Shortly after 5 p.m. on Sept. 10, at the height of the Thursday evening dinner at St. Francis, diners were disrupted by a slew of police and a camera crew who entered from either side of the dining hall with camera’s rolling.
The camera was for the show “Cops,” filming the police pursuit of a man wanted in a homicide. Staffers told the officers the man was not there, but according to people at the scene, the camera kept rolling and officers continued to question diners at the charitable meal for the homeless and poor.
The event was a traumatic experience for some diners, who did not give their permission to be filmed.
“The people were very, very agitated,” said Valerie Chapman, pastoral administrator at St. Francis. “And unfortunately, there is an assumption on the part of people who are vulnerable anyway that the staff must have been in on it. So we’ve been mitigating this that the staff didn’t know. We’re trying to do the best to maintain calm. We’re keeping the peace in a very awkward moment. And finding out what and why.”
Although St. Francis is in the newly reconfigured Central Precinct of the Portland Police Bureau, the officers who went into St. Francis were from the North Precinct.
Calls to the North Precinct offices were returned by Mary Wheat, public information officer with the Portland Police Bureau. Wheat said that periodically they have the show “Cops” following officers and filming, and in this case, the officers received permission from someone at the door to enter St. Francis at the time they arrived with the camera crew. Chapman said she’s the only one who can authorize a film crew to go into the hall.
“We would never take a film crew in without people knowing what’s going on,” Chapman said. “We maintain a place where people have the dignity they deserve and that’s our goal.”
Wheat said that she has looked at the footage and the police have decided it will not be released for broadcast.
“None of that footage is going to be used,” Wheat said. “We’re very sensitive to people being concerned about it. We’re not going to push something like that with the community. It’s not that we feel that we did anything wrong, we’re just trying to be a good partner.”
But for Chapman, the damage has been done.
“I’m not sure if any of the powers involved have any idea just how much damage was done just being there,” Chapman said. Chapman said the event has strained the trust developed between the diners and the staff, and also between the St. Francis community and the new officers patrolling the expanded Central Precinct area.
“I work on a regular basis with the police, meet with them and try to mitigate any issues on the campus. And I have a lot of respect with the officers with which I talk, and have a relationship with.”
Chapman said she has met and talked about the incident with police at Central Precinct and with the police Neighborhood Response Team that patrols around the campus.
“There is still a lot of angst. I think they (patrons) get that it wasn’t the staff. On a regular basis officers do not go into St. Francis, into the dining hall. We’ve been thinking about, with the new precinct situation, doing some tours. We’ve put that on hold because we’re a little concerned with how people will respond.”
The man the police were looking for was not there while they were there. However, later, staff called police to inform them that the person was on the campus, and police took him in custody without incident. He later was released without charges, Wheat said.
“We want to create a place of sanctuary and rest for people who don’t often find that,” Chapman said. “At the same time we don’t want to create a hiding place for criminal activity. It’s a real balancing act.”
Chapman, who doesn’t own a television, said she learned only after the incident that the camera crew was with the show “Cops,” a show she has never seen, but already has sized up.
“I’m not sure I understand a television show that can, in essence, prey on people in their worst hour or their most vulnerable moment,” Chapman said.
“We understand that St. Francis was upset with it. We’re sensitive to that,” Wheat said. “We need to hold up our end of the bargain as do they. Our officers acted professionally and received permission to come in with the cameras.”
SR Staff Reports
This is total fucking bullshit. Unbelievable.
“It’s not that we feel that we did anything wrong, we’re just trying to be a good partner.”
That’s not an apology, either. Fucking bullshit.
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“Our officers acted professionally and received permission to come in with the cameras.”
I have been on the other end of that… when you make an agreement (permission)… let’s say “one officer can come in with me, but I don’t feel that our customer’s will feel comfortable with 4 officers walking through here unannounced” (they had already said that they would not let me announce they were coming)… as soon as you turn to walk in with the one officer, the other three follow…
the only thing that FINALLY convinced them to at least wait till I was out of eye shot before they followed us in was that I said that I was not comfortable letting any of them in…
at the time, there were three doors to the building, all clearly marked… the other three could have stood outside the doors and make sure there person did not leave… or better yet, been solving crimes, not wandering through non profits looking for someone who was not there! (by the way, their person was not in the building in my case either…)
Ironically, they did not even look through the whole building, just the main customer section, almost like they were there to bully rather than actually looking for a suspect…
The PPD never do anything wrong, they are always following proper procedure, whether it’s drawing down on people because of of them voluntarily provides the info that he has a legal carry permit, or stomping someone to death because he ran from three goons in the dark. I live in north Clackamas County, and they are the reason I avoid coming into Portland as much as possible. And I’ve always felt that “Cops” and its ilk are innappropriate.
BULLIES AT THE TOP at PPB!
This intrusive, Texas-redneck-style act on the part of the Portland Police Bureau is a sign that there are BULLIES at the top in the Portland Police Bureau. What a disrespectful act on the part of power-mongers who know dang well that these poor innocent people at St. Francis are without political power.
To even ignore the pleas of the humble, kind-hearted workers at St. Francis is just reprehensible. The PPB North Precinct leadership should be fired for this.
If PPB thinks THIS kind of BULLYING of the homeless, poor and church workers is going to be the trend here in Portland, we should be prepared to show our objection with political consequences. Did City Commissioner DAN SALTZMAN know about this? Has he objected to this yet, as he should?
As elected officials go, Dan Saltzman is in charge of the PPB. We should all call, email and/or visit his Office with our objections.
People around the civilized world think that Americans are brutish and counterproductive with tv shows like COPS. Across Europe and in Canada, where crime related to drug addiction is less a problem because they treat drug and alcohol addiction as medical problem rather than a criminal one, they are disgusted with Amercans’ willingness to exploit the poor by filming them at their worst moments – for the amusement of viewers. Shows like COPS should be outlawed! Dginity Advocate is right – what the Portland Police have done is to acquiesce in classic exploitation of the poor – for the amusement of a growing television audience of superior-minded rednecks. This should not be tolerated in Portland – not even one more time.
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THIS IS OUTRAGIOUS…It was totally out of line,but something I would totally expect from the Portland police! Firstly It was in violation of the law,,we are not required to admit the police any where without a search or arrest warrant.Secondly how can you say you are providing sanctuary, when you turn around and inform the police when the person shows up. The staff is not required do the departments work for them. If the person was not causing problems at ST.Francis they should have been left in peace or told that they are required to in form the police if they dont leave,The staffs duty is FIRST to its guests and LAST of all to the police. I do agree with the summary of the show COPS,, but take a minute and think about who broadcasts it,,none other than the BIGOTED RIGHT WING ASSHOLES AT OUR LOCAL FOX STATION..nuff said there ! I dont think anybody handled the situation correctly..we need to let the police commissioner and chief of police and the mayors office know this type of thing is NOT acceptable, and that if they want people to trust them the staff of st Francis needs to put the needs and concerns of their guests BEFORE those of the Portland police !!..PEOPLE BEFORE POLICE..ALWAYS! dave
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I agree that both St Francis and PPB were way out of line, as “dave” said, but dude, don’t go playing into the two-party facade and blaming the same “right wingers” who are also opposed to this kind of stuff! FOX is a special animal, and I do mean as Olympics, and Ed. Corporations who pretend to cater to the right wing via FOX are no more right or left wing than any of the other news corporations they run.