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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 30, 2004 2:50 AM. The previous post in this blog was I agree completely. The next post in this blog is Topic transition. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Groundhog Day

Here we go again. An unarmed person of color is shot to death while allegedly being taken into custody by the Portland police.

Close to 36 hours later, we're told hardly anything about what went down. According to the police, he was resisting arrest. The arrestable offense? Driving without a license. The cause for the traffic stop? Failing to signal before turning into a food market driveway.

Ever turn into a driveway without signalling? Ever forget to have your license on you when you drove a couple of blocks to the grocery store?

Two police officers were there. They apparently tried a stun gun. And then one of them fired several bullets into the man's torso.

This is so sad, and so maddening. The police tell us to be patient. Patient for what? I guess for the end of the mandatory three-day waiting period before the official interviews of the officer who fired the shots can begin. He and the other officer involved get 72 hours to collect their thoughts (including "pre-interviews" that aren't recorded) and present their side of the story. So don't expect much more detail until Wednesday or Thursday. By then the dead man will probably be ready for burial.

In those 72 hours, the suspicions that something is being covered up invariably grow and fester. This time around, everybody knows it's going to get very ugly indeed.

There was a rumor going around over the holidays that the mayor was going to reassign the various municipal bureaus among the city commissioners. She never did it, but it's not too late for her to go ahead with it. She really needs to take herself off the police bureau immediately.

Her top priorities for the remainder of her term, published the other day in The Oregonian, didn't include anything related to the police bureau. They didn't include anything about keeping this from being a miserable, tension-filled summer in this city.

But it's time for a revision of that stunningly shallow list. And agenda item no. 1 ought to be a new commissioner-in-charge for the police.

UPDATE, 1:17 p.m.: The mayor has called for a public inquest, which the police union will surely try to block. Meanwhile, African-American leaders are calling for an FBI investigation as well. Sounds good to me.

Do you think the Oregon Department of Justice might get involved? Don't make me laugh.

Also, today we learn that the 72-hour waiting period has been abandoned, at least in this case. If indeed the bureau has changed this highly controversial feature of its post-shooting procedures, you would have thought it would have done so with some public fanfare. But it didn't.

Comments (26)

And we'll see tomorrow what the Mayor has to say. Normally, she expressed more concern for the officers than for the person they shot and killed or their family.

My concern remains that if the claims of a witness on KATU are true -- that they shot him when he was reaching to undo his seatbelt, which is what he would have had to do to follow their order to exit his vehicle -- then this is going to be Portland's own Amadou Diallo (the man shot by the NYPD several years back because they mistook his wallet for a weapon).

The reference to a stun gun suggests that there may have been a struggle outside the car.

But the fact that we're still guessing about the most basic information relating to this incident a day and a half later suggests to me that there's something wrong, terribly wrong, with police review in this town.

I have given the bureau the benefit of the doubt until now. But I am sick and tired of seeing this happen over and over and over. Poot, James, now this -- it stinks.

An ugly scene just got a whole lot uglier.

An ugly scene just got a whole lot uglier.

Yeah there's not yet much more to say about it than that.

For what it's worth, coming up on April 17: Alliance For Police And Community Accountability Mayoral And Council Candidates Forum. YWCA, 1111 SW 10th Avenue. 10 AM - Noon.

"The issue of police accountability is a critical issue facing our community. It has received significant media attention in the past year. Candidates will be invited to share their vision for police reform and community policing, as well as answer questions presented by the APCA. All candidates have been invited, but not all have confirmed their plans to participate."

This one is going to be very intense.

How happy do you think Kroeker is this morning that he got fired.

I don't want to judge until all the facts are in, but it makes me kind of suspicious that it takes three days to gather all the "relevant" facts.

Something tells me Katz legacy is NOW going to be an "out of control police department." When this happened in New York, 9/11 saved Guiliani's legacy. Katz should probably start praying for a terrorist act right now.

In an effort by the police department to correct the "wrongs" of the Kendra James investigation, there is no longer a 72 hour waiting period before interrogations begin of the principals involved. Officer Sery was being questioned by investigators Monday afternoon, not more than 24 hours after the incident took place, and both officers involved were sequestered from one another.
I applaud the police department, and Chief Foxworth for implementing these changes in their procedural rules. Let's do our best folks to keep the facts straight! None-the-less, this is going to get very ugly for our city.

Yes, several of the changes indeed have been instituted in this situation.

Nonetheless, I am having this mortal fear that somehow we'll end up with a rerun of Kroeker's disciplinary letter against Scott McCollister, in which he basically said "the officer did every single thing wrong at every step of the way... but once he got to the end of that chain of wrong decisions, what else was he supposed to do?"

Regarding your hyperlink to the Katz priorities, did you notice that nearly every single one will involve spending lots and lots of tax dollars (money which, I must add, we simply do not have):

* Revitalize and redevelop the transit mall to accommodate light rail. (this one will require money, and lots of it).

* Resolve the management imbroglio at PGE Park by bringing in a new operator. (skeptically, I somehow expect this will involve a city bailout = money).

* Get a commitment from Major League Baseball for a franchise in the city. (and how will the stadium be paid for? tax dollars, undoubtedly)

* Start a business recruitment and retention fund. (so, by spending money we can expect to recruit/retain business? What economic world does she inhabit, anyway?)

* Acquire privately owned Ross Island for public ownership. (between the acquisition and indemnification of Ross Island Sand & Gravel for all the environmental problems buried on that isle -- this will undoubtedly be expen$ive).

* Rehabilitate the Armory Building in the Brewery Blocks for Portland Center Stage. (loan guarantees = money when PCS eventually defaults)

* Set a course for a new use of Memorial Coliseum. (money: first for the studies, then for the development)

* Keep construction on the South Waterfront on schedule and complete the design for an aerial tram. (mo' money: got to keep Homer & OHSU happy, otherwise they'll move everything to Hillsboro, eh?)

* Plan a second city design festival and develop strategies for the "creative economy initiative" to support growth of the creative services sector. ("creative services sector"? I have no idea what in the heck this means, but I guarantee it will cost money)

* Relocate Fire Station No. 1 in Old Town as part of opening up the downtown waterfront, and conduct a feasibility study for a public market near the Skidmore Building. (okay, and it is critical to get this done in the next 9 months because...?)

* Ensure the Meier & Frank store remains an anchor for downtown retail and convert part of the building to other uses. (probably accomplished only through tax breaks = money)

Oh, and unless you include "perhaps lure an IKEA store" (what, is Vera tired of schlepping to Seattle?) and the nebulous "business recruitment and retention fund", almost none of her priorities have anything to do with changing Portland's terrible business climate/image.

ERISA - Cheers! It's too bad Vera couldn't just, you know, lower some taxes and quit bothering businesses.

And can I say, for the record, that the retroactive country tax (Not Necessarily Vera's Fault™) is about the Worst. Idea. Ever. And for PDX, that's saying a lot.

Having worked for a short time in her office (albeit not for her), I saw that overseeing the police department comes #1 on her list of things she will never give up. The other bureaus do get shuffled every so often but that one has always stayed with the Mayor. Every mayor.

And rightly so, I think. Here's why:

No other department has the community involvement, visability, and impact on Portlander's lives. It needs to be the #1 on the mayor list of responsibilities and to pass it on to another commissioner minimizes its importance.

On the other hand, I am fully behind an independent citizen review board that can compel testimony, issue disciplinary sanctions, and be 'outside' the politics of the decision making.

The police union is very strong in Portland and making these sweeping changes will very difficult no matter who is at the helm.

I want to see what the guy really did to get himself shot.

I seriously doubt that the guy was a super-friendly Boy Scout that was killed by 2 cops.

Did he pull a Rodney King? Did he pull a bad attitude to a pair of guys with authority to kill bad guys (the cops), then end up dead?

My guess? Best case (for his family): The dead guy was not guilty of anything major or threatening. But when the cops pulled him over he 'copped' a bad attitude and the situation spiraled out of control.

I'm not saying the cops are innocent (yet). But I'm having a very, VERY hard time believing that the cops involved decided to kill someone with ZERO provocation from the dead guy.

Cops get killed most often by 'routine' car stops like this. A note to idiots pulled over for 'minor' infractions like forgetting to signal - being pulled over isn't a stage for you to whine about your bad day to cops who aren't yet sure that you are NOT a killer.

Just to be intemperate - here's my suggestion on how to survive an encounter with a police officer. This is a paraphrase of what my dad told me to do if I was pulled over by the cops:
- You answer, 'Yes, sir' or 'No, sir' (or ma'am)
- You do what they tell you to do: no back-talk, whining or grousing.
- Are your feelings hurt? Is your dignity insulted by the officer wanting to speak to you outside your car? Guess what...maybe your car *does* match the description of a bad guy's.
- If the cop gives you a 'lame' excuse for pulling you over (no signal, burned-out tail-light, and so on), don't sweat it. If you are not guilty - deal with it in front of a judge....
- In the meantime, the cop is in charge and you do what He (or She) says.

For the record - you are an idiot when you forget your license. You really should pay attention to details like remembering-your-wallet. At least memorize your License Number, so the cops can at least pull up your driving record during a stop.

Excuse me, but no amount of "provocation" by an unarmed man should result in his shooting death. There are two officers there with clubs and pepper spray and stun guns and who knows what other kind of nonlethal weaponry. If they can't defend themselves without shooting this man to death, maybe they need a different line of work.

As for the abandonment of the 72-hour waiting period, if it indeed has been abandoned, that's major news that the public should have heard about before this. And I'm surprised the police union would stand for it.

I don't care if the guy was screaming obscenities at the cops... A "bad attitude" should not get you killed.

It appears to me that we have a bunch of "trigger happy" cops patrolling N. Portland.

Whether the guy is a "boyscout" or a "child molester," a routine traffic stop should not end in death.

You are right, no amount of "provocation" should result in the shooting of an unarmed man. But unless the man in standing naked in a clearing, it's hard to determine whether he is armed or not.

I'm not defending or condeming the police officers here. I'm just saying that there is no way the unvarnished truth is being uttered by either side right now, this soon after the incident with the passions of everyone aroused like they are.

As for the not releasing the new regs with public fanfare, how exactly is that going to be accomplished? "hey everyone, next time we shoot one of you, we'll get info quicker!!!Yay, are you happy now?"

Jack's right, no one deserves to be killed for failure to use your signal. However, 36-48 hours into the investigation really is too soon for a complete and comprehensive evaluation of what happened. Prelimenary reports generally tend to be lacking and/or wrong.

However, there is a disturbing trend of officer involved shootings in Portland. That is clear. What's not is why, and I think that involves the police union's influence, the lack of consistent leadership in the PPB (as viewed from the rank and file), and poor oversight (i.e. Vera).

Unfortuantely, I don't see anything concrete coming out of this in terms of reform due to the reasons above. Institutional inertia is incredibly difficult to change.

How's this for the irony of the day? Portland was just named the 12th best city to live in in the US

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4625179/

12th best huh? The country must be in worse shape than I would have otherwise guessed.

How about, "After thoughtfully reviewing the heartfelt criticism of its 72-hour policy, the Portland Police Bureau has decided to change it"?

And until the officers are *sure* they have actually seen a weapon, they have no right to shoot at the man.

"no way the unvarnished truth is being uttered by either side right now." On the victim's "side," the only thing being uttered right now is the question "Why?" And the answer they're getting is, "Wait -- we'll tell you later." If the officers have already been interviewed and have said why, the deceased's family should know right now -- not after everybody at the bureau gets a chance to rehearse their story for a couple of weeks.

The message being sent right now is, "The grief and outrage of the man's family and friends are not more important than preserving the rights of the officers and keeping the police union happy." And that, my friends, is bullsh*t.

Maybe you don't realize that the Union and the PD Administration are at opposite sides of everything. The Union grieves everything and the Administration retaliates.

The fact that they agreed to changes already partially implemented is a good sign. Still, a big PD is a big PD. If you want every Cop to be like Andy Griffith, you'd better stay in Mayberry. Or the 'burbs.

This one's on Foxworth's watch. Let's see how he handles it. Can't be worse than Kroeker.

I don't need Andy Griffith. But I've grown quite weary of Rambo.

KGW.com is saying that Foxworth himself asked for the FBI investigation yesterday, fwiw.

Yes, he did. And it will go forward. In some sense more importatly from the local community relayions standpoint, the DA has agreed to codnuct a public inquest.

FYI, the policy change regarding things such as separating the officers and interviewing them within 24 hours wasn't specifically "announced" in this case because they announced it months ago as one of the recommendations they adopted (or began to adopt) after the independent PARC report came out.

Well, there certainly has been a change in the city's tune. Why are they throwing the book at these cops when they worked so hard to protect the officers in prior shootings? Whatever the reason -- and it may just be they've determined preliminarily that this policeman was in the wrong -- the change in procedure is overdue.

But as B!x himself would say, process is a distraction. The real issue is why Portland police keep killing unarmed black people, particularly in traffic stops. And what meaningful steps they have taken and will take to stop this recurring nightmare.

One thing that intrigues me is the refrain, "Wait 'til we have all the facts." Tonight's news programs show us what kind of second-day facts are so important to the officers' defenders -- the deceased was a convicted criminal and alleged gangster, and he may have had drugs on him when he was killed. The shooter is a good cop, who was "officer of the year" last year.

All largely irrelevant to the question at hand.

Jack,

Your response above to my question about how to release the new policy sounds like a press release. Which makes sense. Not "public fanfare", which has the connontation of doing it with joy, happiness and a band playing tunes...

I think that having Kroeker for Police Chief was one of the worst decisions ever made by Katz. His "Rambo" attitude changed the face of the Portland Police Dept. I certainly noticed a sharp increase of shootings of blacks in routine traffic stops while he was in charge. I absolutely cannot believe this has happened again. My heartfelt condolences to every person of colour here in Portland. I would be terrified to leave the house for any reason.

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» The latest police shooting from AboutItAll.com | Oregon
Jack Bog says it better then I could. Go read his take. [Read More]

» Sad news gets sadder from Jack Bog's Blog
The guy who died in police custody in Portland over the weekend had reportedly been tasered by officers shortly before he died. Funny how that little detail has been slow to emerge. This is starting to sound like the deranged guy who recently bought th... [Read More]


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