Faced with an impasse over federal police reform between the Portland Police Association, on one side, and the city and US Department of Justice, on the other, a judge has ordered a bench trial next summer on accusations that Portland officers have engaged in a "pattern and practice" of using excessive force against the mentally ill.
That's a big step, and another hiccup, in what's already been almost a months-long process. So far, the city hasn't formally conceded any liability in the civil rights case, reaching a settlement agreement with the feds instead. But despite mediation, fundamental disagreements remain between the union and the city and feds over whether that reform deal, approved by Portland City Council last fall, unfairly impacts the PPA's labor contract.
That contract expired June 30 but remains in effect through an "evergreen clause", and it's unclear whether the new contract will include certain proposals sought by the feds—including a "discipline matrix" that would clarify cops' punishment for misconduct.
And because of case law that says the court can't force changes to a union contract unless there's been a clear finding of liability, US District Court Judge Michael Simon said he had no other choice but to order a trial that both the city and the feds, seemingly, had hoped to avoid.
"There will be a trial on the merits," Simon said.
Update 3 PM: Mayor Charlie Hales' office issued a statement on Simon's decision. He's spinning the 2014 trial date as a good thing, even though he's clearly been champing at the bit to move forward and start putting this stuff behind him:
“I am pleased the court provided such clear guidance to all parties regarding next steps in the City’s and U.S. Department of Justice’s draft Settlement Agreement. Both the Justice Department and the public are expecting us to change practices in our Police Bureau. We are doing so, and will continue to do so, because they are the right things to do. I believe that, by setting a potential trial date a year in the future, the court is expressing trust in our continued focus and action. The result will be the same whether commitments are codified in a Settlement Agreement or in City Policy: we will demonstrate continuous commitment to civil rights in the Portland Police Bureau.”
Simon's decision came despite one bright spot: a deal between the city and the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform that will give the AMA a greater role in establishing and enhancing the oversight component of the city's settlement agreement with the feds.
The 2011 death of Darris Johnson—who fell ill in the back of a police car after an intense chase that left him complaining he was short of breath—sparked immediate concerns about whether officers should have called paramedics sooner but never led to any discipline.
Investigators found officers Zach Zelinka and Justin Thurman followed the law and Portland Police Bureau policy in their handling of Johnson—deciding against calling EMTs, at first, because Johnson was talking normally, but then calling for help and pulling over once they realized he wasn't responsive. And Johnson, as an autopsy and toxicology test later revealed, had an enlarged heart and meth in his system. (His family was outragede by his death all the same.
But despite saying at the time that "it appears that everyone did everything right," the bureau last month, very quietly, moved to change its policy (pdf) so that someone in Johnson's condition would stand a better chance of having paramedics called immediately—and maybe stay alive. The changed policy was made public last night at the city's monthly Citizen Review Committee meeting. The policy itself was drafted after the 2006 death of James Chasse Jr., a man with schizophrenia killed after cops tackled and punched and Tasered him downtown.
Under the new amendments, officers must now call paramedics for someone who appears to be under the influence of cocaine or amphetamines and has also been in a prolonged altercation. And cops also now must proved they've someone who's exerted themselves—either in a struggle or chase—if they're under the influence of those substances.
"They had him in handcuffs already," Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch said back in 2011. "Give him the benefit of the doubt and bring in the medics."
The new changes would appear to codify that helpful suggestion. I've asked the bureau for comment on the changes. Is this an admission something was wrong the whole time? Or is it a case of learning from mistakes after shootings and deaths—the subject of a harsh new audit I wrote about in Hall Monitor this week. I'll update if and when I hear back.
It's not uncommon lately to get an e-mail from the police describing an attack officers believe is gang related. There have been three of them already this month, all drive-by shootings.
Most of the attacks occur at night and near traditional hotspots of gang activity in North, Northeast and East Portland. But a shooting this afternoon bucks that trend, marking one of the more-brazen attacks the city's seen this year.
According to police, someone in a car at NE Broadway near 6th began shooting at another car at around 2:30 this afternoon. No one was injured, but the attack played out in a heavily trafficked commercial area.
And it comes as cops say gang violence is spiking in the city, after months of relative quiet. Officers in recent weeks have described gun battles where dozens of shots are fired, and say the city could have a comparable year to 2012, when there were 118 gang attacks in Portland.
"What's shocked us is the amount of people being injured this year," Lt. Art Nakamura, who heads up Portland's Gang Enforcement Team, recently told members of the city's Gang Violence Task Force. "It's kind of staggering."
Cops have feared violence would ramp up this summer, but expressed hope earlier in the year fresh efforts at gang outreach and enforcement would stifle it.
There have been now been 52 attacks this year, compared to 64 at the same time in 2012, Nakamura tells me. But the summer's been hectic. He says there were 15 gang-related attacks last month. In June 2012, there were just five.
Two days after Mayor Charlie Hales handed his public safety director, Baruti Artharee, just a one-week suspension for his suggestive comments about County Commissioner Loretta Smith at a city event last month, Daryl Turner of the Portland Police Association was quoted saying something provocative to Willamette Week's Andrea Damewood.
"I like Baruti; I've had good interactions and conversations with him," Turner says. "But I think it was less than a slap on the wrist. I think a police officer would have gotten much more discipline for the same kind of conduct. It's another example of our leaders, who are supposed to be held to a higher standard, being treated differently."
The WW post, published Wednesday, doesn't go beyond Turner's remarks. But the comments raise a brilliant question about how harassment and discrimination are treated in the cop shop. And, as it turns out, there are clues in the public Police Review Board reports that the bureau puts out twice a year. (The latest batch just came out this week—clearing cops, incidentally, in last year's police shootings of Jonah Potter and Bradley Morgan.)
For better or for worse, based on a reading of relevant cases—as well as exclusive Mercurydata (pdf) showing how Chief Mike Reese actually punishes cops rapped by the review board—it seems Artharee's discipline falls well in line with what unnamed cops have received in similar and even more egregious cases.
Part of Turner's point still holds. An at-will political employee should still be held to a higher standard than the people he's helping lead. Even the same standard really isn't good enough. But the data actually highlights another question: If Artharee's punishment really does meet the standard for rank-and-file cops, maybe the standard itself is too low.
Looking back at all five sets of reports released since July 2011, five cases stood out—besides the Todd Wyatt case, in which inappropriate touching was considered along with dishonesty and off-duty road rage, making the findings too hard to parse.
In three of the considered cases, it was possible to compare the review board's recommended discipline against what the chief ultimately imposed. Reese is free to exceed or come under the board's decision. For the other two, because they're in the most recent batch, that comparison isn't immediately possible.
We'll work from the most recent down to the oldest. Hit the jump.
When the Portland Police Bureau announced a major shakeup in senior staffing June 21—installing new leadership atop the Transit Division and in East Precinct—one niggling piece of uncertainty was the fate of the senior cop who'd been leading the Transit Division, Commander Mike Crebs.
Crebs, the bureau said, would be helping his replacement get up to speed—but there was no further indication about where he might spend his time. It was an unusual limbo, especially since I was told the haziness about Crebs, or his job switch, wasn't because of a discipline issue.
Clarity arrived this afternoon. The bureau has now announced that Crebs will replace Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks in Police Chief Mike Reese's inner circle.
But it gets more interesting. Crebs is ascendant in part because Hendricks has decided to retire after 27 years with the bureau. Hendricks is stepping down, notably, just more than two weeks after the Oregonian reported he's under investigation on accusations he tried to "unfairly influence a police disciplinary proceeding" on behalf of Captain Mark Kruger, the cop who put up a shrine to Nazi-era German soldiers.
Crebs will take over Hendricks' portfolio overseeing internal affairs, budgeting, records, and the training division. Having Hendricks oversee IA, which handles discipline, might have been problematic given the accusations, lobbed against him by the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association. The mayor's office has opened a human resources investigation.
In a statement announcing the move, Reese praised Hendricks.
"Assistant Chief Hendricks has dedicated his professional career to improving the Portland Police Bureau and public safety during his 27 years of service to our community. I am grateful for his strong leadership and steadfast support as an assistant chief the past three years."
Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales, says Hales "applauds" Crebs' promotion. He also said, in a response to questions whether Hendricks was retiring on his own and not because of the investigation, "to my knowledge, yes."
Asked if Hendricks would face discipline if he hadn't retired, Haynes says, "I believe Human Resources has begun an investigation into the allegations raised by the PPCOA." Sergeant Pete Simpson, a bureau spokesman, says Haynes is correct on all counts. Update 3:45 PM: Haynes says the investigation is still active, after consulting human resources, and Simpson says it will continue if necessary even after Hendricks retires.//end update
As the city gets set to pay nearly $7 million for a new police records system from Canada-based Versaterm, the area's police and firefighters continue to experience headaches with dispatch software purchased from the company more than two years ago.
According to documents obtained by the Mercury via records request, the area's public safety workers have logged more than 100 complaints about Versaterm's computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software in the last year. While it's true that's a relative trickle compared to the hundreds of complaints that flooded in shortly after the software's April 2011 launch, records indicate the reported issues are occasionally serious—rating a "high" priority—and still steady.
Cops and firefighters rely on the software for real-time information on emergency calls while they're in their vehicles. The mere operation of the "mobile data terminals" (laptops, basically) can be precarious—certainly more complex and involved than talking on your phone or reading a text while driving—so it's important the computer screens are clear and easy to use.
The complaint records bear out the lingering concerns of the Portland Police Association, the city's rank-and-file police union.
"We had many bugs and problems that had to be worked out and still have to be worked out," union President Daryl Turner told the Mercury recently. "It's still not what they promised it would be."
The union had enough problems with the new CAD system it eventually filed a grievance, though that was at least partly based on concerns cops would be unduly surveilled with the help of the software. Area police departments, who use Portland's dispatch system, also nearly mutinied after the software came online, warning they might refuse to pay for the service.
As we reported last week, Portland's now about to enter into another contract with Versaterm, this time to replace Portland's crash-prone police records system. On June 12, city council okayed a $6.6 million contract with Versaterm for software and set-up. That doesn't include new hardware that the system will require. In total, project managers anticipate the new records system will cost more-than $12 million—nearly double early estimates.
It's the first full day of summer and, as police have feared, gang activity is rising with the temperature.
According to numbers released today at a meeting of the Gang Violence Task Force, officers have seen 12 gang-related attacks in the last two weeks alone, and 15 for all of June, making a total of 49 on the year. Portland Police Lt. Art Nakamura worries the city could break a standing record of 18 gang attacks in a month.
"We're back to where we were in 2012," Nakamura told the task force this morning., referencing last year's historic violence. "What's shocked us is the amount of people injured this year. It's kind of staggering."
He added: "Hopefully we don't break any records. I'm tired of records."
UPDATE: I've spoken with members of the Gang Enforcement Team who say there have actually been 13 gang-related attacks this month, making the total number 47. Nakamura may have misspoke at the task force meeting.
Original post: The tone of this morning's task force meeting was decidedly more on-edge than the past several, with cops indicating they'll crack down on East Portland hotspots in coming days and asking the collected clergy, social services workers and others to spread the word.
"We're going zero tolerance right now," said Lt. Vince Elmore of the Portland Police Bureau's East Precinct. "You're going to see people on their knees with their hands over their heads, because people are hurting each other."
The violence that's erupted in recent weeks has largely played out in East Portland, where cops say gentrification has increasingly pushed gang activity. A list of recent incidents rattled off at today's meeting included gun battles in broad daylight near 158th and Burnside, drive-by shootings, and a baseball bat beating in Holgate Park. Strikingly, police had no suspects for many of the attacks, a common problem in gang crimes where victims can be reticent to cooperate with police.
"That's ridiculous," said Deputy District Attorney Eric Zimmerman. "I know for a fact that someone knows who some of those unknowns are."
The uptick is unwelcome, but not completely unexpected. Buoyed by months of relative calm, the people working to curb Portland's gang activity had voiced concern in recent weeks altercations would ramp up this summer. Beyond the increase in crime that always seems to accompany summer break, officers have braced for a rash of imprisoned gang members being released in coming months.
But the violence is disappointing, too. At a gang task force meeting on June 7, officials had expressed hope the various suppression and intervention efforts in and around Portland would lead to a sharp drop in gang incidents this summer. With the latest round of reports, that seems unlikely.
"It's pretty scary out there how much they're talking about how afraid they are," said Kate Desmond, community justice manager at the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, which supervises gang offenders. "I can't understand how busy we are."
Hours before Police Chief Mike Reese put the finishing touches on a sprawling command structure shift spurred by high-level retirements, moves made unbeknownst to reporters at the time, the clear sense of change in the air somehow sparked a rumor that it was Reese himself who was being replaced, asked by Mayor Charlie Hales to step down.
That wasn't true. Reese and Hales were instead working on a shuffle, released this morning, that installed new leadership atop East Precinct, the transit police division, family services, and drugs and vice (while also affecting the city's work with the feds on mental health and use of force reforms). But phones blew up in both official's offices, and elsewhere, as word leaked to reporters.
"It didn't happen. It's not going to happen," Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, told me yesterday.
Sergeant Pete Simpson, Reese's spokesman, quickly replied that it was "untrue." And the Mercury even reached out to Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner, who called the rumor a potential "hoax" and said he'd met with the chief not long before the rumor emerged.
So who started it? Simpson said he "wouldn't begin to know." But Haynes had some thoughts: "I think I know who's spreading it around. It's after-action by a union trying to get a little traction."
He didn't say which union. Besides the PPA, the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association and AFSCME also represent police bureau employees. (Though, the city is trying to decertify the PPCOA—angering city unions in the process).
Not that the rumor should overshadow the actual changes, which Reese made in close consultation with the mayor, say both Haynes and Simpson.
Sara Westbrook, a captain at Central Precinct who ran the bureau's new Behavioral Health Unit (a federally inspired reform) and worked on crowd control, will be promoted to commander of the city's massive East Precinct. Where she won't have to work with controversial Nazi Germany army enthusiast Captain Mark Kruger, who is moving from East under a bit of a cloud to lead the Drugs and Vice Division. Kruger, exonerated on a harassment charge, is under investigation again for posting the letter on his door.
"Certainly there is an ongoing investigation with respect to Captain Kruger," Simpson says. "But the moves themselves are just for the needs of the bureau. There's not a disciplinary factor to any of them."
A detailed release explaining the changes is after the cut. Simpson says he doesn't think the turnover will affect planning on federal reforms, which is in a "lull" while a federal judge referees between the city and the PPA.
Remember that big Church of Scientology bash downtown last month—the one with the Photoshopped pictures that made the gathered crowd look way bigger than it was? We'll probably never know, without a fight, how much the Scientologists spent on the overdone and lavish affair. But here's one detail we can find out, thanks to the magic of public records:
Exactly how much the organization paid for Portland cops to help serve as extra security for the street bash.
According to its contract (pdf) with the police bureau, obtained by the Mercury, the Church of Scientology spent $6,184 to have 15 officers and two sergeants on site both Friday, May 10, and during the event Saturday, May 11. (Several came from the bureau's explosives disposal unit.)
So-called supplemental police services contracts, which offer in-uniform gigs for otherwise off-duty cops, are administered by the Portland Police Association. But they must be approved by precinct commanders. In this case, Central Precinct Commander Bob Day gave his approval. It's not cheap to do this—the bureau says at least two cops must be hired and for a minimum of four hours.
One notable example of this kind of contract? The Portland Business Alliance pays the salaries of four cops who are then assigned to the city's Clean and Safe Improvement District downtown.
The city has been hammering away, in the last two days, at news surrounding Portland's 2012 settlement with the US Department of Justice over police use of force.
Yesterday, Mayor Charlie Hales' office announced a tentative agreement with the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition on the settlement, though it would not comment on the terms. And just a moment ago, the Portland Police Bureau announced it's been going ahead with DOJ mandated reforms, offering up an 80-item "Action Item Matrix" [PDF] highlighting those efforts.
"We have made significant progress on more than 50 percent of the reforms over the last several months," Police Chief Mike Reese said in the release. "We are pleased with our progress and want to let the community know where we are at in terms of some of these changes."
Among the changes the PPB says it's implemented: ensuring excessive use of force investigations "result in findings," and "expressly" prohibiting retaliation. A primary sticking point—the only DOJ requirement the city hasn't begun to pursue—involves modifying when officers need to speak with internal investigators, who are brought in for officer-involved shootings and other serious incidents. The current standard gives officers 48 hours before they have to give a statement.
None of the changes, the department makes clear, will be considered complete until formally approved by City Council and the DOJ.
The city and feds reached a settlement in November, after a DOJ investigation found a pattern of excessive use of force aimed at mentally ill individuals. The agreement is still mired in federal court, however, because of objections raised by the city's main police union, the Portland Police Association (PPA). The union has concerns, among other things, that provisions in the settlement could make officers less safe.
The PPA put out a release about the settlement yesterday as well, saying it's worked as hard as possible to hammer out an agreement with the city, to no avail.
It should be easy to tell fatal shotgun rounds from the "less-lethal" (though still incredibly painful) beanbag rounds cops use to incapacitate arrestees. The "live" round shells are bright red. The beanbags' shells are described as a "milky white."
But as Portland City Council this morning OKd a hefty settlement to a young man mistakenly shot with live ammo, Commissioner Amanda Fritz posed an interesting question: Does Portland test its officers for color blindness?
"I think we should be looking at every single factor," Fritz said.
Deputy City Attorney Jim Rice said he'd check into the matter. Portland Police Spokesman Pete Simpson wasn’t immediately sure. Turns out: Police recruits are tested before employment, and disqualified if they’re found to be color blind.
So the condition played no part in the dangerous errors of Officer Dane Reister— who in June 2011 mistakenly believed he was firing beanbag rounds at William Kyle Monroe, a man suffering a manic incident in a Portland park.
The difference between a red shotgun shell and a whitish-gray shotgun shell, in this instance, cost the city a great deal of embarrassment and a record amount of settlement money. Council this morning approved spending $965,000, the city's portion of the $2.3 million settlement Monroe will receive. The rest of that money will be paid through insurance.
"This had never occurred before," said Rice, who searched around for examples of similar mix-ups nationally. "I think it was a first-time instance."
The city has already taken lessons from the incident. It now prohibits officers from carrying both live and less-lethal rounds on their person, Rice said. Reister, who fired at Monroe five times causing permanent injury, faces possible criminal conviction in the case, and is on paid leave.
Captain Mark Kruger, the Portland cop who confessed to curating a shrine to Nazi-era German soldiers, is very effective at making a statement. A big, bold, intimidating statement.
The Oregonian just reported that Kruger, who works in East Precinct, is under investigation for publicly posting a city letter that cleared him of harassing a former underling and—this is important—writing the otherwise anonymous complainant's last name on the letter in big red marker lettering despite an admonition to not retaliate.
Posting the letter and outing the employee so publicly could very well be seen as intimidation—and qualify, for real this time, as harassment. The O got hold of photos that reportedly were passed around by concerned workers a couple of weeks ago and made their way into the hands of the chief's office and the employee outed, former Lieutenant Kristy Galvan.
It's just the latest swirl in a soap opera that's been bubbling for months while raising questions about sexism and favoritism while reminding everyone that the upper echelons of the police bureau can be a weird, and weirdly political, place to work.
Galvan, who filed a tort claim notice with the city this year, has already announced plans to sue Kruger, complaining that he was sexist in his treatment of her when he was her boss. Galvan, who was a probationary lieutenant, is on sick leave and has since been demoted by Chief Mike Reese back down to a sergeant, as the O has reported.
The drama first came to light after it claimed the job of Mike Kuykendall, Reese's right-hand man and bureau's civilian director of financial services. Kuykendall resigned after he was caught exchanging joky text messages with Galvan that called Kruger a Nazi and tried to console her about her issues with Kruger. The text messages were never meant for Kruger's eyes, but he was the one who made them public—his lawyer included them in a tort claim notice warning the bureau he'd sue for slander.
Oh, and how did Kruger's lawyer get those text messages? That's a good question. Attorney Sean Riddell says he obtained them from the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association. But Galvan's lawyer, Charese Rohny, told me she gave them to internal affairs investigators. Did IA give them to the union? Or did the union have another source?
More drama. And none of it good for Reese or the PPCOA, which the mayor is trying to get rid of.
Mayor Charlie Hales hasn't been especially cozy with the city's big three public safety unions since taking office. He's lined up political support for major cuts in the city's police and fire bureaus while, at the same time, making a play to de-certify the union representing police lieutenants, captains, and commanders.
Muttering about the budget cuts has been mostly quiet and behind the scenes. (Mostly.) But Hales' move against the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association (PPCOA)—claiming that police supervisors are, well, supervisors and shouldn't be allowed to unionize under state law—is attracting some serious heat. Never mind that the PPCOA has been in some awkward spots over the past few months.
In a rare show of solidarity (not really seen since a group of unions all got together and pointedly decided, in December 2011, not to endorse Hales or his two rivals for mayor), six union leaders sent a letter to city council urging city commissioners to publicly challenge the mayor and not let him take down the PPCOA without a fight. It helps that there are rumblings Hales might look to do the same to Portland Fire Fighters Association—which has nominally supervisory employees in its ranks.
The letter (pdf), obtained by the Mercury and signed by the fire union, the District Council of Trade Unions, AFSCME, COPPEA, and both city police unions, PPCOA and the Portland Police Association, (PPA) spares no feelings by comparing Hales directly with union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Clifford Richardson was among the multitudes who joined a 2010 march against two recent police shootings that wound its way around downtown and past the Portland Police Association headquarters in Northwest—and saw a bunch of windows smashed out and other reported acts of occasionally violent disobedience.
Richardson, 24 at the time, also was among a handful of protesters arrested on charges including disorderly conduct. But a funny thing happened (not really). Richardson was cleared of all criminal charges at trial. And his arrest—which led to facial injuries severe enough that Richardson had to be treated at OHSU—is now costing the city $35,000 in a settlement approved this afternoon by the Portland City Council.
A report filed by the city's risk management office describes the arrest and what happened. It doesn't make Richardson out like a saint—the city rarely apologizes or admits wrongdoing in a police settlement—but it does acknowledge the likelihood that a jury award might have cost it even more. It also notes that the arrest just so happened to be captured by a TV news camera operator.
The city report doesn't identify the officers involved or hint at whether any internal affairs investigation or even discipline might have been imposed.
Here's what our friends at Portland Police Bureau public relations have been whipping up today. I'm not even being judgmental. This pleases me.
A Multnomah County judge managed to rain down bad news on both CenturyLink and the Oregonian editorial board today—upholding an incremental land-line phone tax proposed by former Mayor Sam Adams (and loathed by the O) to help pay for police reforms put forward by the US Department of Justice.
CenturyLink had been hoping the courts would shut down the tax—approved unanimously by the Portland City Council last fall despite lobbyists' concern for senior citizens (who don't use cell phones), furtive threats of legal action, and a creepy robocall campaign by the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.
Under Adams' plan, Frontier and CenturyLink are now subject to the same tax revenue formula as every other landline provider in town. Frontier and CenturyLink had been paying taxes only on their basic voice plans, at 7 percent of revenues. They'll now pay 5 percent on all revenues—a smaller rate, but on a broader base of income—an increase that could bring Portland $3 million to $5 million a year.
CenturyLink, filing under the name Qwest and represented by high-powered law firm Stoel Rives, argued the tax was unfair because of other fees it already pays the city. It's also argued the city should similarly target wireless companies, which dominate the phone market and don't pay the same taxes land-line operators do.
Judge Henry Breithaupt had other ideas in his ruling (pdf), siding with the city and its argument that a 1997 case in Eugene on a similar dispute gave it legal cover. It's not clear yet whether CenturyLink will appeal Breithaupt's ruling.
"CenturyLink is disappointed with the court’s decision today and continues to believe that the city’s proposed fees on local telephone companies are in conflict with applicable state and federal restrictions," Chris Denzin, CenturyLink's vice president and general manager for Oregon and Southwest Washington, said in a statement. "CenturyLink continues to be committed to protecting our customers’ interests, and is considering its options, but has no further comment pending a review of the court’s decision."
The uncertainty surrounding this tax revenue probably played some role in Mayor Charlie Hales' decision to seek a $3 million council contingency fund next year. I'll update when I hear back from Hales' office with their reaction to the ruling. Even if the tax isn't further appealed, I don't expect Hales will back down from his decision to keep the piggy bank densely packed.
Update 4:46 PM: Hales' office is obviously pleased with the ruling. But Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, has confirmed my suspicions about the contingency plan. At least, related to this issue.
"The mayor plans no change in his recommended contingency, which, if approved, still would be less than 1 percent of the general fund."
Mayor Charlie Hales is on the way to delivering on what had been a stalled and somewhat troubled police accountability promise under his predecessor: a dramatic reorientation of the psychological vetting the Portland Police Bureau relies on for screening applicants, and current cops, who might be prone to violence or racial bias or are otherwise unfit for duty.
At Hales' prompting, the police bureau this morning announced it was seeking résumés for two separate psychological contracts—one to work with recruits and another to work with current cops. Further, the bureau will be conducting a national search to fill the positions and working hand-in-hand with community groups in hopes of reaching a diverse pool of applicants who either are deeply familiar with "cultural competency" or have a plan to address how they'll get there.
"They're a little bit closer to doing this the right way at this point," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. Handelman sits on the steering committee of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, the group that led the push for changes. "We'll see when the applications come through, and the interviews are done, how many people actually applied we whether have a growing sense of diversity."
The bureau's psychological vetting has been handled, for the past 13 years, by a lone white Lake Oswego psychologist named David Corey. Groups like the AMA and Copwatch have long raised questions about Corey and his work in light of police shootings and lingering concerns about racial bias in the bureau.
The AMA was especially rueful when, last year—despite promises its leadership would be closely consulted on recruitment the next time Corey's contract was up for renewal—the police bureau pushed ahead without the group's input. The bureau ultimately chose Corey again, after only one other applicant submitted.
Just when you thought leaving it behind at the hospital was the only option for your afterbirth…..
Pretty much everyone in the Oregon Legislature is all about HB2612—a bill that allows postpartum moms to take their placentas home with them.
The thing is, some people have already been taking their disposable organs home, breaking the law without knowing it. “I think this was a huge shock to everyone” says Representative Allisa Keny-Guyer (D) regarding the legality of placenta custody. Patients aren’t allowed to keep “medical waste” of any kind as souvenirs, but many hospitals have been making the exception for placentas because the language of the law is so unclear.
A placenta is the iron-rich sack of flesh that nourishes a baby in the womb. It allows mother and child to trade nutrients for poop (thanks again, Mom!). From the Latin for cake, the placenta is round and flat. Also, most mammals eat them post birth. Some humans do, too. Moms have been known to fry it up like a steak (most likely with some fava beans and a light Chianti), or pay one of several businesses that will cook, dehydrate, and pulverize a placenta, and then put the resulting powder into capsules you can swallow.
Many cultures have rituals and traditions regarding placentas. Some believe eating the self-made nutrients help aid in lactation, boost energy, and aid postpartum depression. It’s also common to bury it and plant a tree on top to represent new life. Apparently you can also make art and jewelry and drums out of it too.
On the Senate floor Senator Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward said “it’s a pretty straightforward bill, it’s safe, let’s do this.” And they did. The measure passed unanimously in the Senate today, following last week’s unanimous approval by the House.
The original bill prohibited selling the placenta, but the amended language puts the guidelines into the hands of the Oregon Health Authority. They can put that part in or not, since they’re in charge of all the logistics of the regulation.
On an equally gross note, today the House Judiciary Committee heard public testimony on a bill that would make spitting on a police officer a felony.
To mark the occasion and reflect on how far the city and police bureau have come since then—and how far they haven't—advocates are planning a vigil that night near the spot where James was killed.
Here's a release from the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform:
On Sunday, May 5, the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform will lead a memorial vigil for Kendra James, the young woman killed by Officer Scott McCollister exactly 10 years ago on the Skidmore overpass in Portland. The memorial will be held outside the Greater Faith Baptist Church at 931 N Skidmore, just yards away from the spot where McCollister discharged his pistol at James, who was behind the wheel of a car. The vigil will begin at 5 PM. Members of James' family will be in attendance.
Despite McCollister's claims that he "feared for his life," the AMA Coalition presented a detailed analysis that McCollister was not in any danger, knew who the unarmed Kendra James was and could have found her even if she had driven away, and raised serious questions about whether he had collaborated with the other officers on the scene by meeting at a restaurant to get their stories straight before they talked to investigators. McCollister was given 180 days' suspension, but that discipline was overturned by an arbitrator after the Portland Police Association grieved the action.
"The Kendra James case was a key to opening the movement towards bringing justice and police reform in the City of Portland," said Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Jr, Chair of the AMA Coalition. Many in Portland who saw the shooting of an unarmed African American woman as a symptom of a Police Bureau needing major reforms. In many ways her death led the accountability efforts down the path to the changes now being sought as a remedy by the Department of Justice in their lawsuit against the City.
As the Mercury first reported in January, though the city and county planned and built the facility specifically as a mental health resource for police, the cops have yet to take a single person there in the nearly two years it's been open. Losing the money will force the CATC to give up five of its beds—which translates to losing help for an expected 200 people over the fiscal year.
The police bureau has complained that rules limiting who can be taken to the facility (someone must be stable and lack private insurance) pose too many "obstacles" for cops. The bureau prefers a much more expensive drop-off center where officers don't have to call ahead or spend any time helping with intake. City commissioners and the mayor appear to have been swayed by that argument, which the county has rejected as the cops looking for "convenience" instead of good public policy. The recommendation came in a report submitted to Hales by Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish.
“The notion that the police bureau is convincing people to disinvest in a facility that provides a safe place for people in a mental health crisis is unbelievable,” Cogen says. “This is a bureau that's being sued by the federal government."
Based on hints he dropped during his State of the City speech last Friday, it was pretty clear Mayor Charlie Hales had the Portland Police Bureau's mounted patrol unit in his fiscal cross-hairs. And it was completely unsurprising this morning when Hales, in unveiling his proposed budget, said he wanted to cut the division and save $1.1 million that might be used for other priorities.
Cutting the patrol has been an oft-raised but never actually implemented idea. Money's always come from the private sector to restore reductions. That gap might be a bit too big this year. But clearly people will be trying. A Facebook page is already up, looking to lobby Hales to restore the unit.
But Hales seems pretty resolute that he thinks the money can be better spent.
"We're not going to be able to keep our horse patrol unit," the mayor said today, "as much as we all love it."
All 21 people who love it, so far.
Cue the "guess you CAN touch this" quips. Police are announcing they arrested the so-called "Hammer Pants Bandit" on Thursday, after the suspect eluded authorities for months.
According to a fresh release from the Portland Police Bureau, cops arrested 46-year-old Weston Miner Rogers at his residence on SE Aspen Summit Drive, just east of I-205. He's accused of three bank robberies in the Portland region that occurred between October and February.
Here's the thing: I'm appreciative that cops seem to take a certain amount of pride in flashy bandit names. I am. But what's the system here? Where is the overarching logic in these things?
A cursory search of PPB news releases in past several years helps illustrate my point.
"Dopey the Bandit" you may remember from earlier this year. He was connected to a spate of robberies in 2012 and 2013, and he looks literally NOTHING LIKE BELOVED DISNEY DWARF DOPEY. More like a methy, balding LeFou. Also: he (allegedly) pulled off 11 robberies in like two months. He's certainly more industrious than Dopey—obsessed as he is with silliness and mirth—would have been. Explanation from the press release: "Kehm was nicknamed 'Dopey the Bandit' after numerous Portland area robberies." Unhelpful.
There was the "Hipster Bandit," whose moniker's origins are a little more clear: He rode a bike and a witness told police he "looked like a hipster." Fair, and relatively certain to appeal to the sensibilities of a society thirsty to demonize hipsterdom in all its ever-changing faces.
And last summer came the "Bling Bandit," which the PPB didn't even try to justify, though the eventual suspect was helpfully named Ivory.
What's my point? Sometimes the names are helpful descriptors, sometimes they're bewildering, and this time around we're all in for a big disappointment. Because Weston Miner Rogers did not wear hammer pants, friends. He didn't even keep a hammer IN his pants. He (allegedly) kept it in his sleeve, pretending it was a gun.
Bureau Spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson tells the Mercury investigators come up with the names for internal reference and try to at least loosely key in on a description. That used to be solely the province of the feds, but local authorities are stepping in more and more on bank robbery cases.
"Hammer sleeve doesn't sound as catchy as hammer pants," says Simpson, who himself owned a pair in more-innocent times. "Those names are all about being catchy."
There are times in the career of any serious news man that shake one's ability to feel. I'm right there.
Portland City Council this afternoon gently pumped the brakes on a request by the city attorney's office to appeal a $306,000 jury award in favor of a Portland man punched, Tasered, tackled, pepper-sprayed, and hog-tied by Portland cops down the street from an Old Town nightclub in 2010.
As reported last Friday, the city attorney's office wants a new trial in the case. It's worried less about the force used against the victim, Gallagher Smith, as much as where the force was used: on a city sidewalk. Because a judge told jurors the the cops lacked probable cause when they told Smith to move along, attorneys and police brass are worried the case abrogates cops' right to direct traffic on Old Town sidewalks.
But in council today, Commissioner Amanda Fritz joined activists in pulling the item of the consent agenda, where it otherwise would have been approved unanimously and with no debate. And then Commissioner Steve Novick persuaded his colleagues to approve a modified version of the request that lets the attorney's office file only a notice of its intent to appeal—not any actual legal briefs.
More action will require another city vote. In the meantime, the city attorney's office has been asked to look into whether it can pay Smith his money while still contesting the sidewalks issue. An appeal could take years. The city, if it loses, could pay what City Attorney James Van Dyke estimated was $55,000 more in interest, not including a potential 10 percent penalty.
Fritz, however, still voted no—the only commissioner to do so. (Dan Saltzman was absent for the vote on the appeal.)
We reported last week about a tentative plan to keep the Portland Police Bureau—facing the prospect of losing more than two-dozen officers because of budget cuts—from having to lay off its most junior cops. That's no small feat, because those new hires, thanks to improved recruiting in recent years, happen to be some of the bureau's most diverse cops.
How diverse are we talking? The bureau has provided the Mercury a chart breaking down, by demographic marker, the 29 cops who could be affected by budget cuts. The percentage of women in the group matches up among some of the bureau's best recent hiring classes. And the percentage of white men is lower, by far, than the norm for the bureau and even citywide.
A bit of money to help keep those officers employed, according to a plan floated by Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish, would come from the city's insurance reserves. The one-time funding would let the bureau trim its ranks through retirements and natural attrition.
Although the work over has been largely incremental, the bureau over the past few years, under Chief Mike Reese and former Mayor Sam Adams, has actually put some effort into getting away from merely importing large clumps of white men.
As I reported in 2011, out of some 67 cops hired in 2009 and 2010, only one was African American and none was Latino. And as of 2009, only 33 out of nearly 1,000 cops were black—about half the rate in Portland's overall population, according to census information. Those numbers came in a column pooh-poohing the bureau winning a diversity award based on its early diversity efforts.
But those new figures above? They are a small measure of proof that the police bureau has kept pushing in the right direction. Could the bureau move faster and harder? Undoubtedly. But consider that more than 76 percent of Portlanders are white. That number, among newly hired cops, falls to 72 percent.
Even Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, who called the 2011 award a "joke," acknowledges there's something meaningful in that.
Mayor Charlie Hales' office posted his weekly calendar this afternoon. It's mostly what you'd expect for a mayor two weeks from tipping his hand on the city budget, at his State of the City speech: check-ins with the city budget office and human resources and city commissioners. But one entry, this Wednesday, jumps out.
Hales is going to be sitting down for half an hour with Rosie Sizer, the police chief fired by then-Mayor Sam Adams amid a nasty budget spat in 2010. Sizer was replaced by someone long seen as a rival for the top job, Mike Reese, the current chief, who'd earned a lot of respect in political and downtown circles during his time as Central Precinct commander. Before Sizer moved him to East Precinct.
Hales' spokesman says the mayor personally reached out to Sizer to talk about one of his major agenda items: community policing. Sizer started, at former Mayor Tom Potter's behest, a racial profiling committee. That committee has become the city's current Community and Police Relations Committee, and its come up with a training program on institutional racism that's been given to all of command staff as of December and will soon roll out to the rest of the bureau.
I asked Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, if the call was about something broader—leadership concerns atop the bureau. He says the half-hour meeting was built around a simple pitch to Sizer.
"We're talking about community policing," Haynes says, "and we want your input."
A message left with Reese's spokesman, Sergeant Pete Simpson, seeking comment on the meeting has not yet been returned.
Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman remembers Sizer's racial profiling work, naturally, but not so much her ever using the words "community policing."
That said, "it's not a bad thing for [Hales] to be looking at what it means, what's it going to turn into..."
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