Mountain Cops' Embarrassing Secret: Sandy’s “Bonanza Bunkhouse”
Let me tell you a story I've just heard recently about how the "wild, wild, west" brand of justice that law enforcement employ here on the mountain played out at Sandy's infamous "Bonanza Bunkhouse."
Like I imagine many were, I was understandably concerned and upset after reading of the six lawsuits filed against members of the Sandy police force and Clackamas County Sheriff's department. Even the staunchest conservative or law-and-order type should question why - especially after 20 years without - the city and county now face six legal actions alleging corruption, police brutality and other serious violations of constitutional rights.
There seem to be two arguments favored by those who unequivocally support the police. The first is an ad hominem attack on all of those who've brought the suits - and by association - anyone who has the audacity to question or challenge law enforcement or authority in general. The plaintiffs, the pro-cop lobby tells us (just as the media obligingly hints at), are all low-life, criminal scum and their advocates are money-grubbing attorneys "shopping for plaintiffs," and hysterical, ignorant cop-haters who want nothing more than lawlessness and anarchy in which to pursue their radical agenda.
While this response is not only intellectually lazy as well as pathetically transparent, it's typical and not worthy of debate. Attacking the character of people you disagree with rather than the substance or merit of their claims is fallacious, and a sure sign of a weak argument.
The other response most often given by cop cheerleaders is best illustrated by the following comment taken from those in response to the Sandy Post's recent article re: the lawsuits:
"... when some meth freak is sneaking in my back door, [the Sandy PD] is who I call to take care of the problem. Don't ever forget that folks!!!! When you call 911 they come and put their life on the line to protect you and your family."
To quote a recent post by the Portland Indy Video Collective here: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2007/04/357119.shtml
I beg to differ.
And that is the reason I'm writing this. To dispel this utopian fantasy that so many seem to labor under and/or believe they can sell to the public. Let me tell you a story I've just heard recently about how the "wild, wild, west" brand of justice that law enforcement employ here on the mountain played out at the infamous "Bonanza Bunkhouse."
The "highly trained professionals" at both the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department and the Sandy PD allowed a predatory child molester to not only reside and operate here in Sandy for more than five years, but manage a boarding house here as well.
This puke fled Kentucky with over 65 counts of child molestation hanging over his head and was on the FBI's Most Wanted list. The place he managed here in town, the "Bonanza Bunkhouse," was notorious for its problems from the day they opened the doors. Despite the fact that they had been out there (either on calls, or of their own accord) over 100 times in just ONE of the five years that this place was allowed to operate unchallenged - and had spoken to the manager on almost every one of those occasions - the cops did not recognize this very distinctive looking individual and never bothered to check him out. He didn't even change his name for God's sake!
[An atorney Googled it after his arrest here, and found articles that were several years old from Kentucky about his escape and fugitive status. Google! Sure, let's give these morons billions more for technology and communications when they can't even be bothered to do a 5 second search on the most popular search engine on the whole internet. Sign me right up.]
Not only that, but when a resident repeatedly sought help for the sexual harassment and stalking of her young teen daughter by some adult tenants and the manager there, the cops did nothing to stop, or even investigate it, citing the manager's (bogus) claims that nothing had occurred.
This family was finally forced to flee their only home (an unfurnished 12 x 12 room that rented for $400 per month - what a deal!) when the teen was physically assaulted by a 45-year-old man. Though they were called to the hospital, an official report was made, and the victim wanted to press charges, the cops made only one attempt to pick him up. When that failed because he refused to open his door (go figure!), they gave up and never tried again, even though they returned to his home - the bunkhouse - on other business almost once a week, on average. They claimed they didn't have the manpower.
A middle aged man physically assaults a 15-year-old girl to the point that she requires medical attention - after subjecting her to weeks of constant verbal and emotional harassment and abuse no less - and these dedicated protectors of the weak are going to trot out their "we're too busy" bullshit? Perhaps if they weren't out stalking young Hispanic kids with nice cars, or administering their lethal brand of medical attention on critically injured accident victims, they'd have more time to actually protect and serve.
Even when this was scheduled to go to federal court a year and a half later, the cop's suspicions were not aroused, and the manager was lined up to be the key witness for the defense. Before it went to trial though, a young boy who lived at the Bunkhouse was molested by this disgusting predator, who had the keys to everyone's rooms there. It was only when faced with the undeniable evidence of the poor kid's underwear, which was found under the manager's bed, did our cowboys bother to check this creep out.
And as is so typical, rather than criticizing or even questioning the cops' role in this abomination, our local paper praised them for bringing this dangerous felon to justice. They also did a sweet little interview with the negligent owners of the boarding house, in which they were portrayed as the hapless victims of their scandalous, unappreciative, low-life tenants, rather than the other way around. Though the lawsuit had been filed many months previously, it was never mentioned in either of these articles, or later when the Post had been notified of it in a letter to the editor - which I'm told they, unsurprisingly, declined to publish.
The family of the girl who was assaulted won their case against the owners in federal court and received a small settlement for Fair Housing violations, but the owners subsequently sold the property to a developer and made a bundle. And the sexually predatory manager sits out his remaining days in a prison somewhere in Kentucky, but the role the police played in this travesty has never been publicized or even addressed. These things happened after years of problems at the Bunkhouse, countless complaints, and literally hundreds of police calls. Yet the cops did nothing to control this nuisance residence. Not one thing. Who knows how many other children and women were molested, harassed and abused while these slumlords profited mightily and the cops sat back and let it happen?
More importantly, aren't two, too many?
No, situations like this as well as our cops' well-known but unwritten policies like "give up three, go free," which is mentioned in one of these recent lawsuits, prove that protecting the community and punishing the guilty are only platitudes. Rather than investigate and fight crime, our cops merely oversee and manage a self-sustaining circle-jerk, with the same poor, drug-addicted, or otherwise troubled characters ratting each other (or those with whom they have a beef) out, in exchange for a few months of freedom.
The cops have successfully exploited the situation, by keeping these people in circulation and at each other's throats, constantly stirring the pot to create paranoia and competition amongst these already wary and often, damaged people. It's job security at its finest for law enforcement, with a minimum of effort. Check out how many crimes the cops have actually solved themselves. Every one of the "major busts" these clowns have boasted about recently have been initiated by tips and informants. I wrote about this before, see here: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/10/347878.shtml.
Why, they couldn't even manage to track down and catch a 23-year-old burglar who recently committed over a dozen break-ins within walking distance from his home, most in the middle of the day. From the Post's deceivingly entitled article: "Sandy police say they caught prolific burglar."
"For the past two months, Sandy police officers said they had been investigating an unusually high number of residential burglaries in the area. ... Law enforcement had no leads on the burglaries until Thursday, March 28, when Keith's ex-girlfriend contacted police."
No, it's time to dispel the fallacy that we're being watched over and protected by these self-sacrificing and heroic public servants who have nothing more than a public relations problem, according to our local press. We're being spoon-fed this pro-police propaganda from not only the cops and their supporters (who, curiously, often seem to be related to them), but from our civic leaders and the press as well.
["This doesn't appear to be an unusual pattern," City Manager Scott Lazenby said. (Despite the fact that Skelton was quoted earlier in the article saying the department hadn't been sued for about 20 years!)
"Lazenby said he was familiar with the episodes related to the lawsuits and has no concerns regarding the behavior of city police officers. ... There's no substance as far as we can tell to any of them." NO concerns? Not even one niggling little doubt? If five citizens have such grave problems with a certain department of our local government that they make it all the way to court, I'd certainly hope the guy in charge would acknowledge it, if nothing else.]
If these people can't or won't tell the truth, I guess we have to. And it's about time they were all - cops, civic leaders, and media - held accountable for their words, as well as their actions; for their acts of omission, as well as commission.
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