Former Multnomah County Sheriff Bob Skipper and at least one acting Lieutenant's (or their attorney) refer to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office as a "Paramilitary organization" in a whistle blowing lawsuit.
Brett Elliot, a Multnomah County Sheriff Office (MCSO) Lieutenant filed a whistle-blowing lawsuit, published by the Oregonian on Oregonlive ( http://media.oregonlive.com/portland_impact/other/BrettElliottcomplaint.pdf ) in which it quotes Sheriff Bob Skipper condemning then-Capitan Elliot by saying, "I am disappointed at your general lack of loyalty which is a necessity in a paramilitary organization."
Later, in the text of the complaint on page 24, Elliot's law suit states, "In a paramilitary organization such treatment by command staff toward subordinate staff is improper and likely leads to serious compromise of the safety of those officers who realize command staff has no concern for their well-being." It is unclear whether this sentence was written by Brett Elliot or his attorney, though one would hope that Brett Elliot at least read the complaint before turning it into the courts, and Elliot did not object to the term.
These statements show that both sides within this lawsuit perceive the MSCO as a "paramilitary organization."
If one even does a cursory search of the internet you would find a number of policing groups purposefully distancing themselves from the term "paramilitary" specifically because of the civil rights concerns associated, and further, the number of rights-advocacy groups critical of law enforcement becoming too "paramilitary." It's simply outrageous that this term is so easily adopted within Law Enforcement in our community.
"Paramilitary" is a term to describe a variety of armed-units that serve alongside regular formal military units. In terms of policing and "paramilitary" one would historically reference a Gendarmerie - a specific type of military unit that is assigned to police duties as a part of a counter-insurgency strategy. Historically, these units are deployed to carry out extrajudicial enforcement, including torture, beatings, raids, and illegal searches - they explicitly do not engage in regular policing work like traffic duty or domestic calls. Paramilitary units do not exercise the patience or diplomacy we would expect from a Law Enforcement agency acting to "Protect" or "Serve."
"Paramilitary" has been recently used by Randy Balko and others to refer to SWAT teams, narcotics teams, and other highly militarized units: this term is applied by Balko to be critical of their heavy-handed tactics - certainly not as a point of pride. Balko does not intend that the entire police force is a "paramilitary organization", only specific tactics and teams within a policing organization, like SWAT teams or no-knock drug raids.
"Paramilitary" explicitly rejects the laws governing civilians and law enforcement, as they consider themselves "attached to" or "apart of" the Military. While it is true that certain members of a police organization, like SWAT teams, can be assisted by Military units (this practice has been around since 1988), it is illegal in this country for military units to take command of police forces. Is this how members of the MCSO perceive themselves as an organization: to be under the command of the military, and not just working with them in special circumstances?
This mindset shows that at least some members of the MCSO consider themselves 1) at war, 2) as a part of an organization not involved in regular police work, 3) in a position where they feel that regular laws governing police work do not apply to them. That, and, some members of the MSCO have simply adopted a chest-thumbing, dick-stroking egoistical mindset of being able to dress in black and point guns at civilians without accountability. Well, the MSCO SWAT team actually dresses in Green, but the point still stands. "Paramilitary" is the express abandonment of all public accountability, as evident when Bob Skipper references the "Loyalty" necessary to maintain it.
Multnomah County elected officials should immediately require a turn-over of all documents related to "paramilitary" within the MSCO, and immediately terminate any officers or officials who have demonstrably adopted this mindset. Until then, all citizens living within the jurisdiction of the MSCO should be fully aware that they are living in an area where officers consider themselves at war, aligned with the military units, and above all else, invulnerable to accountability and laws.