A few bad apples

Road rage, guns and shootings—a number of questionable actions have been carried out recently by certain members of the Portland Police Bureau. As a result, protestors and police haters have been quite outspoken about their disdain for the PPB.

Road rage, guns and shootings—a number of questionable actions have been carried out recently by certain members of the Portland Police Bureau. As a result, protestors and police haters have been quite outspoken about their disdain for the PPB.

This has created an alarming “us vs. them” mentality among some Portland residents. They are seeing the police as an enemy force. The overly sensationalized local media has also fueled this fire with their slanted coverage.

According to The Oregonian, Portland Police Sergeant Scott Westerman was involved in two road rage incidents that randomly happened to be with the same woman on Jan. 29 and 30. Westerman got out of his car and yelled at the woman about her high beams, which she states were not on. The second incident was similar, but she was the passenger. He allegedly flashed his badge and made threatening remarks.

The Oregonian also reported Portland Police Sergeant Kyle Nice was involved in a recent road rage incident on April 3 when he was off duty and drew his gun, yelled expletives and flipped another motorist off. Neither officer was formally charged or disciplined, but anger management and desk jobs have been mentioned as alternatives.

These incidents, on top of the two recent officer involved shootings of Aaron Campbell and Jack Collins, have brought the PPB’s image to an all-time low.

People haven’t forgotten the James Chasse incident, either. It seems our police have some issues with mental illness, how to deal with perpetrators who have mental issues and how to deal with officers who obviously have anger issues. This is not a simple matter with simple answers.

The Jack Collins case would not have been nearly as controversial if it had not been in the wake of the Aaron Campbell case. The bottom line is: When a police officer tells you to put your hands up and drop whatever you are holding, you should do it.

It is a valid point to want some action to be taken to make sure the officers who act wrongly are disciplined, but believing all officers are represented by the ones who committed questionable acts is unfair stereotyping. Ironically, this kind of stereotyping against the police is precisely what some protestors are criticizing the police for.

Portland police officers have an extremely challenging job. They have to make split-second decisions that could potentially involve the risk of death. Yes, they are trained to handle these situations, but they are only human. Almost all of them usually do their job by keeping the peace and apprehending criminals.

Unfortunately, some people the police come in contact with are vulnerable. Many of the most vulnerable people are also the most violent. It is a tough call to make. Hindsight may prove some calls to be questionable.

The media does not tell us about the peacekeeping incidents or the arresting of people who should be arrested. They only want to cover the juicy stuff such as shootings and road rage. The road rage incidents and the officer-involved shootings are unrelated except for the timing and extensive media coverage. This gives a slanted view of the PPB.

Portland has an independent police review board and they are working to change it to be more effective in conducting investigations on officers. Protestors and local media want to create this divide between the public and the police. However, generalizing police into an enemy force that is against the private citizens of Portland is delusional. There are over 1,000 members of the PPB, and it’s important to remember that the highly publicized actions of just a few of them don’t represent the majority.

The two road rage incidents showed officers acting completely out of line and those officers should be punished—for this unacceptable behavior—and not just given desk jobs and anger management. This sends the public the message that officers are not held accountable for their actions as harshly as citizens are. Punishing them would be a step to reclaiming some public respect and sympathy.

People who hate the police are generally doing something illegal. To the rest of us, the police are there to keep us safe. Of course ordinary concerned citizens should question when the police shoot someone, or commit immature acts of road rage and receive merely a hand slap.

Does the PPB have an image problem right now? Absolutely, but many hard working officers are still doing their best to keep the public safe. Hundreds of them were not just involved in road rage incidents or shootings. Are all Portland police officers angry and corrupt? Absolutely not. If all 1,000-plus of them were behaving like Sgt. Nice and Sgt. Westerman, we would have a catastrophe on our hands.