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PORTLAND POLICE SHOOTINGS AND DEATHS IN CUSTODY
FIVE CITIZEN REVIEW COMMITTEE
In a surprise move, five members of the nine-member Citizen Review Committee (CRC), which hears appeals of cases of alleged police misconduct, resigned to protest what they called a "mockery" and a "sham" system. Chair Hector López, Vice Chair Denise Stone, longtime activist TJ Browning and new members Mia Butbaugh and Doug Montgomery all read prepared statements at the August 19 meeting, denouncing the lack of support for their efforts to fulfill what they believed the City had asked them to do.
The members emphasized, as they had at their June 21 retreat, that the Independent Police Review Division (IPR), which is the parent bureau to the CRC, does not provide them enough staff support, especially in instances when the Director disagees with the decisons they make.
The resignataions came shortly after the first CRC appeal went to City Council. The case of Merrick Bonneau (2002-x-017), in which he was mistaken for his larger, white half-brother and roughed up while being arrested, was heard on August 13. Under a protocol written by IPR Director Richard Rosenthal (who claims it was written by City Council, even though the hearing is, by the ordinance, to be conducted by the CRC), the IPR, CRC and Internal Affairs sent three-page summaries to the Council for review. On the two allegations of unreasonable arrest and incomplete reports (see PPR #29), the Bureau offered to move the findings from "Exonerated" to "Insufficient Evidence" (rather than "Sustained" as recommended by the CRC). These findings were changed prior to the Council hearing as a conciliatory gesture, rather than a result of applying the facts of the investigation to the Bureau's directives. This is a particularly odd finding (that maybe the officers did commit misconduct), considering that the Chief claims the officers acted entirely within Bureau policy. Since Rosenthal made it clear he did not agree with the CRC's decision, he used his allegedly "neutral" summary to make his opinion clear to Council. And, since Council made it clear they do not want to hear these cases now that they have final say over the Chief, they upheld the Bureau's findings. (Commissioner Erik Sten voted "no" on the second finding, stating he believes the officers were required to write the full reports.)
King also blatantly exposed the City's desire to keep the CRC toothless when he stated: "The CRC promised to us by the Auditor was an objective committee that would fairly consider facts and make recommendations to the Bureau or to you, the Council, but instead we have in this case, citizen advisors ignoring the ordinance to affirm a reasonable decision from the Police Bureau and instead substituting their own judgment." We guess that means the citizens are expected to go along with whatever the Bureau says.
In May, the CRC decided to hold a full hearing in case 2003-x-011, involving a man who was thrown to the ground by police after stepping off a Tri-Met bus. Even though the bus driver and other witnesses stated they did not think the man posed a threat to officers, the Bureau exonerated the police. One reason may be that the complaint was categorized based only on the allegation that the officer roughed up the appellant because he recognized him from previous encounters, instead of the possible excessive use of force. The hearing was postponed indefinitely in July.
The CRC then declined a full hearing for a man who claimed he was falsely arrested after a domestic violence report made at a gas station (2003-x-012). Even though there were contested facts in the case (whether a witness assaulted the appellant and whether the police laughed at him), the CRC seemed so distracted by the issue of whether the appellant had hit his wife that they did not examine the behavior of the police, the purpose of a police review board.
In June, the CRC held a full hearing for a young man who said the police had failed to cite the driver and conduct a complete investigation when a car hit him while he was holding a stop sign to flag traffic (case 2003-x-008). Because he was not a state employee, and because current protocols do not require police to cite someone (even if there is a death), the officers who came to the scene and let the driver go were not disciplined. Traffic commander Mike Garvey reported that there was no point in pursuing the complaint that the other officer failed to follow up to see how badly the young man had been injured, because that officer retired.
The CRC affirmed the Bureau's findings despite an eloquent plea from the young man's minister father, who complained that there would have been more investigation if his son had been a police officer or had been killed (his son was thrown 40 feet down the street and suffered a brain injury, two broken legs and a broken hand). They apologized to the young man, saying they were unable to do anything else given their limited powers. The only slightly hopeful outcome was that Garvey agreed the protocols were bad and needed rewriting.
The other CRC meetings were mostly taken up with discussions of policies and protocols. The June 21 retreat ended with the CRC deciding that they would nominate the new members of their Committee and eliminate "pre-hearings" (in which they decide whether to hold a full hearing). The first vote provoked the Auditor and the Director to change City Code (see other article). The latter vote resulted in a clunky, dangerously private system to review cases to decide whether to hold hearings on them.
Under the new system, Director Rosenthal prepares a case file for the CRC to review. The nine members are all expected to visit the office and mark "yes" or "no" to a hearing. If just three say "yes," a hearing will be held. The problems with this system include that many appellants will never get the opportunity to address the committee, there will be no public discussion of their cases, and, as far as we can tell, there is no set criteria for rejecting appeals. In other words, a person's appeal can be rejected just because seven people don't read the case or don't feel like hearing it (or, for that matter, if the case file is misleading or incomplete).
One of the CRC's two public forums was co-sponsored by the Portland State U. Latino activist group MEChA. On June 2, a ten-member panel discussed police shooting policies in light of the José Mejía Poot and the more recent Kendra James cases (see article). Roughly 70 people turned out and, despite a lively discussion, it is unclear whether this forum will do anything to affect policy. As with the CRC's two hearings last September (see PPR #28), the public's input has not resulted in any proposals from the CRC to the Bureau.
The second forum was held two days before the retreat to hear concerns about the structure of the IPR. A major theme was that the IPR is not doing what citizens want in terms of holding police accountable, being open and transparent, and improving police policy.
The dispute about choosing new members of the CRC was the subject of an article in Willamette Week (July 23). The article exposed Rosenthal and Blackmer as biased and uninterested in promoting change. Rosenthal told WW that when considering nominees, Blackmer "will be looking at whether or not the applicants will be willing to work within the law, within the confines of what City Council determined they wanted the CRC to be." This ignores both the huge community outcry that led to the CRC replacing the old system, PIIAC, in 2000-2001, and the fact that the "confines" of the ordinance are a matter of narrow interpretation by the Auditor's office, not clear legal restrictions.
Blackmer criticized member Browning, claiming her "main achievement" has been "drawing attention to herself and her ideology." Blackmer seemed to imply that Browning is "anti-police," but her history as a community activist, her speeches and her voting record demonstrate otherwise.
The highlight of the article is a quote from Sam Walker, a national expert on review boards, who expressed concern that people would not be allowed to continue as a volunteer if they worked to improve the CRC by gaining more independence. "They have the right to do that, I mean, that's their job," Walker told WW.
The new members will be announced sometime in September and sworn in this October. Now that the Committee (which already agrees with the police in about 80% of all cases) has been stripped of its more vocal members, the City will probably be facing the same major mobilization that led to the creation of the IPR, and maybe even a new ballot measure within months.
Many people suspect that the City created the IPR as a way to quiet critics of the old system. Even though the City helped organize the five-hour community forum on Kendra James, the CRC was not mentioned until the community panel spoke near the end. Similarly, the City's new team reviewing police policies invited Director Rosenthal to participate, but no members of the CRC. With police misconduct in the news so much, the City should have supported the CRC when they had the chance.
For more information call the IPR at 503-823-0146 or the Auditor at 503-823-4078.
Off Duty Portland Cop Kills Man at Front Door
DA Refuses Grand Jury on August Shooting; Oregon Area Cops Continue to Shoot
We only have one Portland shooting incident to report on for this four-month period: off-duty Sgt. Gregory Stewart (#32025) shot and killed Jeffrey Dean Turpin, 42, outside Stewart's Scappoose home on October 5. Sadly, another person in psychological crisis needed help and instead ended up dead at the hands of law enforcement. Sadder still, six Scappoose police officers and two St. Helens officers had been following Turpin around for 40 minutes, talking to him and keeping him from shooting himself with his own gun. When Turpin made the mistake of pounding on a random door that had a Portland policeman behind it, he ended up dead.
Stewart's neighbors described Turpin as "angry and erratic." They said he was muttering to himself "this is a bad situation" as he wrapped himself in one resident's flag and complained of the cold. It appears he banged on Stewart's door, took a few steps away, then when Stewart opened the door, Turpin may have turned back toward the house before the off-duty Sergeant fired three times (Oregonian, October 6). There was no indication whether Stewart, who currently works on the Domestic Violence Unit, had Crisis Intervention Team training. We have not seen any follow-up stories to let us know if Stewart faces criminal charges, though he was placed on administrative leave following the incident.
The previous Portland-based shooting, when Lesley Stewart (no relation) was hit in the head by glass or by an AR-15 assault rifle bullet on August 20 (PPR #42), was not reviewed for criminal conduct by the District Attorney. Assistant DA Traci Anderson said they would not review a shooting "if no one was hurt" (Oregonian, August 28). Portland Copwatch and the NW Constitutional Rights Center sent a letter to DA Mike Schrunk pointing out not only that Mr. Stewart was injured, but that Officer Stephanie Rabey's action of using deadly force could be criminal if there was no reasonable suspicion that someone's life was in imminent danger. Stewart's girlfriend, who called the police, and her 21-year-old son left the apartment four minutes prior to the shooting, and no gun was found in the apartment (Oregonian, August 21 and 22).
Although the SERT Team was mobilized, Rabey (#29993) is a regular patrol officer. Also, despite the similarity between this case and the shooting of Raymond Gwerder, the Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) was not involved (according to Chief Sizer). This seems strange, since Gwerder was alone, while Stewart's girlfriend and her son were considered hostages.
There have been just two on-duty shootings in Portland this year, but officers in other jurisdictions continue to use deadly force.
for details checkout http://www.ThePortlandAlliance.org/copwatch
--On August 28, Clackamas County Deputy Robert Nashif shot and killed Shawn DeVoe Mosley, 48, during a traffic stop. Mosley allegedly shot a gun at Nashif, who was not injured (Oregonian, September 28).
--Washington County Tactical Negotiations Team members "mistakenly opened fire at an officer from another unit during a Sept. 6 raid on a Yamhill County marijuana field." The raid was led by the Yamhill County Interagency Narcotics Team, moving in on a campsite in a wooded area. Washington County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. David Thompson said "we try to learn" from incidents like this (Oregonian, September 21).
--On November 10, two Josephine County Sheriff's Deputies shot and killed Paul Harrison Chesser, 66, when he allegedly refused to drop a handgun and apparently exchanged fire with them (Oregonian, November 14).
--On November 24, Washington County Corporals Steve Schuster and Mark Trost shot and killed Steve G. Stanturf, 37, when the Sheriff's Office came to his house for the second time that day. Stanturf, who had no criminal record, apparently had quite a few guns and had fired two of the weapons before the officers killed him (Oregonian, November 25 & Hillsboro Argus, November 30).more information: http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/PPR43/shootings43.html
Below is information about the CRC hearing on Craig Maynard, whose elbow was dislocated by an officer in 2010 and whose family and friends testified to the CRC at a June 6 appeal hearing. They talk about how the incident led to Maynard's suicide a few months later (more details below). We hope that all city officials, police officers, IPR staff and police management (and members of the media) who were not at the hearing take the time to watch this video. dan handelman --Portland Copwatch The video can be found at http://archive.org/details/Maynard_testimony_CRC_060612 ---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2012 14:38:24 From: Portland Copwatch <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Portland City Council -- Comm. Dan Saltzman <email@example.com>, Commissioner Amanda Fritz <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Commissioner Nick Fish <Nick@portlandoregon.gov>, Comm. Randy Leonard <email@example.com>, Mayor Sam Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: Citizen Review Committee <email@example.com> Subject: VIDEO: Family & friends of man injured by officer testify at hearing Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2012 13:21:50 From: Portland Copwatch <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Portland Copwatch <email@example.com> Subject: VIDEO: Family & friends of man injured by officer testify at hearing Portland Copwatch (a project of Peace and Justice Works) PO Box 42456 Portland, OR 97242 (503) 236-3065 (office) (503) 321-5120 (incident report line) firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.portlandcopwatch.org Video released of family & friends of man injured by officer testifying at Citizen Review Committee hearing August 10, 2012 Urging City Council members, Bureau management, and every police officer in Portland to watch, local police accountability group Portland Copwatch today posted video of the family and friends of a man injured by a police officer testifying before the Citizen Review Committee (CRC). The man, Craig Maynard, was tackled by Officer Christopher McDonald after McDonald chased him, supposedly for failure to have a reflector on the back of his bicycle, in July 2010. When handcuffing him, McDonald dislocated Mr. Maynard's elbow, resulting in a trip to the hospital. This incident is particularly tragic because according to friends and family of Mr. Maynard, who struggled with mental illness, this incident led to his emotional undoing and eventually his committing suicide about three months afterward. To make matters worse, the Bureau's Internal Affairs division (IA) and the Auditor's "Independent" Police Review division (IPR) both refused to conduct more investigation into the case both in advance of and after the hearing held on June 6, where Maynard's friends and family challenged the Bureau's "Unproven with a debriefing" finding on whether McDonald used excessive force. Because Council did not properly address the ability of CRC to direct these agencies to conduct more investigation (rather than just recommending it) when modifying the city ordinance on IPR/CRC last December, the system was exposed as inadequate in a short six months after Council's vote. Portland Copwatch got permission from Flying Focus Video Collective, which tapes each CRC meeting, and the family members to release the footage in an effort to show the City how one violent encounter with police can ruin a person's life, and how that action can have a ripple effect on others. Setting aside the question of why Officer McDonald didn't try de-escalating the situation when he suspected Maynard had some kind of mental illness, one wonders whether (a) such force was necessary when the underlying violation was a missing bicycle reflector and (b) whether the City could have changed Mr. Maynard's downward spiral by checking in on his injuries and maybe even apologizing in the days and weeks after the incident. The issue involved in CRC's request for more investigation was raised by Maynard in a hand-written account of the incident which he wrote before his death. Maynard claimed that he said to McDonald, in the presence of Officer "B," "you broke my arm on purpose," and McDonald said he did. Yet IA and IPR never interviewed Officer "B" to see if that was indeed true, which would prove both retaliation and excessive force. It also came to light that the "debriefing" for Officer McDonald was mainly driven by his poor record-keeping, which led to IA interviewing people who were witnesses to a different incident because his notebook was not properly indexed. The video, which lasts about 25 minutes, includes concerns about the police training, conduct, and investigation, but more importantly paints the picture of a man whose life was forever altered by one encounter with an officer and how those around him were unable to do anything to help. The video can be found at http://archive.org/details/Maynard_testimony_CRC_060612 For more information contact Portland Copwatch at 503-236-3065.
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