One would be hard-pressed to find themselves out of the loop when it comes to the affairs of the Portland Police these days. It seems I can’t go one day without seeing a story in the paper or on the news about how some police officer abused his power.
One would be hard-pressed to find themselves out of the loop when it comes to the affairs of the Portland Police these days. It seems I can’t go one day without seeing a story in the paper or on the news about how some police officer abused his power. What I find most problematic, however, is that no one seems to be doing anything about it.
Allow me to outline some of the items on the laundry list of recent offenses.
In November, Officer Christopher Humphreys was involved in a questionable altercation with a 12-year-old girl, in which he shot her point-blank in the leg with a beanbag gun. I personally defended Humphrey’s actions in this case, but many disagreed.
Last month, Officer Jason Walters shot a homeless man four times, who was reportedly brandishing a razor, which resulted in his death. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury, several of whom hugged him after the hearing, according to The Oregonian. His actions may have been justified, but lethal force should be the last line of defense, not the first.
Just in the last few weeks, three—count ’em, three—different officers have been accused of abusing their power whilst off duty. Sergeant Kyle Nice was involved in a road rage incident where he allegedly pulled a gun on another motorist, says an independent witness. Shockingly, the deputy called to the scene felt that Nice was justified in drawing his gun—even though the same independent witness felt that Sgt. Nice was the party escalating the situation, according to an article in The Oregonian.
Portland Police Union boss Scott Westerman is currently under investigation for two separate road rage incidents, during one of which he flashed his badge while off-duty, as if that acted as an excuse.
Earlier this month, Officer Ryan Porath was arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.19, according to an article by the Willamette Week. Porath was quoted as saying “I’m one of you guys,” to the officer during his arrest.
I could go on, but I probably don’t have enough space for it all.
It may behoove me to mention, however, that both Officers Humphreys and Nice were involved in the questionable death of James Chasse back in 2006. Both officers were given an 80-hour suspension without pay for not calling the mentally unstable Chasse an ambulance, but were subsequently allowed back on the force with no further disciplinary or preventative measures.
This effectively means, and has been shown over and over again, that the officers of the PPB who wrongly use deadly force and abuse their power as officers of the law and keepers of the peace may continue to do so, for they face only the feeble threat of a couple weeks of desk duty or even the dreaded paid vacation.
This pattern of misbehavior, and the city’s allowance of it, leads one to question the effectiveness of internal police oversight. When the same officers are making headlines over and over again, these questions are bound to arise.
Why have these officers been allowed to keep their jobs? Where is the accountability?
It would seem that the PPB is afraid to admit that their officers are capable of wrongdoing, that they are angels above reproach. Even if they do slip up, they are subjected to a slap on the wrist, but then allowed to come back to work without having to address the possible cause of all these slip-ups—slip-ups that may lead to the death of another human being.
Admitting the failure of one officer does not mean admitting the failure of the entire bureau, but when an officer allows a fellow officer to get away with something, everyone is culpable.
So I implore you, Portland Police Bureau, do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to make yourselves accountable for your actions. Do not be afraid to punish those officers who continually abuse their power with reckless abandon. Do not be afraid to release those officers you find to be a threat. Stop protecting those who would abuse their authority, they are a blight upon your entire institution.
The first step to recovery, my dear officers of the law, is admitting you have a problem. Then, and only then, may you work towards solving that problem and gaining the trust of the people you are supposed to be protecting.
There is such a thing as a bad cop. Do not be afraid to acknowledge it.