Last Friday, August 5, 2005 at about 6 PM, I witnessed a stop and pat down of a woman and her boyfriend by three PPB officers. I was in a parking lot between SW 10th and 11th on Salmon street when I noticed three officers and two police cars surrounding a young couple at the edge of the parking lot. I decided at that point to watch carefully what was taking place (and I advise others to do the same when the police are making a stop in your vicinity).
One of the officers was speaking with the couple while the other two were in the car donning blue plastic gloves. I knew that the use of the gloves was a precursor to a search. I did not see the what prompted the stop and the search but I noticed that the couple did not at all seem threatening to the police.
I then watched as the two police that were in the car get out and one of them walked over to the young woman who I estimate was about twenty five years old. She raised her arms up to her sides on command of the officer. The officer proceeded to pat her down. He felt her buttocks, he slid his hand over her frontal private parts, he put his hand in both of her front and back pockets and he slid his hand slowly down the inside of her thighs. He did not touch her breasts. He went through her pocket book. He did not find anything of interest.
After this ordeal was over, the woman collapsed on her boyfriend's shoulder bawling histerically. She was noticeably traumatized after being felt up in public by this officer.
While this was taking place, one of the officers noticed me watching the event and waived at me. I did not waive back but instead kept watching the events that took place. Apparently, the couple, with the permission of the police started to leave. I motioned them over to me and indicated to the couple that I was a lawyer and was interested in what happened to them.
At that point the cops pulled their cars up next to me and asked what I was up to. I told them that I was speaking with some people who could be my clients and "did they have a problem with that?"
The officer I spoke with then got defensive (he was the one who waived) and told me he had seen me on tv and knew about my work. I said fine and asked him what gave him the right to search a woman like that in public. He told me to read the police procedures which gave him the authority to do that. I asked for his name and the officers name who did the search.
He replied that they were both named Harris. The Harris who I spoke with was a younger fellow and the Harris who did the search was an older man who appeared to be in command at the scene.
The police left after that.
This scenario is not something new. In fact, it is a creature of a current policy to rid downtown of tweakers. The couple that was stopped fit a profile and the police go after them using any means possible at their disposal to intimidate and harrass people they believe are using illegal drugs.
I have no love of tweakers, but at the same time, I am offended at what I believe was a stepping over the line in terms of unconstitutional behavior by the police AND really offensive and disrespectful treatment of a young woman.
If anyone else has seen this pattern of behavior from the police OR has OR will take videos of similar events, I would appreciate a contact from you to the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center. We can be reached by telephone at 503-295-6400 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org