Tag Archives: Portland Police Bureau

The future of the Portland Police Bureau: Community voice Jo Ann Hardesty

By Jo Ann Hardesty, Contributing Columnist

Finally, someone has called it like it is. On Sept. 12, the highest-ranking law enforcement officials, having studied the Portland Auditor’s “Independent” Police Review Board (IPR) for more than a year, has labeled this sham of police oversight a ‘self-defeating accountability system.’

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) gave notice to the city of Portland that they had found widespread patterns and practices of unconstitutional behavior. Continue reading

The future of the Portland Police Bureau: Chief Mike Reese

By Michael Reese, Contributing Columnist

Recently, Portland police officers responded to a call regarding a distraught man who told onlookers near the RiverPlace Marina he was going to commit suicide. He took some pills and jumped into the Willamette River from the dock. The man then swam away from a Good Samaritan and began to drown. He was eventually pulled from the water semi-conscious by a sheriff’s office boat and transported to a local hospital. Sadly, this same man was previously assisted by Portland police officers not even a month ago, when he overdosed on pills and was threatening suicide by jumping off of a downtown parking structure. This is just one example of people in mental health crisis who officers come in contact with not just once, but multiple times. In fact, we estimate that out of the 400,000 contacts, 20 to 25 percent involve people in some form of mental health crisis. Continue reading

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

Police to get DV crisis advocates to assist in evening, weekend calls

By Joanne Zuhl

On its first meeting in what is Domestic Violence Awareness month, Portland stepped up its game by funding a new program to have domestic violence advocates work alongside the police on evenings and weekends.

Domestic violence accounts for about 5,000 calls to the Portland Police Bureau each year, the majority coming on evening and weekend hours when other services are closed. Under the one-year pilot project, two full-time crisis response advocates will partner with officers responding to those calls to provide safety planning and resources to victims.

This morning the City Council voted unanimously to dedicate $41,720 to the joint project with Multnomah County, which is contributing more than $83,000 in federal grant funding.

“We know in the District Attorney’s Office that the best practice is going to be hands-on at the front of the case,” said Rod Underhill, Multnomah County chief deputy district attorney, who testified at the council meeting. “We gather more evidence, we gather more trust and we gather more support. The involvement at that front end is a critical stage.”

The ordinance comes on the receipt of the first-year figures from The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services, which opened in September 2010, the first of its kind in the county. The center, located at 103rd Avenue and East Burnside, received more than 2,000 participants seeking assistance in more than 4,500 visits.

The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services

With 19 partners from health, legal and housing services, the one-stop center provides a comprehensive spectrum of options for someone seeking help escaping domestic violence. In its first year, center staff facilitated the filing of 557 restraining order applications, in 15 languages. And it is the only location in Multnomah County where petitioners can teleconference with a judge to have their restraining order approved by the court.

The center also provides childcare for parents while they receive consultation and assistance.

“This city-county collaboration that got the idea off the ground is a reflection of our shared commitment to address the epidemic of domestic violence in our community,” said Jeff Cogen, addressing the council. “While crime in general has been declining, domestic violence is an exception to that, and the incidences have been increasing.”

Continue reading

Street Blues: Friends on the force are the hardest to leave behind

I’m with Portland Copwatch.  Why are you harassing this man?”

I looked up in disbelief from Mr. Jarmer, an elderly, homeless regular of SE Hawthorne whom I’d gotten to know during my summer patrolling the area on a bicycle.  A former college teacher, malt liquor was guiding his life now.  He usually sported a lucid, good-humored buzz, but today my partner and I discovered him lying on the sidewalk, highly inebriated and unable to walk because of some sort of leg injury.  I was trying to decipher his slurred account of his leg problem when the twenty-something man interrupted me with his demanding tone.  Continue reading

Street Blues: Defense principle protects against a moment too late

Nine years ago, I attended my first defensive tactics class at the basic police academy.  Defensive tactics are the techniques officers use to keep themselves safe. These include control holds, proper handcuffing methods, use of pepper spray and baton, how to safely search someone, proper stances and distances to use when contacting a suspect.  The first lesson of that first day, however, focused on one of the most important and universal tenets of safe policing, a basic rule that forms the foundation for officers’ thinking on how and when to contact suspects and use force all over the country — the action-reaction principle. Continue reading

Street Blues: Separating Hollywood’s myths from reality on the street

I recently watched a TV remake of a famous police show that takes place in Hawaii. In one scene the heroes used a helicopter to block the fleeing kidnappers’ car. The kidnappers jumped out with guns, and the police leaped from the helicopter skids and quickly and accurately gunned them down. After releasing the bound woman in the trunk of the car they abruptly took off to find the rest of the kidnapper’s gang.

We all know that Hollywood isn’t real.  But with the overwhelming number of cop shows on TV these days, sometimes I wonder if the general public becomes desensitized or misled by the ease in which officers seem to accomplish their jobs. I wish the Mythbuster guys would devote an entire show to the Hollywood depiction of police. Some of the segments I would suggest: Continue reading

The answer awaits for a familiar question on the street

Where am I supposed to go?”

I’ve heard this question before, at similar volume, from many people over the years. It usually signals a homeless citizen pushed to the end of their rope by multiple police requests that they “move along.”

Such requests invariably come at the behest of another citizen, usually a nearby property owner or manager, who has called to complain about people sleeping and/or loitering on surrounding streets or sidewalks.  Unfortunately, nobody has supplied the police with a good answer regarding “where to.” Continue reading

A violent and deadly week for Portland’s homeless community

It was a very rough week for the homeless community in Portland. Yesterday, a homeless individual was shot and killed by a police officer.

Last week, four individuals were arrested after beating two homeless individuals in North Portland. This comes on the heels of another attack reported by Street Roots after rocks were thrown at individuals experiencing homelessness near St. Francis in November, and injured an individual sleeping outdoors.

Now, police have released information that has confirmed that a homeless individual died last week of hypothermia during the cold spell. Here’s the press release from the police.

On Thursday December 30, 2010, at approximately 3:17 p.m., Portland Police officers responded to the report of an adult male lying unconscious behind a dumpster in the 3500 block of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Officers and medical personnel arrived and determined that the man was deceased.

The deceased person has been identified as 58-year-old Randy Lee Tinnell, who was homeless at the time of his death. Mr. Tinnell was wearing several layers of wet clothes and officers noted many empty alcohol bottles, clothing and other property near his body.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner has conducted an autopsy on Mr. Tinnell and determined that he died of hypothermia.

Posted by Israel Bayer

Chasse’s champion

Attorney Tom Steenson talks about the landmark wrongful death case and how little may actually change on the police force as a result

By Joanne Zuhl
Staff Writer

Tom Steenson doesn’t count too many police officers among his close friends. In fact, he has to think back to his late grandfather, who was one of two deputies for Clackamas County back in the 1930s and 1940s, to even get close. But his relationship with the Portland Police Bureau spans more than three decades, dating back to his days as a newly minted law school grad when he filed his first suit against the bureau. Since then, he has established himself as the state’s premier litigator in police misconduct cases. By some estimates he averaged about five lawsuits against the city per year. In some years, it could spike to a dozen or more, he says.

But that all changed when he took on the case of James Chasse Jr. That case, more than all that came before, was a personal and professional watershed for Steenson, who represented the Chasse family and helped secure a record $1.6 million settlement from the city for the wrongful death of their son. On Sept. 17, 2006, Chasse was chased, tackled, Tasered and beaten by police under suspicion that he was urinating in public. He was denied medical care on the scene and taken to the jail, which refused to accept him in his condition. He died en route to the hospital, the cause of death being “blunt force trauma,” according to the medical examiner.

The real cause, according to Steenson and fellow Chasse attorney Tom Schneiger, was the cover-up that began moments after Chasse was tackled. Outraged at the lack of discipline to come from the case, Steenson and Schneiger, on Oct. 18, released more documents about the case — a condition made as part of the settlement. According to the attorneys, the documents indicate the officers went to work immediately to cover their actions by withholding critical information, making false statements to witnesses and even crafting a scenario that painted Chasse as a drug user, a repeat offender and a transient, none of which was true.

With the Chasse settlement concluded, Steenson has taken on a new case, representing the family of Aaron Campbell. Campbell was shot by police in January after a family member made a distress call saying he was armed and suicidal. Campbell was reportedly distraught over the death of his brother earlier that day. He was shot in the back by police. He was unarmed. It is a case eerily similar to the death of Raymond Gwerder, whose family Steenson represented in 2007, securing at the time a record $500,000 settlement from the city for the wrongful death of their son.

In October, Steenson was awarded the Arthur H. Bryant Public Justice Award by the Oregon State Bar, recognizing his three decades in civil rights advocacy.

Continue reading

Street Blues: Show me your hands, and we’ll get along just fine

My friends sometime ask me if I notice things now that I didn’t before I was an officer. I always mention hands.

Hands manipulate the weapons, the weapons hurt people. After a number of years as an officer, it causes me almost physical discomfort when I’m talking with someone on the street and I can’t see their hands. Continue reading

New police column in SR — Street Blues: Black and white to gray

Editor’s note: Street Roots welcomes Officer Robert Pickett to our line of diverse columnists. Picket offers a fresh perspective from the view of a police officer working directly with our streets. We hope readers will gain a new understanding of the complex interaction betweeen homelessness, public safety and law enforcement that occurs daily in Portland.

I gotta drink or I’ll be sick!”

It was 9:30 a.m. and Mr. Hendricks was already halfway through a six-pack.  I’d found him under the Morrison Bridge approach in the inner southeast industrial district, and he fit perfectly the description of someone who had just committed a “beer run” from a nearby convenience store. His frank admission about why he stole the beer summed up the complex situation brilliantly.

Mr. Hendricks had been a frequent consumer of police services in this area over the past month.   Passersby had been calling often about the tall, dark-haired gentleman who was often staggering in traffic or dropping his pants to pee in full view of Portland’s public.  Convenience stores had also been calling about their escaping beer. I’d personally dealt with him a number of times, as had other officers in the district. Our solution was often to call Hooper Detox, which would dispatch a van to come and take him to the drunk tank for a few hours. Detox staff would sometimes check his blood alcohol level with a portable breathalyzer, so I knew that Mr. Hendricks’ baseline BAC was a number that would probably leave me unconscious, or at best praying to the porcelain god. He’d developed such a tolerance that he was almost fully functional at that level. Unfortunately if he let it drop too far below that, his body would begin going through withdrawal — sickening, possibly deadly, if not monitored carefully.  Living outside, without any income, Mr. Hendricks did the only thing he could think of to get the medicine he needed — he stole it.

Clearly, one of my jobs is to enforce criminal laws, but do I arrest him for this? Do I simply arrange another trip to detox with the knowledge that he’ll be out stealing more beer before the end of the day?  What do I tell the convenience store clerk who keeps watching his beer walk out of the store? I’d previously referred him to the county’s in-patient sobering program, but there is a waitlist for that service, and it takes persistence and initiative from the patient, something that Mr. Hendricks had not shown thus far.

This was not the sort of gray-area scenario I expected when first considering a police career.

Popular culture shows officers tracking down the most heinous of criminals, cleverly catching them in the act or eliciting a full confession afterward, followed by the satisfying and finalizing click of handcuffs being applied.  A clear bad guy caught and put away where no more harm can be done.  Case closed.

Such was certainly my image of policing back in high school, when my parents say I first spoke of becoming a cop. Growing up in a medium-sized town in Indiana, I wasn’t exposed to much of society’s ills. I played soccer and had a paper route. I was a Boy Scout, for goodness sake. I wouldn’t describe our family as rich, but we were never lacking, and my parents are together to this day.  The couple of times I saw my parents drink alcohol in 18 years were wine at dinner parties.

My innocent upbringing continued at an idyllic, liberal-arts college in rural Minnesota, where I studied nitty-gritty, practical stuff like political philosophy and Japanese. After graduation I needed to explore a little, and went to Japan where I worked as an English teacher in public schools.  It was during these four years in Japan, followed by a year of backpacking and motorcycling in Asia and Europe that I got a taste for other ways of living, including exposure to real poverty.

It wasn’t until becoming an officer in 2002, however, that I started to learn about the challenges facing my own culture. As someone usually called at last resort to patch society’s breakdowns, I began a lengthy course of study in what ails us.  And while still not an expert on any of them, I’ve learned a lot about poverty, addiction, violence, politics, homelessness, race, bureaucracy, mental illness, social services, the law, the media, the police.

I’ve also learned that each individual person I’m called to, or stumble across, is usually receiving my services because of a lengthy string of failures, personal and/or societal, that occurred way before I entered the story. I try my best to make a sound decision while surrounded by this miasma of gray, but being human, certainly I sometimes add to this string.

It turns out that Mr. Hendricks could have been even more succinct.

“It’s complicated,” would have said it all.

Take the police out of crisis intervention business

From the current edition of Street Roots

Sam Adams, we have a very large problem on our hands.

It’s a practical problem for me, for every other medical professional in Portland, for leaders in the African-American community, the Hispanic community, and the disabilities community in general. For the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and neighbors and employers and friends and lovers.

Who do I call in a crisis?

Because I can’t in good conscience say to call the police. That route, without extensive and public repairs, is washed out.  Even if you and I can rationalize about what happened to Aaron Campbell and to Jamal Green and to Lisa Coppock and Deontae Keller and Sir Millage and to Dickie Dow and to James Chasse and to James Perez and to Kendra James and to Jose Mejia Poot — if even together we can agree these bad outcomes are the exception and not the rule, our agreement is meaningless to the Marva Campbell who calls tonight. 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

What happened to James Chasse?

Today marks the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse at the hands of the Portland Police Bureau. The Mental Health Association of Portland, who is spearheading a documentary about the case, asked City Hall today to release the facts on the Police Bureau’s internal report. The organization also released a 4-page report titled: What Happened to James Chasse?

Dear Mayor Adams, Commissioner Saltzman, Chief Sizer,

Today marks the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse.

Attached is a petition, signed by over 250 persons, which asks for the immediate release of the Portland Police Bureau’s internal investigation of what happened to James Chasse, and a report of the status of what happened to James, and what happened after James died, collected by our organization.
Three years ago we began to track the documents and news articles about what happened to James Chasse, and how those responsible responded to his death.  What was revealed is silence, delay and obfuscation can be somewhat countered by community concern and an obstinate online presence.

So with no budget for public relations we decided to simply tell the truth over and over and over to anyone who would listen.  We posted all publicly-available documents online. We posted all the photographs, videotapes and audio material we could find.  We posted and linked to every news story written about James Chasse.

We knew our concerns would be put off by City Hall, there would be no criminal trial, the officers responsible would not be disciplined, and every bureaucratic response would be clouded in budgetary constraints. We knew our cause – transparency – would lose at every opportunity, except in the court of public opinion.

We were determined to tell the truth and not to forget.

Because the truth is James is not the first person with mental illness to be hurt by police officers, but he could have been the last. We’ve created a report of these changes for you and attached it to this letter.  The report gives a short list of the positive accomplishments we see as directly related to James Chasse’s death, changes by the Portland Police Bureau, by the City of Portland, by Multnomah County and by the Oregon State legislature.

What the City and County have done is significant and today worth noting. Portland is a safer community because positive changes have occurred.

But important action remains undone. Releasing the internal investigation will illustrate why the process the Police Bureau used to determine whether something was wrong with how Kyle Nice, Christopher Humphreys and Bret Burton killed James Chasse failed to bring justice.

What the internal investigation withholds is the result of the police Use of Force Committee, which met months ago in secret.  The Committee found the three officers followed their training and broke no rules and concluded none of the officers used excessive force.

According to the findings of the Grand Jury and Attorney General, they broke no rules and an innocent man is dead.  That finding is unacceptable.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

As you enter negotiations for a new contract with the police union this fall, you must find the capacity for a chief to discipline and terminate officers regardless of civil litigation.  Impunity is a corrupting influence and must be addressed quickly, directly and publicly.

Roy Silberstein, President, Mental Health Association of Portland

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(1)

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(2)

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(3)

James Chasse Status Report - September 2009(4)