to watch:

The video appears to contradicts the narrative of events claimed by police, though a representative for the St. Louis police union called it "exculpatory." Ezra Klein adds:

This man needed help. He had a knife, but he also, clearly, had an illness. After watching the video, Vox's Amanda Taub said, "I keep thinking about the times when I have called 911 because I have encountered a mentally ill person in public who seems unsafe. I don't know how I would live with it if this had been the result." There has to have been a way that police could have protected Kajieme Powell rather than killed him.

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