Tag Archives: police

People will be talking about it: the police, the charter commission and the work to be done

By Jake Thomas, Staff writer

A common pattern often emerges after a citizen dies at the hands of police. There is public rage. The city promises reform, and then the rage simmers off until the next incident. Less noticeable, however, is the constant work of people dedicated to bringing reform to the Portland Police Bureau, notably Jo Ann Hardesty (formerly Jo Ann Bowman).

Originally from Baltimore, Hardesty has been an Oregon state legislator, the head of the civil rights organization Oregon Action and one of Portland’s most vital and outspoken critics of the Portland police.

Two years ago, Hardesty was part of a coalition that helped pass a city ordinance aimed at strengthening oversight of the police by expanding the Independent Police Review (IPR) division’s powers to investigate police and giving it more of a role in how officers are disciplined. The ordinance was passed in response to a string of incidents where Portlanders were killed in standoffs with the police. But despite the efforts of the city, the bureau now finds itself the subject of a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Recently, Hardesty served as a member of the city’s charter commission, a group of citizens selected by City Council and charged with making changes to what is basically Portland’s constitution. Although City Council intended the commission to refer “house-keeping” amendments to voters for final approval, Hardesty used the occasion to propose two measures related to how police can control crowds.

That opportunity was dashed when the commission adjourned Feb. 27, amid controversy and acrimony, with no signficiant policy proposals recommended for a public vote. Still, Hardesty hopes that the proposals, which were inspired by people involved in the Occupy Portland movement, will spark a broader discussion on police accountability while voters are also getting ready to select their next mayor.

Jake Thomas: Regarding the charter commission, you proposed two amendments that would bar police from using animals or chemicals to control crowds. Why should this be in the charter?

Jo Ann Hardesty: It actually shouldn’t be in the charter. We should have a police chief that would just implement it, or we should have a police commissioner who would say make it so because it’s good public policy. But since we have neither of those, the charter is the only option to the public right now. It’s not the whole police accountability package, but it certainly starts us on the process, and what I love is the opportunity to talk about it during the election season. Really, what does police accountability look like? I’d say that there are certainly other things that should be included with police accountability, but these two things are the most visible today right now and mostly on peoples’ minds because of Occupy and because of some of the most recent encounters with police. If it’s on the ballot, people will be talking about it, and we can create real community dialogue about what real police accountability looks like, and it forces people on the ballot to have this conversation.

I think the charter commission was set up for failure, quite frankly, because the mayor and the City Council didn’t want us doing policy issues. They gave us inadequate staff they gave us inadequate resources. They really tried to tie our hands. They didn’t expect in the short period of time that I would be able to come up with a couple proposals that would make it to the ballot. Continue reading

Sisters, police reach agreement on chronic nuisance

Test will come as all involved expect a tough summer ahead

Sisters Of The Road and representatives of the Portland Police Bureau reached an agreement this afternoon on how to alleviate the chronic nuisance property status hanging over the 30-year-old café’s head.

Sounds simple enough, but what’s at stake is Sisters’ survival as a service provider to the city’s poor and homeless in their neighborhood. And while the agreement addresses Sisters’ current chronic nuisance status, it does not address the larger problems facing the streets that are out of Sisters’ hands and expected to elevate as the summer months approach.

“There are huge systemic things, the root causes of which are not about Sisters,” said Monica Beemer, executive director of Sisters Of The Road. Among those dynamics, Beemer said, is the migration of people to Portland during the summer months, an expected warmer-than-usual summer, and the fact that the arrest of offenders, particularly drug users, means a three-hour turnaround through booking and back to the streets. “This all contributes to what’s really possible and what we can do.” Continue reading

Matters of life or death

Mental health activist Jason Renaud weighs in on the latest shooting by police of unarmed citizens in crisis

By Israel Bayer
Staff Writer

Jason Renaud had been an advocate for the rights of people with addiction and mental illness for more than a decade when a 42-year-old named James Chasse was killed at the hands of police officers in 2006. Chasse, who lived with schizophrenia, had been a friend of Renaud’s, and Chasse’s death went beyond the personal tragedy. It brought Renaud’s work with the Mental Health Association of Portland, which he co-founded, into even greater focus toward addressing the actions and oversight of police officers, particularly as they interface with people experiencing mental illness. A police review found that the officers acted within policy. Chasse’s death is now the subject of a federal civil lawsuit brought by Chasse’s family.

Today, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Aaron Campbell and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot him, Renaud is watching a familiar and tragic scenario repeat itself. Last year he declared his candicacy to run against Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer has announced some changes in police policy as a result of Campbell’s death, including bringing mental health workers along on crisis calls, and buying ballistic shields to protect officers when approaching people.

But neither of those efforts address officers’ behavior, how they coordinate their approach to people in crisis and how they’re trained to deal with these situations to ensure that someone doesn’t end up dead.

Israel Bayer: So let’s start with training. With every shooting in the past, regardless of which talking head, the message has basically been, it’s about the training. If you want us to do something different, train us different. So…

Jason Renaud: My problem is that with the training right now is that once a weapon has been seen or reported by a police officer, it’s likely at that point that someone is going to get hurt. That means the officer is trained to take action prior to the weapon being actually produced. It’s alarming because in many cases it’s a preemptive strike.

Continue reading

With winter coming, the city explores where people can sleep – legally

From the Oct. 2 edition of Street Roots

Just as the city of Portland, service providers and advocates are seeking ways to allow homeless individuals without access to shelter “get a decent night’s sleep,” a group of individuals has begun camping outside of City Hall, reminiscent of a three-week protest in May 2008.

Gathering outside of Mercy Corps’ Action Center near Skidmore Fountain on Sept. 28, a group of 20 homeless individuals signed a code of conduct, agreeing to not use drugs or alcohol, pick up after themselves and to respect others. Once they were all signed, they took the MAX to City Hall and set up their camping gear to sleep there during the night.

Organized by Art Rios, who was formerly homeless and has been involved with Sisters of the Road’s Civic Action Group, the group is camping outside of City Hall during the night for the same reasons, Rio says, that homeless people protested for three weeks outside of City Hall in 2008.

“Get the anti-camping ordinance suspended,” he says. “It’s about coming to a safe place to sleep for eight hours. We just want a campsite that’s safe.”

A statement released by Rios calls for the creation of safe places for tent cities, campsites and shelter before the weather turns cold.

“They (the city) need to open up more shelters and they know that, but we can show them they need to move it a little quicker,” says Chris Shields, 47, a homeless person who was part of the group sleeping outside of City Hall.

In the last few months, the Portland Housing Bureau and members of the Coordinating Committee to End Homelessness, the committee of Portland Housing Bureau members, advocates, and nonprofit service providers that oversee and implement the City’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness have been considering ways that might address Rios’ and the camper’s concerns.

An informal committee calling itself the Alternative Workgroup, convened by Sally Erickson, the manager of the Portland Housing Bureau’s Ending Homelessness Initiative, has met three times during the past two months, with a narrow focus: think of ways that homeless people who camp outside, either willfully or because they cannot get into shelter, can sleep through the night safely. The work group includes representatives from Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, and several people experiencing homelessness, including Street Roots’ vendor Leo Rhodes.

“It’s in all of our interests that everyone is able to stay warm and healthy,” says Marc Jolin, the executive director of the outreach agency JOIN, who is a member of the Coordinating Committee and the Alternatives Workgroup. “If they can’t get a good night’s sleep, they can’t stay healthy, their ability to help themselves is severely compromised.”

On Sept. 16, the Alternatives Workgroup presented its 13 recommendations to the Coordinating Committee. Continue reading

Editorial: Police tactics undermine city’s work

For years, St. Francis dining hall has been more than a place to gather for a meal. It is that rare plot of serenity and community for people dealing with poverty and homelessness. That was all shattered a few weeks ago when a team of police officers entered, through opposite doors, with a camera crew from the television show “Cops” and began filming as they looked for a suspect whom they were told by staffers was not there.

Recently, people waiting in line for a meal at Blanchet House were confronted by a plain-clothes officer who began asking them to identify a person in a picture. He also asked them for their identification, and ran them through the system. They were checked for criminal activity, and one person was arrested and then released after it was found he had a warrant for failure to appear in court. Staffers there say the questioning and ID check is not uncommon for their customers waiting outside for a warm meal.

And for months, the police have targeted Sisters of the Road Café as a nuisance area, compiling complaint calls from a two-block area, which includes bars, the bus mall, and an environment well documented for drug dealing unrelated to Sisters’ 30-year operation. Police are now in negotiations with Sisters to gain concessions for access to the café and its population.

Continue reading

Police, “Cops” intrude on St. Francis diners

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

The streets and Street Roots

There’s been a wave of press this month on aggressive behavior by panhandlers and canvassers on Portland’s sidewalks, mostly due to the fallout from the sit-lie ordinance being struck down by the local courts.

None of that coverage has included Street Roots vendors.

At Street Roots, we train individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty to sell the newspaper and be polite – treating people like they expect to be treated. And the rhetoric about the problems on the streets have not gone unnoticed among the team. Here is an e-mail one of our vendors sent today to Commissioner Randy Leonard, who has included “magazine” sellers among those to be treated equally in the city’s next approach to the streets:

Mr. Leonard,

I read the article in today’s Willamette Week on your proposal to regulate panhandlers. Like you, and many others, the more aggressive panhandlers – particularly more able-bodied ones who hold cardboard signs when they could be working to make a decent living for themselves – can be a thorn in the backside. While I applaud this, I am concerned about the canvassers and other vendors.

I am a vendor for Street Roots, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.  As the director, Israel Bayer, himself would state, selling Street Roots is a more acceptable alternative to panhandling. The majority of us- 99.99% of us – are courteous, friendly, and do what we can to build community and contribute to the betterment of society. My concern is this regulation could wrongfully target those who are behaving themselves as they canvass for charities and/or selling SR. What I basically ask for is assurance that you only target those who are overtly aggressive and belligerent.

In closing, I want to thank you for your service to the city, and thank you for listening.

In kindest regards, I remain,
Darren W. Alexander

Commissioner Leonard’s response:

I agree with you, Darren.  I have had nothing but positive experiences with Streets Roots vendors.

Thanks for writing….Randy

Which leaves a lot flapping in the wind on how folks like Darren will experience the next generation of street ordinances.

So we want to know: What’s your experience with Street Roots vendors been lately?

Police need help identifying body

property Jane Doe

On May 31, 2009 the remains of an unidentified female were discovered in the Willamette River. MCSO Detectives is working with the State Medical Examiner’s Office in attempting to identify this person. MCSO is requesting the public’s help in identifying this person:

Female/Possibly Caucasian
Age: Approx. 50-60
Height: Approx. 5’3″
Hair: Graying, with 12″ braid in back of head

Clothing: Navy blue hooded sweatshirt with white and light blue ribbing at the neck and sleeves.
Jewelry: Refer to photograph

This person had been in the river for at least 6 months and could have been in the river for up to 1 year (+). If you have information concerning the identify of this person call the ‘TIP Line’ 503 261-2847 and reference MCSO Case #09-403791


Officer’s shove puts Seattle man in coma

A Seattle man is in a coma  with a fractured skull after he was forcibly knocked into a wall by a sheriff’s deputy, who mistakenly thought the man was involved in a nearby bar fight.

The Seattle Times reports that Christopher Harris, 29, was pursued by officers in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood on May 10 because a witness identified Harris as having been involved in a bar altercation. Officers later determined that Harris had not been part of that incident.

To stop Harris, Sherriff’s Deputy Matthew Paul, 26, shoved him toward a concrete wall eight feet away. A surveillance video shows Harris’ head hitting the wall and Harris slumping over, unconscious.

The King County Sheriff’s Office says the force used on Harris was within legal boundaries, and the outcome is “a tragic accident.” A spokesman said officers had identified themselves to Harris, but Harris pulled a hoodie over his face and ran from them.

Harris has been unconscious since the incident and is listed in critical condition.

The sherriff’s office will continue to investigate whether the incident violated protocol, and the county prosecutor will decide whether it warrants criminal charges.

In Portland, the District Attorney recently declined to prosecute the officer who roughly tackled 42-year-old James Chasse during a stop in 2006. Chasse died in police custody with 26 fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

Posted by Mara Grunbaum

Sending out an S.O.S.

Police, shelter workers and advocates work to piece together a month long pattern of violence

three-womenBy Rebecca Robinson
Contributing Writer
On a recent Friday afternoon at Sisters of the Road Café on Northwest Davis Street, women shared their stories of sexual assault and domestic violence. One woman, who asked not to be identified by name, said that her 14-year-old daughter was recently gang-raped at a party by three teenage boys who attend her school.

“No one is immune,” the woman said, her forceful voice a stark contrast to the tears flowing down her cheeks. “It’s not a prostitute problem; it’s not a homeless problem; it’s not even just a woman problem.”

In downtown Portland, a recent set of incidents has brought the problem into stark relief for women on the streets.
Portland police, homeless shelter workers, and women’s crisis advocates are working to piece together a month-long pattern of violent sexual assaults by multiple male attackers on young homeless women. But the police are struggling to conduct an investigation because the victims, many of them sex workers, fear that going to the police may lead to their arrest for other unlawful activities.

A former sex worker known as Jasmine contacted Street Roots last month, saying, “I have a story that needs to be told.” It was a story that, for some on the streets, was all too familiar.
Continue reading

Fresno police officers beat homeless man

Posted Israel Bayer