After a string of deadly police encounters – most involving a person with mental illness, and most with an utter lack of consequence for the officers involved – many Portlanders have become wary of police.
At a rally tomorrow in downtown Portland, residents will tell the City of Portland and the Police Bureau they want a police force they can trust.
The Rally for Justice and Police Accountability, sponsored by the Albina Ministerial Alliance, will be held Saturday, Sept. 25, at 11 a.m. in Pioneer Square. The event was organized in the wake of multiple excessive-force incidents.
There was Aaron Campbell, who was suicidal when concerned relatives called 9-1-1. Police shot the unarmed man in the back, killing him.
There was Keaton Otis, who died after a traffic stop that ended with police shooting at him 32 times. His parents said Otis had schizoaffective disorder.
There was James Chasse, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although he was not committing any crime, police chased him, beat him, loaded him into a police car and took him into custody, where he died of his injuries.
There were others, including Deontae Keller, Richard “Dickie” Dow, Jose Meija Poot, Kendra James, James Jahar Perez and more.
Portland Police officers who use excessive force, however, act with seeming impunity, with tacit acceptance leading to further incidents. In a shocking example last November, one of the officers involved in Chasse’s death, Chris Humphreys, beanbagged and Tasered a 12-year-old girl.
The lack of accountability has become so glaring that Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese admit it must change. On Sept. 15, they took a rare step forward, saying they would follow the recommendations of the Use of Force Review Board in the Aaron Campbell case.
The recommendations include firing Officer Ronald Frashour, who fatally shot Campbell on Jan. 29.
Disciplinary action will not, however, extend to Chris Humphreys. His use of force on the 12-year-old was “consistent” with policy, the police chief said.
The Portland Police Association cried foul at the thought that any officer would face consequences.
“This decision by Chief Reese and Mayor Adams sets a dangerous precedent,” they said in a statement. “What cannot happen is for Portland police officers to face termination and substantial discipline for doing their jobs correctly. If that occurs… public safety is deeply compromised.”
But Reese heralded the actions as a sign of accountability and a demonstration of commitment to “learning from tragic incidents such as [the Campbell shooting].”
Should we take Reese at his word, relax and welcome a new era of police accountability?
Not according to Portland attorney Chris O’Connor, a board member of the Mental Health Association of Portland and a scheduled speaker at the rally.
The proposed discipline, he says, is “certainly a milestone,” but it’s not enough. “It doesn’t change the lack of civilian oversight, doesn’t address the legislative changes needed on use of force issues, and doesn’t stop the same use of force decisions from being made in the future.”
“The city is able to maintain the status quo and wait out the community outrage after a shooting or use of force incident by engaging in a long, secret process of investigation and delay,” O’Connor said.
“By the time a decision is made, the public isn’t paying attention,” he said. “For example, Officer Humphreys was just cleared in a disciplinary process related to the use of a shotgun fired beanbag against a twelve year old girl. There was little attention or focus paid to that outcome despite the community outrage when the incident originally happened.”
That’s why the rally is still needed, says O’Connor.
“The rally will help re-focus the community on needed reforms and let the police chief, the mayor and the legislature know that changes need to happen in order to have a police oversight process that the community can trust and rely on.”
Join the rally:
Saturday, September 25