If the PPB had dealt with officer Scott McCollister as they should have, perhaps the Perez family would not be burying one of their own today. McCollister shot Kendra James, an unarmed mother of two, in cold blood and left her to die in the street. McCollister then lied to a grand jury about his role in the killing. Although the fact that she was not armed is indisputable, the officers involved were "cleared of wrongdoing" less than a year ago. McCollister was then cannonized by the police union as being a hero and/or sacrificial lamb for having to endure a few month's suspension for the killing. The corporate media, complicit as always, continued to hide his face out of "respect," even as they continued to smear Kendra James' name with allegations of drug abuse and a "who cares, she was just a black junkie" attitude.
Not long before that, officers who gunned down an unarmed Jose Mejia Poot within the halls of a mental hospital (a MENTAL HOSPITAL!) were awarded medals by the PPB. Are these isolated incidents? Or are they symptomatic of a dangerous and pervasive culture of violence that led to the death of Jahar Perez? I believe it is the latter.
Shortly after the Kendra James killing, the police union devoted an entire issue of its monthly "Rap Sheet" to circling the wagons around the killer. In an article entitled, "Responsibility for Shooting Lies with Kendra James," the author blames an unarmed, 90 lb James for provoking the fatal attack by a large and fully armed McCollister. He referred to those who protested the killing as a "vocal minority" and derided them for their refusal to just "accept any explanation that the police bureau gives them." He, like the authors of all the other articles that month, admonishes readers to place the blame onto the victim and stop picking on McCollister.
Another article in the same issue pleads for money to give to McCollister to sustain him through his suspension. Yet another calls McCollister a "scapegoat for the city" who "follows the less-traveled path, even though it may be the right one." Waxing mystical, philosophical, and maudlin, the entire collection begs one to understand that McCollister is a saint, James was not worthy to breathe the same air as he. The Police union proceeded to make something of a celebrity out of all the officers involved, particularly McCollister.
Is it possible that Officer Jason Sery, who murdered Jahar Perez, wanted in on that celebrity status? I believe so. It may not even have been a conscious decision, but surely an internal culture in which a murderer is praised, lauded, and awarded donated funds must have an effect on the psyches of other officers. Particularly an officer like Sery, who was apparently somewhat emotionally unstable to begin with. Perhaps he's waiting for the love and attention of his fellow officers. Perhaps he just wants to see his name in the next issue of the Rap Sheet.
Whatever his personal issues, it's time to finally deal with police killings in a manner more fitting to the crime. It is time to end the PPB's culture of violence and disrespect for the people of this city. It is time to brand the killers as criminals, not celebrities. It is time to place the blame for police violence where it belongs -- with the officers themselves, and not with the victims of their crimes. How long will we accept the reign of terror we struggle with under the Portland police state?