Four claim Portland police use ‘dirty tactics’

from The Oregonian

Rights cases – Plaintiffs’ attorneys want independent investigations

Four men who say Portland police ran roughshod over their constitutional rights are taking their cases to court.

At a news conference Monday, their attorneys called for independent investigators to review complaints against police, and for the mayor and chief to curb what they called officers’ “dirty tactics.” Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

The names of the defendants and their cases filed in state court are:

Frank Waterhouse is suing for unlawful seizure with excessive force, alleging that police fired a Taser and bean bag rounds at him May 27, 2006, because he was videotaping their search of a friend’s property in the 5800 block of Northeast Portland Highway.

Police officers followed a police dog onto the property during a search for a fleeing suspect. After the dog keyed on a car, officers broke out a window. Waterhouse was standing on a dirt embankment at the edge of the property videotaping the search. At one point, he yelled to his friend, “Yes, I got it all on film. They had no right to come on this property.” He says in the suit that police immediately came after him, yelling at him to put the camera down. Waterhouse said seconds later he was shot with a bean bag gun and a Taser and fell to the ground.

Officers wrote in their reports that Waterhouse ran off, they chased and then bean-bagged and Tasered him. One officer wrote, “He had refused to drop the camera which could be used as a weapon.”

Waterhouse was arrested, accused of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. A jury acquitted him of all charges.

Ryan Dunn is suing for unlawful seizure, saying he was singled out at a public demonstration after criticizing the police for interfering with the Oct. 5, 2006, demonstration.

He says officers went through the crowd, seized Dunn on the sidewalk, shoved him up against the wall of a building, grabbed him by his hair and beard and dragged him through the police line into custody. He was charged with interfering with police and disorderly conduct. A jury acquitted him.

Gregory Benton is suing for unlawful search and seizure, saying police forced him out of his apartment at gunpoint in the middle of the night, and searched his home without probable cause on Sept. 18, 2006. Police, responding to an anonymous call of a shooting, tried to search his apartment. Benton refused to allow the police in without a warrant, but said he eventually capitulated to escalating threats from the police. When he came out of his apartment he was faced with nine police officers with guns drawn. He said officers then went through his apartment, looking in drawers and cupboards. Benton was not charged with a crime.

Richard Prentice is filing a tort claim notice with the city, saying he plans to sue for false arrest and violation of his right to freedom of speech. On June 14, Prentice was posting fliers critical of the officers involved in the death of James P. Chasse Jr., a 42-year-old man who suffered from schizophrenia.

When Prentice began to tape to the federal court house a flier that accused the police of murder, an officer told him to take it down. Prentice says he agreed to take it down, but told the officer that he’d just put it up somewhere else. He claims the officer forced him to the ground, arrested him and took him to a holding cell, where he was confronted with two of the officers involved in the Chasse death.

Three of the four men are represented by the Portland law firm Haile-Greenwald. Burton is represented by attorney Ashlee Albies.

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