by Vargus Pike
The Portland Police Bureau’s press release in response to accusations of police brutality on May Day is a masterful piece of propaganda. Its author knew full well that the local news and radio stations would parrot the high points of the press release that cast the police as shining examples of truth, fairness and justice.
Fully aware that the thirty-second sound bite theater of the modern day news broadcast leaves no room for critical thinking, one can only surmise that the police feel smug, safe and secure in their arrogance. Sheer arrogance is what the press release is truly made of. When one strips it naked with a critical eye, the primary truth that emerges is that the police have no respect for the public they are sworn to serve, that they hold in contempt the laws they are sworn to uphold and that their audacity and belief that they are untouchable knows no bounds.
Time for a breakdown.
Paragraph one is hyperbole at it’s finest.
The Portland Police Bureau takes any allegations of excessive force very seriously. Officers are required to write reports after any use of force. All use of force actions are then reviewed to determine if they were within Police Bureau policy. If there is a policy violation, officers may face discipline up to and including termination from employment.
Time and time again officers who have used even deadly force are exonerated by internal affairs and grand juries because it is assumed their reports are truthful. Even when eyewitness accounts contradict sworn police statements, such as in the case of James Chasse, police are given the benefit of the doubt. Patterns of excessive use of force do not seem to matter. When Chris Humphreys, one of the principal officers involved in Mr Chasse death, shoots a twelve year old girl with a beanbag shotgun at point blank range he is punished by being put on leave with pay. When Officer Frashour is fired for shooting an unarmed Aaron Campbell in the back, the police union’s insistence on binding arbitration results in his reinstatement. (Grudging credit to Mayor Adams for fighting that reinstatement). Requiring reports, but not requiring factual reports, and hollow threats of punishment render this paragraph a travesty of truth and reveals their contempt for the legal process to which they hold so many others.
Paragraph two illustrates the black and white thinking of police.
The events of May Day included a permitted march and many unpermitted marches. The arrests and vandalism that occurred on May Day involved people who were for the most part, not associated with the permitted march. The Police Bureau wants to thank the organizers of the permitted May Day event who coordinated the route with police. This allows for police to close the roads, ensuring the participants can safely march in the streets while also providing minimal disruptions to commuters.
The implied message here is that people who conform to what the police want are deserving of respect and protection, while those who do not conform deserve what ever they get. There were three major unpermitted marches on May 1st. One was by high school students who broke the law and marched for several miles through the streets of Portland escorted by police and yet unmolested by them. It was a peaceful march and there were no arrests. The second and third unpermitted marches were by Occupiers who broke the same law as the students, and who were marching peacefully until the police decided to intervene and begin beating and arresting numerous individuals. This unequal application of the law is troubling at best and unconstitutional at worst.
When police make the decision about how people deserve to be treated, and when they break a law, they exceed their mandate and stray into the realm of the judicial branch. They exhibit an arrogance unbecoming to a servant of the people and of the constitution of the United States. They become the very thing they appear to despise. They become lawbreakers who violate the rights of those they serve.
Paragraph three is pure double-speak worthy of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
May Day, as with all other Portland demonstrations, was widely filmed by media and members of the community. Portland Police officers are well aware of the continuous filming and as an organization, the Portland Police Bureau welcomes the filming as a way to further increase transparency. As with any video, however, it must be shown in full context and not edited to remove relevant footage.
The police have no respect for the media or for citizens who independently film them, knowing full well that when the raw truth of video is shown they do not appear in a favorable light. Citizens filming police actions in this country and in Portland have been harassed and arrested. They have had their cameras destroyed and cell phones confiscated and erased of content. As for the statement that video released by the public should be unedited and in its entirety–the videos the police released of the manhandling and arrest that put Justin James Bridges into a wheelchair on November 13th had been edited prior to release. Just one more example of police double standards and hypocrisy.
Paragraph four is probably so short because the propagandist who wrote it was laughing too hard to write any more.
Complaints about officer conduct should be directed to the Office of Independent Police Review (IPR) for investigation. Visit www.portlandonline.com/auditor/ipr or call (503) 823-0146 for further information on how to file a complaint.
An article in the metro section of the Oregonian the day of the press release recounts how a request for a review made by the Independent Police Review (IPR) was refused by Portland Police Bureau’s office of internal affairs. The request was for an officer on scene during an alleged incident of police brutality to be interviewed regarding what had happened. Contrary to the opening statement of the press release, Internal Affairs took the allegation so seriously that they declined to interview the officer and gather the facts. The Oregonian article went on the state that this is not the first time a request by the IPR for more information has been refused by the police force. Clearly the IPR is a paper tiger and so it is no wonder the police are eager for citizens to refer complaints to them. Yet another sign of the contempt the police have for the people that they are sworn to serve and protect.
When there is no respect for citizens, when there is no accountability for one’s actions, when laws are enforced with an arbitrary double standards is it no wonder that people exercising their constitutional right to protest are beaten like dogs in the streets.