From the Oregonian – November 29, 2009 – not online elsewhere
Hundreds of Portland police, wearing T-shirts proclaiming their support for embattled Officer Chris Humphreys, marched on City Hall on Tuesday demanding to know who will support them.
The orderly sea of blue shirts, harangued by a handful of hecklers with no uniformed police presence in sight, presented a remarkable twist on downtown demonstrations, where city police are usually on the sidelines monitoring protests.The unusual assembly marked the first time the local police union has taken to the streets in such a rally in 28 years. In 1981, former union boss Stan Peters marched on City Hall with 850 people after two officers were fired for leaving dead opossums in front of a black-owned restaurant.
“I ask all of you in the community of Portland to stand with us against those who will do harm in our community,” Sgt. Scott Westerman, the union president, shouted at the City Hall entrance to applause. “Collectively, I ask, ‘Will you stand with us?’ ”
Officers repeated the chant: “Will you stand with us?”
Later, Westerman said, “Because if you do not, you have put political expediency in front of effective law enforcement.”
Hecklers at the back of the crowd tried to shout over Westerman.
“Nobody kicks a man to death on the streets of Portland and gets away with it!” yelled Jessica Bannester, standing atop a wooden box to be heard. “That’s not the point. You have to take responsibility!”
Union members accused Police Chief Rosie Sizer and Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman of political posturing by ordering Humphreys be placed on paid leave while the bureau investigates his Nov. 14 beanbag shotgun shooting of a 12-year-old girl. They were disturbed that Sizer uncharacteristically called a news conference last week to announce the investigation, had removed Humphreys’ badge and gun and put him on leave, and had called the TriMet video of the shooting “troubling.”
“Why should he be singled out without due process?” asked Ken Jones, a veteran police criminalist.
“Nobody is saying turn a blind eye and not look into things,” said Portland Officer Dave Dobler, the union’s secretary-treasurer. “But what we are saying is treat us fairly.”
Humphreys, a 10-year veteran, also faces a proposed two-week unpaid suspension stemming from his role in the September 2006 death of James P. Chasse Jr., 42, who suffered from schizophrenia and died in police custody of blunt-force trauma to his chest. Humphreys filed a claim for stress-related disability last week.
Portland police, desk and records clerks, dispatchers, and officers’ parents, spouses and children participated in Tuesday’s rally. They wore shirts that read “I Am Chris Humphreys” on the front and “Support the Police” on the back. Some held signs that read “No Leadership,” with a red line crossed through the word “Confidence,” and “Safety Not Politics.”
The union rented the Rose Garden garage and bused officers downtown. They began gathering in Lownsdale Park by 9:15 a.m. Unable to get a street permit in time, Westerman led marchers on sidewalks, taking a loop around the Justice Center and past the entrance to police headquarters before assembling outside City Hall. Officers walked quietly. They obeyed traffic signals, waiting in groups on street corners to join the crowds ahead.
The gathering held striking similarities to the march on City Hall in April 1981. Then, police held signs that read, “Justice Not Politics,” and announced their vote of no-confidence in a city commissioner who oversaw police, Charles Jordan, and Police Chief Bruce Baker. In that case, the two fired officers got their jobs back.
“You’ve showed your support for officers who have acted in good faith and have followed their training and their policies,” Westerman said Tuesday. “We stand here together because we often feel like nobody stands together with us.”
On Nov. 14, a TriMet video caught Humphreys firing one beanbag round into the thigh of a 5-foot-7, 150-pound girl after Officer Aaron Dauchy had taken her to the ground and was struggling with her on a MAX platform at Northeast 148th Avenue. Dauchy had tried to take the girl into custody on a violation of a MAX exclusion when she took a swing at him.
Last Thursday, Sizer said she was “troubled” by the video and directed internal affairs to determine whether the force used was justified and followed training. On Monday, Sizer sent an internal bureau e-mail seeking to explain her actions. She wrote that a “mature organization” must be willing to look beyond “what is just allowable by law” but consider “what are the best options when it comes to using force.”
After hearing that officers found it difficult to hear her say she was “troubled” by the video, she wrote, “For that, you have my apologies. It was clearly not my intent.”
Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard were not at work Tuesday, but all commissioners, through statements or their staff, said they supported Sizer and Saltzman.
Saltzman said he has “the utmost respect” for Portland police, and called Sizer a “great chief and civic leader.” He said he resolves “to maintain good relations, or at least frank discussions” with the police union.
State Rep. Jeff Barker, a retired Portland police lieutenant and former union president, marched, saying he was disturbed that the commissioner put Humphreys on paid leave instead of letting the chief put him on desk duty, which is typically done.
“If they did a fair process you wouldn’t see all this,” Barker said. “If the training and rules are the issue, change them, but don’t grind a cop to dust for doing what he has been told to do.”