People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Rapping Back #89:
Media Articles Make Armed Mercenaries Appear Mild
The Portland Police Association (PPA) had a lot of fodder for their Facebook page in recent months, with ongoing exaggerated crime stories in the media, a victory in arbitration plus a bargaining issue headed there, and the vandalization of Portland's memorial to police officers. Out of 37 posts from December to mid-April, thirteen of them (35%) were about crime, while eight were about officers or other public safety people (and a dog) who were injured/died or that memorial (22%). The second-most frequent type of post was their old standby, "bluewashing," with nine posts (24%) painting police as "officer friendly"-- and then going so far as to decry the police murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis as if similar things don't happen here regularly . Five other stories (14%) touched on concerns of the Association and one of their favorite topics: staffing.
The second most frequent source for posts was the media, with 12 stories (32%) supporting the PPA's worldview or, in many cases, including their President, Aaron Schmautz, as an interviewee. We touched on the issue before about Schmautz's ubiquitous presence. It seems the media goes to him to speak for the police rather than to Chief Lovell or an official PPB spokesperson, creating a kind of negative feedback loop where all the world's a nail and the police are the only hammer that can drive it home. The PPA generated another 13 posts (35%), with nine coming from the Bureau (24%).
Crime and Double Standards
A December 29 post originating from the Bureau touting the Focused Intervention Team (FIT) talked about police finding three "illegal" guns, one of which was found during an inventory search of a vehicle. Since that's a standard search done to ensure the contents of the vehicle are accounted for, it seems using said gun for evidence would be seen as "fishing." The piece states the FIT is "overseen" by the FIT Community Oversight Group, a bit of a stretch since FITCOG tends to rubber stamp most anything the police do or request. However, a very important statement was made about investigating gun crimes: all gunfire aimed at Portland community members is being treated as attempted murder. Is that why we've seen the recent parade of Portland cops facing criminal charges? Oh, wait, sorry, I just woke up.
Another PPB news release from January 10 features a photo of a vehicle involved in an arrest scenario, with the license plate scratched out as if by a child's crayon. If they meant to protect someone's identity, they did a poor job. Next to the car is a PPB K-9 unit dog. The point of the post is that 30,000 fentanyl pills and 2 kilos of powder worth $100,000 were found by a joint investigation including the East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team.
The police perspective of the world is also on display in Schmautz's comments regarding a KATU news story on February 7 about Measure 110, which decriminalized small amounts of drugs. The story is that the police can't bust people for dealing any more because it takes too many resources such as undercover busts. The police refer to this as being "chilled"-- maybe from their point of view it's the same way beating up protestors chills community rights to free speech. Schmautz says, "It is always frustrating to me when people do something, the outcome is bad, and they turn back around and say to law enforcement, 'well, you're just not doing your job.'"
Other stories had to do with the "epidemic" of broken windows, up from about 6300 four years ago to 12,300 in 2022 (KGW, February 14), using Oregon Health Science University data analysis to help track stolen cars (KATU, March 2), and the police conducting an anti-shoplifting "blitz" (KPTV, March 6). The last article quotes PPB officer Jordan Zaitz about how drugs negatively affect the community. (Side note: a PPB post on February 7 says Zaitz was invited by Republican Oregon Representative Lori Chavez-DeRemer to appear at the State of the Union address.)
Again, maybe saying more about the way the media works with Schmautz than anything else, KOIN held a forum on March 1 talking about the "drug crisis" which had Schmautz, rather than a PPB spokesperson, as a panelist. Maybe they have him confused with Brian Schmautz, who indeed was the PPB's spin doctor in the late 2000s.
Their Pride and Joy
The PPA posted a news release on February 2 celebrating the wrong-headed decision by an arbitrator that their former President, Brian Hunzeker, did not retaliate against former City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty by releasing unverified information that she was involved in a hit- and-run (she wasn't). The release calls Hunzeker's effort to take down the first Black woman elected to Council an "isolated mistake," and agrees with the arbitrator that Hunzeker shared the information with the media in his role as PPA President, not an officer. They quote the decision saying there must be community trust, but there are multiple communities to consider. So, the white supremacist segment of the population needs to be served too, apparently? Schmautz ends the release hoping there will be "continued growth." (Also see Updates article on Hunzeker in this issue)
The PPA is also relishing their fight with the City and the US Department of Justice over the Bureau's body camera policy. When they came to an impasse with the City and sent the issue to arbitration on February 17, the PPA posted a piece explaining how the cameras are "essential policing tools." Rather than acknowledge they are being sold to the public as accountability mechanisms, the PPA instead says that police reviewing bodycam footage before writing reports is not an impediment to accountability. They talk about how "most" jurisdictions, including the law enforcement wing of the DOJ, have pre-review policies. While that's true, that doesn't make the policy right (see Updates article in this issue).
Schmautz was quoted again by KOIN in a February 28 story about the DOJ hearing in front of Judge Simon, talking about how he thinks body cameras will help "clarify concerns" people have with police conduct.
Wounded, Dead First Responders and Crocodile Tears for Tyre
As noted above, the PPA ran a number of pieces about damage done to the police officer memorial located in Waterfront Park. On February 1, they referred to the destruction as "cowardly, foolish, senseless [and] useless." The officers named on the wall made the "ultimate sacrifice" (never mind that at least one of them, for instance, died by being hit by a car while changing a tire). They promised to rebuild, and gave a link to the police historical society for donations. Another fund pitch got posted on February 4, with a shout-out to the NIMBY white folks in the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association--a self-created Neighborhood Association- - for raising $2500 (February 9).
A few days earlier, on January 27, they posted a 25-years-later memorial to Colleen Waibel, an officer who was shot and killed as part of a no-knock warrant being served on Stephen Dons in 1998 (PPR #14). More recent incidents involving a Clark County Sheriff's Deputy injured by... a tree falling on his patrol car (February 23) and a Gresham firefighter who died in the line of duty... of a heart attack (February 3), try to illustrate the hazards of being first responders, but really those things could happen to anyone.
On the other hand, the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs (ORCOPS) made a bold statement condemning the "violent, vicious and cowardly attack on Tyre Nichols" which they called a "stain on the very fabric of our collective society." The Coalition, which listed as specific signers to this letter the PPA, Multnomah Deputies, Beaverton, Clackamas County, Gresham, Port of Portland and Washington County collective bargaining units, expressed concern how the killing violated the trust police need to do their work. Interesting they chose a case where Black officers killed a Black man to suddenly start condemning police violence. Also, as Portland Copwatch has pointed out, the murder was not that different from when Portland Police piled on Dickie Dow in 1998 as he cried for his mother to help him (PPR #16). Dow was white and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and developmental disabilities, but still, some of the officers in that case were given medals (PPR #18) and no sad statements came from the PPA back then. Amazingly, the ORCOPS post ends by supporting the Nichols' family "cry for peace and justice." Oregon cops: you have no right to appropriate that language to bolster your own image, you're just as guilty as those Memphis cops.
Side note: A few days after Nichols' death, two Portland officers were attacked while trying to make an arrest, and some community members helped them subdue the suspect. In this case, the PPA was "deeply disturbed" by the attack on the cops (February 1).
Officers Friendly Ride Again
In addition several posts mentioned above, some of the ways the PPA tried to put a friendly face on their work by:
--Quoting Martin Luther King. Jr on his eponymous holiday (January 16) that "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." So sayeth those who used force over 6000 times against people protesting police racism and brutality.
--Having President Schmautz describe extra police patrols at Franklin High school as a way of doing "social work" to "divert kids from the criminal justice system" (KGW-TV, January 10).
In the unusually lone piece specifically talking about police staffing, a repost of an Oregonian article about the backlog at the state training academy, it is noted that the Bureau is still 80 officers shy of its authorized size of 882 members. PCW again urges the City not to even consider giving the Bureau more money or the ability to hire more officers until those positions are filled.
The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership and officers express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their newspaper. We worry these ideas may spread through Portland's ranks.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.