Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Man with Mental Illness Tased by Portland Police in Grocery Store

Posted by Jenny on 20th November 2013

By Sara Roth, KGW News, Nov. 18, 2013

Portland police tased a man armed with knives who was reportedly threatening shoppers and stealing at Whole Foods in Northwest Portland Friday. Officers recognized him from prior mental health incidents.

The incident happened at Whole Foods at 1210 NW Couch St. around 8:30 a.m. Friday, according to the Portland Police Bureau. It was captured on an eight-minute citizen video posted on YouTube.

The person who posted the video casts the police in a negative, but bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson encouraged people to watch it as a textbook case of police following proper procedures.

“It shows the distance the officers kept,” he said, “They didn’t force a confrontation. They were very patient, very calm.”

Store employees said the suspect shoplifted merchandise and then grabbed knives off of a rack. When employees asked him to leave, he refused.

A responding sergeant at the scene said he recognized the man and knew he was struggling with mental health issues.

Officers surrounded the man, asked him by name to put down the knives and told him he would be tased if he didn’t.

After several minutes, the sergeant tased the man. The suspect fell to the ground but continued to struggle with officers.

Police said three additional Taser cycles were needed to safely gain control of the man and put him into handcuffs.

The man suffered a bloody nose during the altercation. He was cited for disorderly conduct and menacing and taken to a Portland hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland said “it does seem to be a well-managed takedown of a person carrying a weapon in a public place.” That said, funding needs dramatically increase to help the mentally ill like the man arrested, he said.

Police said the bureau’s behavioral health unit would conduct a follow-up with the man.

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Reports show steady increase in police uses of force against people with mental illness, homeless

Posted by Jenny on 15th November 2013

By Denis C. Theriault, Portland Mercury, Nov. 15, 2013

The latest PPB report shows 112 uses of force were against "transients" and persons with mental illness.

The latest PPB report shows 112 uses of force were against “transients” and persons with mental illness.

The most recent quarterly report from the police bureau on how its officers use force—and against whom—offers some cause for concern in the wake of news last week that the city and Portland Police Association had found relative peace over federal reforms.

For reasons still unknown, and due to be put under closer scrutiny over the next several months, Portland officers have seen a significant and steady increase in force incidents involving people identified as transient or mentally ill throughout 2013. The latest report, covering the three-month period between July 1 and September 30, lists 112 people between both categories—up from 93 during the quarter before and 76 during the first three months of 2013.

READPPB Force Data Summary Report, 1st Quarter, 2013 (PDF, 50KB)

READPPB Force Data Summary Report, 2nd Quarter, 2013 (PDF, 55KB)

READPPB Force Data Summary Report, 3rd Quarter, 2013 (PDF, 48KB)

The most recent increase would have come during the city’s crackdown on homeless campers. And it’s got bureau number-crunchers concerned enough to take a look and try to figure out if this is a “seasonal” issue, under the premise that summer months are when Portland sees more homeless visitors and, thus, cops have more interactions with them in general. Or if it’s something else. (The most recent report actually shows a decrease in overall reported incidents of force between this summer and last summer.)
Comments on the 3rd Quarter report note the upward creep.

Comments on the 3rd Quarter report note the upward creep.

The force reports, which started this year, are part of the bureau’s efforts to get right with the U.S. Department of Justice over accusations Portland cops unconstitutionally use excessive force against people with mental illness and are too quick, in general, to escalate force incidents and use Tasers.

Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch flagged the latest report for me after noticing the increase described above. But Handelman also noticed another interesting fluctuation: an increase, over the past three months, of instances when an officer had to cycle a Taser against someone more than twice. Policy changes are supposed to limit the circumstances in which officers are allowed to use multiple (50,000-volt) Taser cycles.

Handelman also noticed something else that’s now been missing from all but the first force report: demographic data. The first report found that more than a third of all people involved in force incidents earlier this year were listed as African American and that white men made up less than half of the number.

The disproportionate number fits a pattern for police activity that’s pretty well-established and has already been cause for soul-searching. Has that number gotten worse in the past three months? We don’t know because the bureau has stopped including that information, despite Handelman’s persistent entreaties.

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Adam Olsen talked to Hillsboro police for 22 minutes before officers fired 7 rounds, records say

Posted by Jenny on 1st October 2013

By Emily E. Smith and Rebecca Woolington, The Oregonian, Sept. 30, 2013

Adam Havery Olsen

Adam Havery Olsen

Hillsboro police officers fired seven rounds at a man believed to be armed and suicidal during a standoff Sept. 17 at his Orenco apartment, police and court records show.

Officer David Bonn fired a rifle at Adam Havery Olsen, 33, while Officer Dan Winter used his Glock semiautomatic pistol, according to the police department and a search warrant affidavit filed in Washington County Circuit Court. Olsen was not harmed in the incident.

The affidavit, made public Monday, Sept. 30, provides more details about the nearly three-hour standoff. The incident marked the second officer-involved shooting in Washington County this year.

Shortly after 10 p.m. that day, Olsen’s girlfriend summoned police to his apartment in the 1200 block of Northeast Orenco Station Parkway. The 21-year-old woman reported that Olsen was armed and threatening “suicide by cop,” the affidavit said.

She told officers that Olsen brought up suicide two weeks earlier and that Hillsboro police responded that time, too.

Olsen had been drinking since 2 or 3 p.m., she told police, and he had used a knife and piece of broken glass to cut his chest. That’s when she told him she was going to call 9-1-1.

Olsen then went to his bedroom, got a handgun and tucked it into his waistband, she said. She had seen the gun before and previously believed it was a BB gun. When police arrived, they ordered her out of the apartment, the affidavit said.

Sgt. David White spoke to Olsen by phone for 22 minutes, records show. White described Olsen as being angry and profane, and threatening to shoot anyone.

Olsen ended the conversation saying, “Tell my girlfriend I wish it would have lasted,” according to White’s account. Minutes later, the sergeant said he heard gunfire.

Officer Debra Crooks was standing in the breezeway of the apartment complex when she saw Olsen come to his front door with a gun raised, the affidavit said. She said she backed up, fell and didn’t see what Olsen did next.

Two officers fired shots at Olsen, who went back into his apartment, she said. At 10:47 p.m., Hillsboro police radioed “shots fired,” according to the search warrant.

At 11:16 p.m., Officer Dave Morse fired bean bag rounds at Olsen, which Hillsboro police said shattered a window in his apartment.

Spackle on the walls outside Adam Havery Olsen's apartment covers bullet holes.

Spackle on the walls outside Adam Havery Olsen’s apartment covers bullet holes.

Beaverton Police Officer Aaron Oberst told a detective that he and other Washington County SWAT members encountered Olsen inside the breezeway and ordered him to stop, the affidavit said.

Olsen continued toward Oberst, who believed Olsen could be armed because his hand was in his pants pocket. When he was within arm’s reach of the officer, Oberst forced Olsen back with the muzzle of his shotgun, court records show.

By 12:45 a.m. the following morning, police had Olsen in custody.

Among the evidence collected at the scene: seven shell casings, five beanbag projectiles, two Taser probes from a doorframe, one Taser probe from a bathroom sink, a knife from the bathroom, two laptops, a Marksman Repeater pellet gun and a handwritten note found in the kitchen.

Olsen remains in Washington County Jail on six misdemeanor charges of menacing, resisting arrest and interfering with a peace officer. A judge declined Friday to lower Olsen’s bail, which is set at $250,000.

The incident marks the second officer-involved shooting in Washington County this year. The first occurred Jan. 20, at the Forest Grove home of then-Hillsboro Officer Timothy Cannon, who is accused of exchanging gunfire with Washington County law enforcement officers. He is in jail, awaiting trial on charges of attempted aggravated murder.

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Man, 27, beaten by police in 2010 and awarded $306K, agrees to settlement to get his check

Posted by Jenny on 30th July 2013

By Aimee Green, The Oregonian, July 30, 2013

Gallagher Smith (left) with Portland attorneys Jason Kafoury (middle) and Greg Kafoury

Gallagher Smith (left) with Portland attorneys Jason Kafoury (middle) and Greg Kafoury

A 27-year-old man who won a $306,000 jury verdict last year after Portland police beat him and then unlawfully arrested him has agreed to a carefully worded settlement to receive his check.

READGallagher Smith v. City of Portland Settlement Documents (PDF, 28KB)

Gallagher Smith was stunned with a Taser, pepper sprayed, punched and smashed as police piled on top of him after he questioned their authority to move him off a downtown sidewalk.

His attorneys, Greg and Jason Kafoury, said they agreed to vacate the December judgment in exchange for the city’s payout last week.

But they said that doesn’t mean Smith is agreeing to nullify the words of two Multnomah County Circuit Court judges in the case. They ruled that police didn’t have probable cause to arrest Smith for refusing officers’ unlawful order to move down the sidewalk.

One of the judges, Youlee You, gave jurors those instructions before they came back with the $306,000 award and found that police falsely arrested, battered and maliciously prosecuted Smith.

Smith had quarreled with a doorman on Nov. 13, 2010, at the Aura nightclub on West Burnside Street. The doorman told Smith he’d have to wait at the end of a long line again even though he’d just been in the club and had gotten a stamp on his hand before stepping outside. The doorman eventually flagged down police.

As Smith walked away from the club, police followed. Smith questioned police about what law prevented him from standing on a public sidewalk — and officers handcuffed him, then began to use force as Smith tried to pull his arms into his chest.

This past April, the Portland city attorney’s office planned to ask city councilors for permission to appeal the verdict. The move would have allowed the city to challenge the judge’s instruction that police didn’t have probable cause to arrest Smith.

Even though the jury’s findings are now set aside, the judge’s instruction remains as part of the record, said Greg Kafoury. The instruction frustrates police, he said.

“The police want to be able to order people off of the sidewalk, essentially at their discretion,” he said. “They want to rule the sidewalk like it’s the police department’s private property.”

But City Attorney Jim Van Dyke said Kafoury is just speculating. The council decided not to approve an appeal of the verdict because Smith’s case wasn’t the one the city wanted to use as a test case, he said.

That’s because sidewalk issues aside, a second jury still would need to rule on the issue of whether police used excessive force — and if it found police did, the jury could again award big money.

“The city’s authority to direct citizens (along) a sidewalk and in what circumstances is going to come up again,” Van Dyke said. “Someday, we’re going to have to have this legal issue resolved.”

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Federal judge says he’s ‘inclined’ to set trial on Justice Department findings

Posted by Jenny on 19th July 2013

Since a take-no-prisoners inquiry by the U.S. Department of Justice, which found Portland police were engaged in a “pattern or practice” of excessive force against people with mental illness, the City of Portland’s draft settlement agreement has still not been approved in federal court. Justice officials, the Portland police union and the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Peace and Justice were court-ordered into arbitration almost half a year ago, and all they’ve managed is an impasse. What’s the holdup? The Portland Police Association, which maintains that our safety and our lives are subject to collective bargaining.

 

The PPA has never met a case of police use-of-force it didn’t like, its president even defending the shocking brutality of James Chasse’s death. The Justice Department’s findings were beyond dispute, its conclusions beyond debate. Judge Michael Simon says he is inclined to hold a trial next summer to determine whether the indisputable has merit in his court.  It is hard to avoid the impression that our value as persons is being horse-traded.

 

For the judge to validate the PPA, he would have to buy into an alternate reality, where police did NOT use deadly force 12 times in a two-year period, and 10 of those were NOT people with mental health issues.  Here in this world, that’s exactly what the DOJ says it was: a pattern or practice where we are the targets.

 

We’ve made our position clear: Zero tolerance.  A cease-fire. Nothing less. Now, again, our lives hang in the judicial balance.  We are not terribly optimistic.

 

–Eds.

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, July 18, 2013
 
A federal judge Thursday said he’s inclined to hold a trial next summer to determine if Portland police engaged in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness, if the city, police union and federal investigators can’t reach agreement on a package of reforms.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon did not set a trial date but gave federal justice officials, the city and the police union time to file legal briefs this fall on several issues leading up to trial, such as whether the Portland Police Association should be allowed to defend against the U.S. Department of Justice’s excessive force claims at trial.

Simon urged each party to the case not to lose sight of the seriousness of the federal complaint filed earlier this year against the city that alleges constitutional violations by Portland police.

“I want an early trial date because I do want to move this to conclusion,” Simon said. “There will be a trial on the merits.”

Upon learning of the judge’s position after the hearing Thursday, Mayor Charlie Hales, who serves as police commissioner, said he wasn’t expecting such a delay in resolving the federal justice complaint.

“Summer? Really?” Hales said. “Oy vey.”

Mediation_0001

Simon’s direction came after the city, police union and federal prosecutors declared in June that they had reached an impasse, unable to come to an agreement during mediation on reforms that should be made by the police bureau to address a scathing federal inquiry.

The nearly 15-month inquiry by the U.S. Department of Justice found last year that Portland police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people suffering from or perceived to have a mental illness.

A settlement agreement between federal investigators and the city, approved by the City Council on Nov. 14, called for widespread changes to Portland police policies on use of force, Tasers, training, supervision, discipline and oversight. It also called for a restructuring of police crisis intervention training and quicker internal inquiries into alleged police misconduct.

Simon said Thursday that he does not believe he has judicial authority to order the city to adopt reforms that may conflict with the police union’s contract, unless he has ruled on the merits of the U.S. Department of Justice’s complaint and finds that the city police did engage in a pattern of excessive force.

“It seems we have to make a judicial determination whether there is or there’s not liability,” Simon said Thursday.

He cited a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in April 2002 – which the Portland police union had raised. That ruling found the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s rights to negotiate the terms and conditions of its officers employment gave the union an interest in a consent decree between the city of Los Angeles and the federal government.

Anil S. Karia, attorney for the Portland Police Association, said the union is supportive of moving ahead to trial and would request the right to intervene as a defendant, allowing the union to defend against the federal justice complaint.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrian L. Brown, along with U.S. Department of Justice civil rights attorney Jonas Geissler who participated in Thursday’s hearing via speaker phone from Washington, D.C., said the federal government would object to the union being allowed to defend against the federal excessive force allegations against the city.

“This is not a case against individual members of the police union,” Brown said. “We’ve always seen this as a case against the city.”

Karia acknowledged in court that if the judge found that city police had engaged in excessive force, then the judge would have the power to order the city to adopt reforms, even if they conflicted with the union’s contract.

Oral arguments on whether the union will be able to defend against the excessive force complaints, and any other issues that may arise, is set for Dec. 3.

Deputy City Attorney Ellen Osoinach asked the judge not to set a trial date yet, noting that the city is currently in negotiations with the police union on a new contract that could resolve some of the areas of disagreement. She estimated that the negotiations could last, at the most, another six months.

When the judge asked the city attorney if the city would defend against the federal justice claims of excessive force at a trial, Osoinach replied, “It’s too soon to tell.”

The Portland Police Association contract expired June 30, but its provisions remain in place until a new contract is ratified, the union attorney said.

The police union has argued that changes to police policies, training and oversight underminded the collective bargaining rights of its members. In particular, the union has argued that changes to the bureau’s use of force policy, disciplinary procedures and working conditions needed to be the subject of mandatory bargaining.

Judge Simon earlier this year allowed the police union only to formally intervene in the crafting of reforms.

The federal prosecutor also cautioned against setting a trial date just yet. She said federal justice officials did not anticipate that the settlement agreement would be pending while the union and city of Portland are in contract talks.

“We continue to hold out hope that we’ll get this resolved, without trial,” Brown said after the hearing. “We understand we can’t wait forever.”

Jason Renaud, of the Mental Health Association of Portland, said Thursday he was dismayed by the time it is taking to get a settlement adopted and reforms in place. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” Renaud said.

In other developments, the city, federal officials and the Albina Ministerial Alliance were able to reach an agreement through mediation on concerns the community group had regarding the pending police reform process.

Under the agreement, the alliance’s Coalition for Justice and Police Reform will have a role in selecting the proposed “Compliance Officer Community Liaison” and members of the “Community Oversight Advisory Board,” two of the key police oversight roles under the pending settlement. It also requires the city to provide public notice in advance of all meeting times and locations of the Police Bureau’s new Training Advisory Council, the future Community Oversight Advisory Board and the existing Citizen Review Committee and Community/Police Relations Committee.

The agreement goes before Portland City Council on Wednesday.

“The collaborative agreement preserves the AMA Coalition’s role as a zealous advocate for true police reform and ensures the community that the AMA Coalition will be a continuing presence for oversight and accountability in Portland,” the coalition said in a prepared release.

–Maxine Bernstein

Update at 3:43 p.m.: Mayor Charlie Hales issued this statement:

“I am pleased the court provided such clear guidance to all parties regarding next steps in the City’s and U.S. Department of Justice’s draft Settlement Agreement. Both the Justice Department and the public are expecting us to change practices in our Police Bureau. We are doing so, and will continue to do so, because they are the right things to do. I believe that, by setting a potential trial date a year in the future, the court is expressing trust in our continued focus and action. The result will be the same whether commitments are codified in a Settlement Agreement or in City Policy: we will demonstrate continuous commitment to civil rights in the Portland Police Bureau.”

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OIR Group report says Portland police have not learned from mistakes

Posted by Jenny on 11th July 2013

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, July 10, 2013

Portland police respond to the scene of a traffic stop which left Keaton Otis dead.

Portland police respond to the scene of a traffic stop which left Keaton Otis dead.

A new outside audit of six Portland police shootings and one death in custody highlights a series of problems that continue to plague officers’ use of deadly force and the bureau’s internal reviews.

READOIR Group Report 2 – Police Shootings and In Custody Deaths – July 2013 (PDF, 17MB)

In a report released today, the California-based OIR Group found in multiple cases:

  • Police used Taser stun guns inappropriately and ineffectively.
  • Officers violated policy when chasing armed suspects or reaching into and firing at moving vehicles.
  • Training division reviews failed to compare what police did to their training.
  • Reviews by commanders and detectives included inaccurate accounts of what occurred.
  • Investigators held witnesses to shootings for an unreasonable amount of time.
  • Officers failed to preserve crime scenes by moving evidence.
  • Investigators didn’t do adequate follow-up or interviews of witnesses.

The shootings and death in custody examined by the auditors happened from 2005 through 2010. Each of the shootings followed a police foot or car chase, or standoff with a suspect in a vehicle.

They involved Marcello Vaida in October 2005; Dennis Lamar Young in January 2006; Scott Suran in August 2006; David Hughes in November 2006; Osmar Lovaina-Bermudez in August 2009; and Keaton Otis in May 2010.

Auditors also looked at the March 2006 death of Timothy Grant, who struggled with police after they received reports he was screaming and running into traffic. He died at the scene after police punched and used a Taser as they tried to get him in handcuffs. His death was ruled an accident, resulting from a cocaine overdose.

The consultants zeroed in on Lt. Jeffrey Kaer‘s 2006 fatal shooting of Young, a suspicious man sitting in a car idling outside Kaer’s sister house. Mayor Tom Potter fired Kaer for inappropriate tactics leading up to the shooting. But an arbitrator ordered Kaer back to work with a 30-day unpaid suspension instead.

The report, done at the request of City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, concluded that the Police Bureau failed to learn from its mistakes in Young’s death.

“Unfortunately, the bureau did not use this (arbitration) decision as a learning opportunity and did not consider or change any practices as a result of the arbitration decision,” the consultants said. “This report notes a number of reforms that could have come out of an exacting review and urges the Bureau to consider them now.”

For example, police never adopted any written protocols to dissuade officers from responding to a call involving a family member. The bureau kept Kaer in his lieutenant’s role while he was being investigated, and he now serves as executive officer to the assistant chief of patrol operations.

The consultants also suggested that the bureau broaden its policy that prevents officers from shooting at moving vehicles to address an officer’s approach to a parked car that could take off.

The consultants recommended that the bureau work to dispel the often-repeated refrain from officers and command staff that the actions of the suspect “dictated” an officer’s use of force.

Kaer’s commander in writing and Kaer’s union representatives at arbitration argued that the actions of “a drug-addled criminal forced him to use deadly force.” The arbitrator embraced that, finding that Young “wrote the script that led to his demise.”

The auditors found the argument objectionable and urged the bureau to ensure that officers put themselves at a tactical advantage to handle suspects with the least amount of force.

“To place the onus of any outcome on the suspect provides an excuse for the outcome and does not sufficiently credit well-trained officers and their ability to bring suspects into custody intelligently and safely,” the report said.

In response to the audit, Police Chief Mike Reese wrote that officers have the goal to control tactical scenes “to the greatest extent possible.”

“However, it is the reality of many tactical situations that a subject can influence the course and outcome of the event,” he said.

Reese thanked the consultants and said he found their 31 recommendations helpful.

Among them:

That the bureau tighten its recently revised Taser policy even further; strengthen its restrictions on foot pursuits of armed suspects and require officers to notify dispatch of their location; develop a safer method to extract an uncooperative suspect from a car; and encourage sergeants to be supervisors and not get involved in tactical situations.

Members of OIR Group will present their report to Portland’s City Council next Wednesday, July 17, at 2 p.m. in council chambers in City Hall.


Making Cop Discipline Stick

By Denis C. Theriault, Portland Mercury, July 10, 2013

Chief Mike Reese

Chief Mike Reese

The cops always find the sunny spot in an impossibly dark picture.

For the second time in two years, an outside auditor probing some of Portland’s most notorious police shootings has unearthed gaping holes in how cops are trained to avoid using deadly force and then, crucially, how their missteps are investigated and punished. Worse, it found some flaws linger despite (sadly) repeated opportunities for the Portland Police Bureau to learn from those mistakes.

Investigations take too long. It’s not clear when armed suspects can be chased—raising the odds of deadly force being used. The bureau still isn’t clear when cops can stand in front of moving cars—raising the odds of deadly force. And there’s still no policy explicitly telling officers they can be fired just for severely mucking up one critical incident.

But here’s how the bureau responded: with a smile.

“We remain committed to being transparent,” Chief Mike Reese wrote in an appendix to the findings in this year’s report, released Wednesday, July 10, by the city auditor’s office and County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review (OIR). “We agree with OIR that there always will be room for enhancements or improvements.”

And now you see—even though the bureau has demonstrably improved the way it investigates itself in recent years—why there might still be a problem. Because what Reese casts as mere “enhancements” are anything but. Especially for a police bureau working with the feds after it was found to be using excessive force against people with mental illness.

The report examined one in-custody death (Tim Grant, 2006) and six shootings (Marcello Vaida, 2005; Dennis Young, 2006; Scott Suran, 2006; David Hughes, 2006; Osmar Lovaina-Bermudez, 2009; and Keaton Otis, 2010). It found disturbing problems that could have been immediately addressed after each incident, but never were.

The report noted a series of shootings, including Vaida’s and Otis’ and Grant’s, where cops used Tasers inappropriately and didn’t even understand the basic mechanics of how the devices work. It urged the bureau to further strengthen its Taser policy, recently revised at the behest of the feds, limiting how long cops can Taser someone and when.

Most of the recommendations come from the Young shooting. Young was shot after he tried to pull Lieutenant Jeffrey Kaer into the stolen car he was driving, following a series of tactical errors by Kaer that put the cop in harm’s way and let the confrontation escalate. Kaer was fired for failing his training. But an arbitrator reduced that to a one-month suspension because bureau policies didn’t allow training lapses−or someone’s death−as a factor. They still don’t.

And the bureau has only just begun formally studying why it loses in arbitration cases.

Meanwhile, fired cops like Ron Frashour, who shot Aaron Campbell in 2010, still get their jobs back in arbitration even when training reviews say they shouldn’t.

“It’s important the bureau has standardized policies, whether it’s on Tasers or foot pursuits,” says Constantin Severe, the city’s Independent Police Review director. “And they need to train on them and hold their officers responsible. That’s where we get into trouble.”

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Steve Duin: Another rough night in Taser city

Posted by Jenny on 8th July 2013

By Steve Duin, The Oregonian, July 8, 2013
Tidiness makes me nervous.

Especially when we’re talking about a 4:15 a.m. mess involving two weary partiers, a half-dozen cops and one Taser, the unofficial mascot of the Portland Police Bureau.

Taser target

For Mshaka Messiah Mitchell — a concierge at The Casey in the Pearl — and his girlfriend, Alix, the weekend began to unravel when they were dropped off near the Lloyd Center at 3 a.m. Saturday and couldn’t scare up a cab.

They trudged across the Steel Bridge, hoping to find that cab downtown, then drifted toward the train station to avoid the homeless stragglers who took note of Alix’s heels and party dress. They were quarreling, Mitchell admits, and frustrated: “We’d just walked a mile. She was yelling on the phone and yelling at me.”

They finally collapsed on a wooden bench by the tracks at Union Station, exhausted. Unfortunately, that bench was parked in “Do Not Enter” territory. A city-contracted security guard quickly arrived, followed, Mitchell says, by six Portland cops.

The accounts of what happened next, as you might imagine, quickly diverge.

According to Sgt. Pete Simpson, the officers “saw Mitchell and a female arguing.” Granted, he was on one knee but when police tried to talk to Alix, “Mitchell interrupted them.” When two officers told him he was under arrest for criminal trespass and laid hands on him, he tried to stand up.

“Mitchell was given multiple commands to stop resisting and to relax his arms,” Simpson wrote in an email. “Mitchell refused to follow commands and was warned that if he continued to struggle he would be Tased.”

Mitchell, who is 26 and 5-foot-10, remembers things differently. He says he was 20 feet away from Alix, still trying to raise a cab on his phone, when the officers crossed the railroad tracks.

As one of the officers approached him, Mitchell says, “I put my hands up, walking toward him.” He was arrested two summers ago — and later acquitted — on charges of “interfering with a peace officer.” He knew the drill.

And the cop? “He throws me down, head first,” says Mitchell, who suffered several nasty cuts on his forehead.

“Puts his knee in my back. I said, ‘I’m not doing anything, I’m not doing anything.’ I was trying to get back on my feet. I had a few words for them. He says, ‘Stop resisting, stop resisting.’ Once he said that, all the other cops came over.”

Everyone agrees Tasing ensued. As Simpson’s email politely observes: “Taser worked.”

This might be as good a time as any to remind readers that the U.S. Department of Justice concluded, after a 14-month investigation, that Portland cops employ that Taser stun gun far too quickly in what amounts to a “pattern and practice” of excessive use of force.

Mitchell got nailed on the right side of his rib cage. You’re darn right he could feel it when he woke up the next morning at the hospital.

Moments of severe stress can wreak havoc on one’s memory. Mitchell insists police injected him with a sedative at Union Station. No, Simpson says, “medical personnel administered a sedative to him because he was being combative with the medical staff” at the Multnomah County jail.

I can’t explain the discrepancy. But consider this: Mitchell — who was arraigned Monday on charges of resisting arrest, criminal trespass, criminal mischief and that ol’ standby, messing with a “peace officer” — admits his mistakes.

He and Alix were arguing. Alix was “heavily intoxicated.” And, yes, he did “resist” once he was knocked to the ground.

Simpson and the cop, on the other hand, concede nothing. No errors. No overreactions. No second thoughts on the threat posed by a 165-pound concierge and a woman in a party dress on an otherwise deserted train platform at 4:15 a.m.

How, then, do they explain those bloody cuts on Mitchell’s forehead, cuts so severe the jail staff ordered him to the hospital?

“Self-inflicted,” Simpson says. “En route to jail, Mitchell slammed his head against the safety glass in the back seat of the police car multiple times.”

Say what? Handcuffed and freshly Tased, he still has the ability to ram his head against the “safety” glass with enough torque to need multiple stitches.

“9-10 times,” Simpson says. “Photos of the back seat of the police car as well as his injuries were taken as evidence. All consistent with the reports.”

Everything was textbook, including the trusty Taser. And, once again, I find that tidiness unnerving.

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PPB charts progress on 80 reforms sought by Justice Department, but some items notably absent

Posted by Jenny on 15th June 2013

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, June 11, 2013

The Portland Police Bureau Tuesday released a matrix showing how it is tracking the adoption of 80 reforms sought by federal justice officials after a scathing inquiry last year into police use of force against people with mental illness.

READPPB’s 80-item matrix (PDF, 104KB)

The matrix was released four days after the city and federal justice officials declared in federal court an impasse with the Portland police union over formal adoption of the changes.

Despite objections from the police union, the Police Bureau has moved ahead in recent months with changes to the use of force and Taser policies, training on those policies, the creation of a Behavioral Health Unit and advisory board and an Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team, a specialized team of about 50 officers who will become the go-to officers to respond to mental health crisis calls. The bureau also expanded its single mobile crisis unit, pairing an officer with a mental health worker, to a unit in each of its three precincts.

The bureau is in the process of training street-level supervisors on new responsibilities.

The bureau is also working with the Bureau of Emergency Communications to figure out how the new Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers should be dispatched to calls and work in the field, and how better to triage mental health-related calls.

Since the new team completed specialized training May 30, for example, dispatchers have noticed that there aren’t Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers working on all shifts.

What hasn’t occurred yet: The city’s hiring of a “Compliance Officer and Community Liaison” to oversee the reforms who has expertise in police practices, community engagement and crisis intervention. Creation of a 15-member Community Oversight Advisory Board. A new process to effectively evaluate training and bureau curriculum, a better way to track civil police liability cases and changes to the Citizen Review Committee.

What the bureau color-coded as the single red action item that is not moving forward because of what it termed “barriers to implementation that require attention” is the federal justice department’s desire for the bureau to require officers involved in shootings to be interviewed immediately by detectives, instead of allowing a 48-hour wait after an incident.

In the new use of force policy Chief Mike Reese adopted, there was no mention of such a requirement. Instead, the chief sought to have officers involved in shootings provide an “on-scene interview” to a detective, after given a reasonable chance to confer with a lawyer or union representative. It would be a briefing on what occurred, but a full sit-down interview could still be delayed for 48 hours, under union contract.

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