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Kendra James...shall her killer now receive an apology for his deed?

About redeeming the reputation of a flawed civil servant in which the O's high profile conservative advocate exercises his muscle to mend a cracked pot. Why it should be tossed into the dustbin.
Scott McCollister took a life. After Kendra James moved from the back seat to the driver's seat of a car stopped one early morning and proceeded to put the car in motion, Scott McCollister inserted himself partway into the car in an effort to remove her from it, unsuccessfully as it turns out, until after he shot her in the back with the bullet exiting her body from her right breast.

In the face of considerable pressure from vocal members of the public, the city and the bureau paid lip service by suspending McCollister for five and a half months without pay for "unsatisfactory performance", only to later have the state arbitrator order the city to pay his back wages and expunge his record. Quite a turn-a-round.

To what may we account for this? Can the City and the PPB's understanding and perception of the Policy and Procedure Manual, and the incident involving Kendra James and McCollister have been so vague as to allow them to concede to the case of injustice pled to them by an outraged public? Or, was this a known and deliberate error in regards to understanding and perception of manual and incident, reflecting misgivings about procedures that the manual directs officers to use when they are obliged to take citizens into custody?

Questions about who our society is comprised of, what their problems are, and how to address them are ongoing and of critical importance. Maintaining law and order and exercising humanity towards those subject to it is a challenge that does not seem to have been thorougly thought out here in Portland.

I've taken the facts about McCollister's suspension directly from the O's associate editor David Reinhard's column in the 1/26/06 edition. Reinhard, the O's unwavering conservative pointman naturally would like McCollister's deed to be burnished to heroic status.

In adddition to the return of back pay and record expungement, Reinhard would have McCollister's critics; "former Mayor Katz, the black community and 2003's instant experts...follow up the arbitrator's decision with an apology to Scott McCollister". He adds that perhaps any silence reflecting a failure to do this may be an acknowledgement of shame regarding their criticism of McCollister's actions.

I thank Mr. Reinhard for illuminating the possibility that shame might be an explanation for apologies that will likely never come to McCollister from his critics. I would wager to guess though, that the reason apologies will not be forthcoming has nothing to do with shame but rather the fact that both PPB Policy and Procedure Manual and McCollister were wrong. Of the two, the manual was more wrong, because it actually specified the policy directing McCollister to use lethal force in lieu of a strategy that might have saved a life.

McCollister was wrong because he escalated a chain of events that required he fire his weapon into Kendra James back in order to terminate that chain of events and her life.

They had all the usual hearings and recreations of the incident, but the examinations and coverage of them were inherently confined to what I expect was a very small number of serious observers. Yes, the timeline around the actual shooting was very brief and did not allow for advance thinking and pre-planning. Of course, none of us were there. Maybe, if I'd had opportunity to more closely study a second by second account of the timeline, I'd have a better feeling about the idea that McCollister's actions were justified. Maybe not.

About the Manual and McCollister though, this much seems to be true: The Manual allows for ready use of lethal force against an unco-operative person judged violent with very little consideration for extenuating factors.

Drug influenced behavior and unexpected but recognizable episodes of mental disorder have proven to be death sentences for people in the Portland area because the Manual and the implementation of its directives by some Portland Police officers do not prescribe consideration for the presence of those conditions.

According to the manual, McCollister's prime directive was to arrest an unco-operative person using any means neccessary, including the use of lethal force, period. What if the fundamental priority of that directive leading to a person's arrest, had been to preserve the person's life to the extent that it could be done so without undue risk to the officer and others? The incident might have ended differently with no deaths on that night.

McCollister initially felt confident enough about his ability to remove Kendra James from the car, that he put one foot inside of it, if I remember correctly. But was he pulling on her with both hands? At some time in the shooting timeline, obviously no, because he had his weapon in his hand to shoot her with. By this time, the car was starting to move slowly with him half outside the car. I can't remember reading at what point exactly he had his weapon out. My guess is, he had the weapon out as he approached, knowing he had that readily available option. He knew, according to training and the Manual, that his priority was to arrest, irrespective of the life that might be lost.

Had he initially grabbed her with both hands he probably could have pulled her out of the car. Instead, it sounds like she was able to lean forward and to the right, trying to escape his grasp as the car started to slowly move forward, exposing her back to him into which he fired the fatal bullet. He did this because it was the most expedient way to carry out the PPB Policy and Procedure directives regarding an arrest. Though he is obliged to carry out the directives of the Manual, he is entitled to do so using his own discretion. The manner in which he did aptly reveals the nature of his regard for fellow human beings.

As they choose, the City and PPB can waffle on the morality of PPB member's application of the PPB manual's directives. They can sneak a sigh of relief when the state arbitrator lets McCollister off scot free from a life staining incident involving a star-crossed victim. The O can fill up space with the indulgences of its cavalier conservative point-man. For myself, I think I just may reserve any forthcoming apologies for an individual eventually coming along who really deserves it. McCollister is not that individual.

All of this is why I'm hoping to soon see somebody actively take steps to review, intimately familiarize the public with the manual that directs its officers in the way they confront the public, and re-write the manual. I hope soon to know more about how the directives of the manual are written and approved for use.
Great Article st! 27.Jan.2006 06:11

Madam Hatter

As always, well done st.

I appreciate that you and others here (LN, RT, Cat, many others) take the time to write well thought-out, literate articles like this. Don't get me wrong, quick posts are appropriate and necessary too, but these kinds of pieces really highlight the talents of Indy Media contributors and lend credibility to the forum. When the MSM constantly monitors Indy sites like they've been doing here, we must be making them a tad bit uncomfortable.

Re: that hack Reinhard's column:

First, I do have to give him some credit. This is one of his few articles that he must have had to write all on his own, without the benefit of cutting and pasting a bunch of Repug talking points, and slapping them together into an incomprehensible rehash of neo-conservative rhetoric. (Check out the "Down with Reinhard!" blog here:  http://antireinhard.blogspot.com/ for some hilariously ruthless disections of Reinhard's "art".)

But I have a question about his reference to the Oregon Dept of Public Safety Standards and Training that he cites as the ruling authority the arbitrator used to base his decisions upon.

I know very little about this, so maybe am not understanding it correctly. Is this different than the PPB's Policy and Procedure manual? It appears to be - one's from the state, the other from the city. I don't think I've heard anything about the state dept's cop rules before, at least not in connection with any of the shootings that have occurred in the last couple years. I could be wrong though.

Whose policies take precedence? Reinhard says the state's rules see extricating suspects from vehicles as "an essential job task" for officers. Why then, did PPD change their policy re: this after Kendra James?

He goes on by saying the arbitrator explains in his conclusion: "There can be no doubt... that a vehicle driven by James... was a threat to the safety of the public...(I)f (McCollister) had stood aside and allowed her to go, and she had run a red light or a stop sign and caused an accident... the city could have been subject to grave liability and (McCollister) could have faced justifiable discipline."

(BTW, all those ellipses up there are Reinhard's, not mine. Don't you just love Dave's abuse of the ellipse as his own personal censoring tool. Don't know if he did it in this instance or not cuz I haven't seen the original full quote yet, but he's a master at chopping up a quote this way, mangling and manipulating it to suit his needs.)

Again, if this were true, why did the PPD also recently change their policy on this too?

I really find that heavily edited statement above odd in many respects. First, I highly doubt the PPD or any cop in this state would suffer grave liability for anything they do. Get real. History doesn't lie.

Second, they're certainly free to pursue high speed chases through traffic and on neighborhood streets without the fear of liability. Why's this different?

Third, "There can be no doubt..."?? Really? NO doubt at all? It was a virtual certainty, huh? Gosh it must be nice to be so self-assured and right all the time. Especially when someone's (Kendra's) life is at stake.

I'm wondering if the appearance of the OR Dept of Pub Safety Stds and Trng at this late date, was used to absolve the Portland cop who just shot that guy in his car a few weeks ago. I know there was some speculation about whether or not he followed PPD's new policies re: engaging suspects in cars and not firing at or into a car if they're able to get out of its way (he plainly didn't). Maybe, they dragged this new authority out to justify his actions too?

Just wonderin out loud... Can anyone clarify for me?

I'll apologize 27.Jan.2006 09:25

Lew Nassa

When that murdering slug is removed from any armed position, publicly castrated, and he can take Reinhart with him to whatever hell is reserved for gutless, murdering slimeballs. Maybe Bergin and Willard can join them there, and have a great ol time figuring out who gets to do what, to whom.

it probably works this way 27.Jan.2006 15:32

st

MH...I'm afraid, at least presently, I can't answer a lot of your questions about chain of authority and changes in policy and procedure directives subsequent to the shooting of Kendra Jackson. As to the arbitrator's intervention, I expect that occurred because McCollister mostly likely challenged the city and bureau's decision to suspend him, under pressure from the public and in their ignorance of the implications of directives in the PPB manual.

I logged onto oregon.gov and searched various departments a bit, but didn't find what I needed in the time I have available. I'm interested in how the PPB assembles its Policy and Procedure manual but I can't exactly say how it's done at this point. If you download it from the bureau page on the city's website, (and everyone with any interest in how the police are directed to deal with the public should have a copy to study and read), you'll get some insight into the process.

My guess, is that the PPB (that's right, not PPD)Portland Police Bureau has considerable autonomy, the chief being top authority in that unit, but whatever they devise in the way of directives to be entered into the manual for use by officers on the force probably has to cut muster with City Hll and The Department of Safety Standards and Training. Check out the introductory page of the manual and you'll note Chief Foxworth's comments about directive's he introduces to the manual mid-year. In other words, he issues the directives, but undoubtedly, he drafts them with the aid of a team of law enforcement specialists, lawyers, and so forth.

The autonomy that police departments hold has always been a fascinating thing. They have traditionally had that autonomy in part because when officers go out in the field, like it or not, their ass is on the line. No one wants to do that job if they feel like they aren't being offered the maximum reasonable protection given the circumstances they inevitably will face. At the same time, if they are not obliged to carry out the requirements of the job in a humane manner towards the people they confront, the beat begins to turn into brutal killing field for the people they confront.

It's a tricky balancing job to get people in the role of cops to do this, so the way I look at it, the public and mayors of cities have always kind of let the bureau have its head, hoping and praying they'd be reasonable and responsible. This actually works to a large degree, but when the public actually does have a problem with the actions of police, such as in the shootings of recent years, they and their elected representatives don't really know what to do to fix the problem because they've always allowed the bureau, and/or maybe the state department to do that work for them.

That's why I'm urging people to get that manual and check it out. It's almost funny to read it, because in the use of violent force section, there's nothing in there to direct an officer to make any consideration for a subject showing signs of a mental disturbance unless they've been told beforehand, or for someone behaving in a particularly stress characterized manner because of drug use. Unless you call that consideration to be one of take the subject down and take him down fast using whatever means neccessary with the least danger possible to the arresting officer. I believe officers are obliged to endure some danger in their jobs, but that in doing so, they should have better options and support for calls than they do now for calls involving subjects with extenuating circumstances.

There's some pretty intelligent, educated people out there. They can get that manual, write better policy than is in there now, and wave it in Mayor Potter's face until he gets the point. The mayor, his staff, and the police might have a little different outlook on a couple thousand people gathered together to present them with something like that.

Great idea! 27.Jan.2006 22:30

Madam Hatter

Wow, that's a pretty cool idea, st. Any thoughts on what else (in addition to a couple thousand people) it would take to get them to look at a citizen-revised policy manual?

Thanks for the info. I'm going to go check out the PPB's (not PPD, oops)website and download the manual.

the best ideas are humane and workable ideas 28.Jan.2006 01:28

st

MH, first give us your take on the manual in general and those areas of it relative to the use of force. It would be interesting to know whether other people out there could consider the idea of formulating potential directives for the PPB manual to be a serious one. I see doing so to be a serious undertaking, and a possible way to confront the seemingly elite policy and procedure making process. Amongst the people working on the effort, the presence of those with law and law enforcement experience would be very helpful. I've touched on all of this in comments to other articles.

A bit distantly related, but the example of the 31 year old woman lawyer working with the 14 people of Tryon Creek farm to gain sustainable agricultural trust status for that venture was inspiring. The spirit of that idea could help out in this situation.

Backing up a gentler and more humane police response to people of violent behavior suggestive of extenuating circumstances would probably require an expanded crisis intervention system. In the interest of relieving the burden of behaviour management from police, avoiding confusion of their duties, and overall economy, depending upon the degree of criminal activity characterizing a given incident, maybe volunteer crisis intervention teams local to a neighborhood could be formed to respond to calls with the police acting in standby mode. Such teams might be like rural fire departments; on call as needed, certified and insured just like bureau members.

Such an idea wouldn't neccessarily be simple, but it might be better than what exists now. Maybe such teams could even respond quicker than bureau members.

And, yeah, I said it, but I'd hold off on the couple thousand people. I don't know much about using that kind of muscle with projects like this. It would be better if it never got to that point. Maybe the ideas produced would be good enough that they actually adopted them. That would be something.

forget your silly manuals 28.Jan.2006 03:46

me

The manuals aren't worth the paper they're printed on. To paraphrase our illustrious Commander-in-Thief, they're "goddamed pieces of paper."

The powers-that-be in this country understand all too well Mao's dictum about power and what it grows out of.

Trust me, all the bloody manuals in the world wouldn't save a pig's ass if he "accidentally" offed a member of the ruling class. And conversely, all the bloody manuals in the world wouldn't cause his indictment if he offed an "NHI," in the delightful terminology of the pigs. Unless he gets just a tad too indiscreet waving around the blood and feces covered toilet plunger he just finished using on a "suspect." Then MAYBE the dept will see fit to cut him loose and let him take the fall.

What would really change this state of affairs? No combination of manuals or procedures, that's for goddamed sure. When the pigs find their backs are up against a wall and their masters aren't around to pin medals on their chests anymore, things will change real quick.

In Bolivia, the pigs became human again and fought the military in the streets until El Gringo hightailed it for Miami.

Now THAT'S change.

PPB Policy Manual 30.Jan.2006 03:46

Sixpack wabc@mutualaid.org

I have a pdf copy of that manual. I found it interesting that when people are taken into custody, it is not a requirement that the second officer who observes the strip search be of the same sex as the person in custody!
This leaves the option open for men to observe women nude, or vice versa.

Also, a must read is the directives on police informants, and the "FCR", police or "field contact report" which is a document for police to fill out "when contact is not practical or legal". I second the idea that getting a firm grasp of this manual is absolutely a must for anyone and everyone concerned with what their expectations of police encounters are.

Be prepared for some sleepless nights.
Sixpack