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Copwatch Letter to Chief O'Dea, Assistant Chief Crebs and Sgt. Simpson

On February 20, several members of our organization met with you to discuss issues of police policies. We sent a follow up letter on March 12 and have not received an answer yet. Moreover, we sent you a second letter dated May 19 outlining some serious concerns about police response to the annual May Day demonstration. We have not received a response to that letter either.
[A Letter to the Chief]

July 16, 2015

Chief O'Dea, Assistant Chief Crebs and Sgt. Simpson

On February 20, several members of our organization met with you to discuss issues of police policies. We sent a follow up letter on March 12 and have not received an answer yet. Moreover, we sent you a second letter dated May 19 outlining some serious concerns about police response to the annual May Day demonstration. We have not received a response to that letter either.

Although some of your predecessors similarly chose to ignore our organization's questions and suggestions, Chief Foxworth was kind enough to reply to questions we sent him in 2005:
< http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/fromfoxworth0605.html>.

We understand that you are busy managing an organization with 1000+ employees. We understand that needing to respond to a rising number officer-involved shootings has been a distraction from your day to day work. But we also hope, given the importance of community outreach in the context of the DOJ settlement Agreement, and given your many interactions with members of Portland Copwatch through the Community/Police Relations Committee over the years, you will take the important step of responding. Portland Copwatch is the longest continually operating police accountability-focused group in Portland and one of the oldest in the country.

FEBRUARY MEETING

Below is the list of questions we sent to you and, where appropriate, we have included the answers we have surmised based on observations, since we have not heard from your office.

Our full letter is posted at
< http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/copwatch_to_odea_0315.html>.

1. Crowd Control / Weapons

--Will the Bureau stop using euphemisms and start calling weapons what they are?

A: Apparently not as we continue to hear the term "tools" used to describe guns, Tasers, batons, and pepper spray.

--Will the Crowd Control Directive be rewritten to cover use of force, including bicycles?

A: The Directive, according to information published on the Bureau's website, is still undergoing review despite having been considered in September with input from the Citizen Review Committee and City Council in January. We note here that in June, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan commented on a settlement made for protestors who were subjected to various misconduct by Washington, DC police years ago at a World Bank protest. The settlement "effectively prohibits the 'trap and detain' kettling tactic and use of police lines to encircle demonstrations; prohibits mass sweeping arrests of protestors by emphasizing the requirement of individualized probable cause before arrests at free speech activities; and in circumstances where there is a lawful basis for a dispersal order, requires fair notice and warning to demonstrators as well as opportunity to comply with police orders to disperse, to be given three times at least two minutes apart and with avenues of exit announced through effective sound amplification" (Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, June 23). We look forward to similar rules being instituted here.

2. Use of Force

Question:
--Does the Chief support the comment made by Training Division Captain Brian Parman at a CRC Work Group meeting on February 24 that while Use of Force is down, the Bureau is trying to "move the needle even lower"?

A: We think we've heard such a sentiment expressed again since February. However, we would like to see this concept stated clearly in writing, especially since the Bureau is now at 5 shootings just 6.5 months into the year.

3. Police Treatment of Homeless Persons

Question:
--Will the Bureau consider a training session/memorandum that is shared with the downtown private security that emphasizes not violating homeless people's rights, rather than taking action that could be subject to complaints?

A: We assume that no such training has been delivered, since the sweeps that took place to clear the City in time for the Rose Festival resulted in relocations of homeless individuals, seizure of their belongings, and separation from their companion animals.

4. Joint Terrorism Task Force

Question: Will the Bureau release basic information due to Portland taxpayers about who is doing what to so-called safeguard the community, even in the broadest terms, despite the lack of a mandate for an annual report?

A: We have heard nothing since the Bureau resumed cooperation with the JTTF again in late March (the Council approved the FBI's Memorandum of Understanding on February 25). We have learned, however, by doing simple research on the Bureau's website, that the Lieutenant in charge of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, and thus the JTTF, is Jami Resch (#37142). We find it ridiculous that we have to poke around to get this information, especially given Portland and the Bureau's claims of open and transparent government.

5. Body Cameras

Question:
--Is the Bureau seriously asking the community for feedback on whether to have cameras and how to regulate them, or only asking for input on the Bureau's concerns regarding who can access the footage?

A: The Bureau commendably opened up the issue of body cameras to the public; however, with little to no context, many of the comments were along the lines of "Yes, we should have them!" PCW continues to have concerns about the cameras and is working on suggested additional policies to go beyond those passed by the legislature in HB 2571.

6. Gender Parity

Question:
--Will the Bureau begin a gender parity training to supplement the institutional racism training already underway?

A: Not known. The latest statistics show that only about 15 percent of the Bureau's 1000 officers are female.

7. Whistleblowers / Police Review Board

Question:
--Will the Bureau find a way to make the Police Review Board more transparent, including but not limited to allowing the community member who is harmed to attend hearings?

A: Apparently not... yet.


MAY DAY

Below are some of the concerns we raised about May Day.

The full letter we sent you, along with still images, can be found at:
< http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/mayday2015.html>.

We raised concerns about:

--Use of pepper spray both against individuals and indiscriminately on crowds;

--Use of batons;

--Use of at least one flash-bang grenade;

--Use of multiple "bang" exploding shotgun rounds.

We asked you why officers:

--confronted protestors at the Burnside Bridge, resulting in a standoff that included the use of weapons and blocked traffic;

--drove the sound truck into a position where it had to be extracted (at SW 6th by the courthouse), again prompting the use of force;

--chose to get on vehicles to retreat rather than walking away at SW 5th/6th and Yamhill, which led once more to the use of force; and

--showed up to this event without visible nametags.

We look forward to your timely reply.

--Dan Handelman, Regina Hannon and other members of
Portland Copwatch

Portland Copwatch
(a project of Peace and Justice Works)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (office)
(503) 321-5120 (incident report line)
 copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org
 http://www.portlandcopwatch.org