RECALL PAPERS FILED AGAINST MAYOR VERA KATZ FOR POLICE VIOLENCE
Three Portland activists filed a prospective recall petition against Portland Mayor Vera Katz on Tuesday, May 27, 2003, charging that the mayor's defense of a pattern of police violence and killings is malfeasance that endangers the citizens of Portland and wastes tax dollars due to the resulting multi-million-dollar lawsuits.
Three Portland activists filed a prospective recall petition against Portland
Mayor Vera Katz on Tuesday, May 27, 2003, charging that the mayor's defense of
a pattern of police violence and killings is malfeasance that endangers the
citizens of Portland and wastes tax dollars due to the resulting multi-
million-dollar lawsuits. Additionally, they charge that police harassment of
activists and African-Americans endangers all citizens by diverting resources
from legitimate law-enforcement duties as neighborhood crime is increasing.
"From the incident in which the police incited a riot at a peaceful rock-band
show at the X-Ray Cafe in 1992 through the May 5, 2003, police killing of
Kendra James, the history of the Portland police under Mayor Vera Katz has
been one of violence and wasted tax dollars," says committee petitioner Marvin
Moore of North Portland. "In spite of numerous citizen complaints and
lawsuits, the mayor has failed to make the police leadership rein in cops who
get out of bounds. We are sickened to see the thousands of innocent citizens
who have been hurt by the abuse of police violence.
"On May Day 2000, Kroeker ordered the police to bash peaceful marchers. After
police officers shot and killed Byron Hammick and Jose Mejia, Kroeker had the
audacity to award them medals. The cops pepper-sprayed babies at the
2002 Bush protest. When Bush invaded Iraq, the cops aggressively pepper-
sprayed not only peaceful marchers but bystanders and a television reporter.
At May Day 2003, the cops manhandled nonresisting bicyclists and bloodied one
face in order to give ordinary frivolous traffic citations. And now they've
executed Kendra James on the spot for a petty crime.
"One killing should have been enough to force Katz to fire Kroeker and the top
commanders and to establish a professional community policing department based
on a civilian model. For Katz to tolerate subsequent violence and killings is
the worst kind of malfeasance," said Moore.
Police Chief Kroeker is appointed by the mayor and there's no procedure by
which citizens can recall a police chief. "The only choice is to recall the
mayor who refuses to make structural changes in the police department to break
the cycle of violence," said Moore. "The police department has seized power
and has become a law unto itself. Mayor Katz is a puppet of Kroeker and the
police union with her callous and codependent attitude that even bad-apple
cops can do no wrong. The root of the problem is that the paramilitaristic
structure of the department breeds violence. The citizens of this city deserve
community policing based on a civilian model, policing that protects the
citizens rather than harasses them. Portland is fortunate to have many good
cops. What we need is good leadership."
Moore, a local freelance editor, church organist, and longtime volunteer usher
for numerous performing-arts groups, is joined in the prospective recall by
Joseph Anzivino, an artist and also a volunteer usher, and Michael Frick, a
cartoonist. The Recall Vera Katz Committee would be required to collect 29,788
signatures in 90 days in order to get the recall question on the ballot in a
In accordance with state election law, the committee wrote a statement of
reasons for demanding the recall, not to exceed 200 words: "Recall Mayor Vera
Katz for the malfeasance of wasting tax dollars due to lawsuits against the
city resulting from her refusal to control the police department; the
malfeasance of victimizing citizens by encouraging a climate of police
violence, including the police execution of Kendra James; the malfeasance of
refusing to fire Chief Kroeker after not just one killing but subsequent ones;
the malfeasance of endangering citizens by diverting police resources from
legitimate law-enforcement to harassment when crime in neighborhoods is
increasing; the malfeasance of increasing disrespect for the police by
defending their violent attacks on peaceful activists and their daily
harassment of African-Americans in North and Northeast Portland; the
malfeasance of wasting tax dollars on violent police overkill to bash peaceful
marchers at May Day 2000, awarding medals to the cops who killed Byron Hammick
and Jose Mejia, pepper-spraying babies at the 2002 Bush protest, harassing and
pepper-spraying bystanders and reporters plus church people and peace
activists whose only ethical First Amendment choice was to oppose Bush's
immoral and illegal attack on Iraq; and the malfeasance of refusing to listen
to citizens and to replace corrupt police leadership with professional
community policing on a civilian model."
Historically, some recall attempts have become a negative battle of
conflicting personalities. Moore hopes to avoid that. "We want to keep the
focus on the need for positive structural change in the mayor's police
department," he said.
The desire to avoid having the city be subjected to a counterproductive
mudslinging recall campaign is what prompted the committee to file their
prospective recall petition first in order to head off the threat of a
different recall proposal by a group calling itself the Better Portland
Alliance. Moore has also filed a complaint with the Elections Division
charging that the BPA political committee was not properly formed under state
law. Moore characterized the BPA as "a bunch of simplistic, malcontented,
complaining right-wingers who think that the mayor is an anti-business leftist
and that everything wrong with the city is the fault of skateboarders,
bicyclists, mass transit, and citizens who believe that George Bush and the
Portland police should obey the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill.'" Even in
the wake of the Kendra James killing, the BPA has been claiming that the
police aren't aggressive enough. "That's obnoxious and offensive," said Moore.
In response to reports of the BPA recall proposal, Katz stated that "elected
officials should only be recalled for malfeasance," not for differences of
opinion over policy issues. On that point she's right, Moore concurs, quickly
adding, "But refusing to stop the pattern of cops murdering citizens is indeed
the worst kind of malfeasance."
In a report issued May 9, the City Club of Portland criticized the mayor for
failure to have a commitment to community policing and the vision to promote
it. "A serious problem in leadership exists at several levels," the report
says. The recall committee applauds the report but says it doesn't go far
enough. "Rather than paying lip service to community policing and rather than
whitewashing over the paramilitaristic and macho police culture that breeds
violence, our city officials need to start from scratch to create an entirely
new policing structure based on a civilian model." Last week, the Albina
Ministerial Alliance called for the firing of the officer who shot Kendra
James. Again, the committee applauds their efforts but insists that
fundamental structural change is needed and that this doesn't seem likely to
happen under Katz.
If accused of being "radical," Moore responds, "The word 'radical' simply
means getting to the root of a problem and eliminating its cause."
Moore and his supporters make it clear that they're not against the police per
se. "There are many dedicated, sincere, and professional police officers who
want to do a good job, and all they need is the proper leadership. Neither
Kroeker nor the mayor provides it. The police leadership is like an alcoholic
relationship," he says. "It's broken, and it can't be fixed, but the
codependent mayor continues to enable it. The responsible taxpaying consumer
of government services knows when it's time to throw out the old broken model
and get a new one."
VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED!
There has been substantial interest in this recall, but many more volunteers will be needed if we are to make a serious effort to gather signatures in order to keep media attention focused on the issues of police violence and the need for reform in the police department. An organizational meeting for activists interested in working on the recall effort will be announced soon on the www.portland.indymedia.org Web site. Monday, June 2 is the most likely date. A couple of close-in meeting places have been offered to us, but booking details haven't yet been confirmed. The Oregonian, The Portland Tribune, two television stations, and two radio news stations covered the filing and are interested in following the issue.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT
Recall Vera Katz Committee
P.O. Box 1851, Portland, Oregon 97207
voice mail: 503-972-8177
Web site coming soon: www.recallverakatz.com
address: P.O. Box 1851, Portland, Oregon 97207
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