Cops Police Their Own, Hales Hails

Photo by Chris Onstott

Photo by Chris Onstott

Article by Euripides Q. Steinfelt

In an unforeseen move, Mayor Charlie Hales, who oversees the Portland police, announced this morning that all officers will have a video camera on their persons that records their every move while in uniform. The move was inspired by Rialto, California whose 66 police all wear cameras mounted on their sunglasses to record their encounters with citizens. In 2013, one year after the Rialto police started wearing cameras complaints filed against them had dropped by 88%, while use of force by police officers fell nearly 60%.

According to Hales the cameras are just common sense. “People have a right to trust their police and to know that those police are not operating outside of the law. Taxpayers have a right to know their money is not being used to brutalize people, or even murder them. These cameras will make police more accountable to both the people of Portland and City Hall.”

When asked what would happen if the camera suddenly “malfunctioned” just as a police officer was encountering a citizen, Hales demurred, saying such judgments would need to be handled on a case by case basis. Hales was then asked what would happen if the citizen was clearly beaten or murdered. “The officer would be fired. Immediately. And charges would be brought against him. For too long the Portland police have rarely been held accountable for their actions. I mean, really, in 35 years not one Portland police officer has been disciplined after killing somebody. You can see that has to be a farce, right?”

Hales also said private security firms such as Pacific Patrol would also have to wear the cameras if they wished to continue doing business with the City. “Frankly,” said Hales, “I’m not sure why we even have private security services. What is this, a third world country? Maybe next year we can outlaw them from the City, but until then they will have to wear cameras. Again, it is the right of the citizens of our great city to know what happens in our great city.”

Commissioner Dan Saltzman appeared confused when asked about the change in policy. “I hadn’t heard about this,” he said. “Did the Portland Business Alliance happen to tell you what I’m supposed to say?”

Thanks to Hales' decision to require all police wear cameras, scenes like this one from May Day 2012 should become less common.  Photo by Pete Shaw

Thanks to Hales’ decision to require all police wear cameras, scenes like this one from May Day 2012 should become less common. Photo by Pete Shaw

At first, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner enthusiastically welcomed the news. “After all the crap our City’s finest have had to take, what with the settlement between the City and the Department of Justice, I’m glad to see some sense coming into the conversation. Sunlight, after all, is the best disinfectant. It’s like the saying goes, if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.”

Turner abruptly shifted his stance, however, once he found out the cameras were going to be used to monitor police officers instead of Portland citizens. Echoing comments he made following February’s testimony surrounding the City-DoJ settlement, Turner said, “I’m wondering why we expose ourselves to the scrutiny of those who have never walked in our shoes.”

Told of the changes while on Rocky Butte, doing research for his leadership training class, Captain Mark Kruger replied, “Was ist das?”

When Hales was asked how the new policy would impact police sweeps of encampments of people without housing, which often result in the police confiscating belongings necessary for survival including medications, sleeping bags, and clothing, Hales confusedly replied, “What sweeps? What blankets?”

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