Portland Lawfare Beat March 28

The Madness of Crowds

The new regime in Washington DC has sent Department of Justice lawyers to join the battle against the Portland Police Bureau:

Growing tension between Portland city officials and Department of Justice lawyers erupted during a public meeting Tuesday night, exposing a rift between the two agencies which could land the city back in federal court sooner than expected.

Department of Justice lawyers charged with overseeing the 2014 settlement agreement on how the Portland Police Bureau uses force and conducts officer oversight said the city has failed to explain how it plans to handle protests and use of force investigations in the future.

“We have asked for a plan of remediation and the city has not agreed to provide one,” assistant U.S. attorney Jared Hager said at a Tuesday evening meeting of the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing. “If we don’t get a plan, and the noncompliance persists, then the only thing we can do is issue a notice under the enforcement provisions of the settlement agreement and try to get an action plan that we feel is sufficient that way.”

Hager said it would be unfortunate to have to go that route.

DOJ lawyers are citing a 2014 settlement with the city requiring strict standards for police interactions with people demonstrating signs of “actual or perceived mental illness.” Rather comically they’re using that settlement now to sanction police for their engagement with anarchist and BLM rioters. Gee, you’re not suggesting police are dealing with crazies, are you?

The PPB was set to be relieved of federal oversight after seven years of annual review this year when, at the height of the campaign against police, the DOJ, citing the riots, declared the PPB out of compliance:

One year ago, city leaders and Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officials had cause for celebration: After six years of working to meet the law enforcement reforms mandated in a settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the city had received notice from the feds that it had finally met all 190 of the agreement’s requirements.

The detailed 2014 agreement came after a DOJ investigation found that PPB officers were using excessive force against people with mental illness. The agreed-upon reforms included creating a streamlined police accountability system, training officers to use less physical force, and requiring detailed reports from officers after they use force.

After receiving the DOJ’s stamp of approval in January 2020, all the city had left to do before being released from the onerous settlement was to remain “in compliance”—or, continue to operate under the new policies and practices—for one year.

And then the rest of 2020 happened.

On Wednesday, city officials learned that the combination of massive protests, COVID-19 restrictions, and budget cuts effectively pushed the city out of compliance with the DOJ’s legal agreement. In a 73-page report explaining the decision, the DOJ writes that, despite 2020’s unforeseen pressures, Portland and its police are not excused from upholding its obligations in the 2014 agreement.

The 2014 settlement stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by Eric Holder’s DOJ that was all but invited by Portland’s own city government, in league with the same activist community now leading police abolition efforts.

Adding to the acid trip irony of federal lawyers citing a settlement on police engagement with the mentally ill to sanction their response to protesters seeking insane goals is that one of the abolitionists’ themes from the start has been a gaslighting campaign launched on the mental health of individual cops. Explicit calls to this appeared in the rioters’ graffiti from the start amidst the standard and ubiquitous calls for their murder and humiliation.

Pasted on the Mark O Hatfield Federal Courthouse July 2 2020

One of abolitionists’ goals is to eliminate all police interaction with the mentally ill, eventually sending the activist groups’ own social workers. Their Portland Street Response team was launched early this year after much delay.

In January an ad hoc protest formed around police downtown who were trying to corral a mentally ill man who’d leapt from a second story window to wave a knife at people on the street before holding it to his throat and threatening to kill himself:

Police say that a protest formed around a man holding a knife in downtown Portland.

Friday afternoon police were called out on a welfare check outside an apartment building on Southwest 4th Avenue.

Authorities were told that a man had jumped from a second story window and allegedly pulled out a knife, waving it around a people and cars going by.

Police say the 30 year old man showed them the knife, held it to his neck and said he would kill himself if they came any closer.

Police say that a crisis team officer began speaking to the man in crisis, while other officers tried to clear the area.

The officers learned that the man “was schizophrenic and extremely paranoid.”

Police continue that “he not only threatened to kill himself, he said he would hurt others as well.”

According to Police, say the negotiation last about an hour and half before two different crowds of protestors began showing up.

Police say “ Some in the crowd began chanting, and one even started using a bullhorn.”

Police continue that the noise made it difficult for officers to speak to the man.

 The man’s mother arrived and begged the crowd to stop, however most in the crowd continued, police said.

The group had been nearby blockading a bookstore for selling, online, a copy of Andy Ngo’s expose of antifa, Unmasked, and rallied in quick response after the call went out on social media.

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The Easy Way or the Hardesty Way

City commissioner and police abolitionist leader Jo Ann Hardesty was forced to apologize last July after claiming police agents provocateur were starting the fires at anarchist riots

‘I want people to know that I do not believe there’s any protesters in Portland that are setting fires, that are creating crisis,’ Hardesty said on Wednesday during an online Emergency National Briefing hosted by the Western States Center.

‘I absolutely believe it’s police action, and they’re sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so they justify their inhumane treatment of people who are standing up for their rights.

Hardesty doubled down on her stance in a new interview with Marie Claire. 

‘I believe Portland Police [Bureau] is lying about the damage—or starting the fires themselves—so that they have justification for attacking community members.’

Hardesty oversees the city’s fire department. She very nearly gained the police department portfolio when self-described antifa candidate Sarah Iannarone narrowly lost her bid to unseat Mayor Ted Wheeler last November. She suffered no repercussions for her charge and local media lost interest immediately. In early March Hardesty was accused of hit-and-run in a minor traffic accident, and her enemies gleefully released the story to media:

On Wednesday, Portland City Councilor Jo Ann Hardesty was reportedly involved in a hit-and-run accident. According to Incident Report #2021-57962, police responded to a complaint in which a teacher reported that Hardesty had rear-ended her vehicle earlier in the evening before driving away. The news was broken first by the Coalition to Save Portland. According to law enforcement sources, the suspect may have been looking at her phone at the time of the accident.

By the end of the day police announced she was not a suspect. Her media allies took up the story gleefully and the police union chief resigned. There are now four separate investigations into the matter:

On March 5, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called for an investigation into the leak of an incident report that incorrectly implicated Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in a hit-and-run fender bender.

Why stop at one investigation? The city now has four.

On March 19, the mayor’s office announced the hiring of an outside firm to review how Hardesty’s name moved from an incident report into right-wing media.

There’s plenty to investigate. On March 3, a Portland woman called 911 and claimed Hardesty had rear-ended her car on East Burnside and fled the scene. The next morning, a right-wing political action committee, the Coalition to Save Portland, published details from the report, and The Oregonian picked up the story. Police later learned by reviewing TriMet security footage that the suspect was in fact a Vancouver woman, whom the 911 caller apparently mistook for Hardesty. By then, attention had shifted to who leaked the false claim against Hardesty, a longtime police critic and the first Black woman on the Portland City Council.

A surprise announcement added another wrinkle: On March 16, the Portland Police Association announced the abrupt resignation of president Brian Hunzeker for a “serious, isolated mistake related to the Police Bureau’s investigation into the alleged hit-and-run by Commissioner Hardesty.” What exactly Hunzeker did remains unclear. A Police Bureau spokesman says Hunzeker has been reassigned to the patrol unit in the North Precinct.

Here is an overview of the investigations:

1. Portland Police Bureau, Internal Affairs: On March 5, Deputy Chief Chris Davis initiated an internal affairs investigation into the leak. The bureau declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

2. Bureau of Emergency Communications: BOEC, which fields 911 calls, initiated an investigation shortly after it learned of the incident, said spokesman Dan Douthit. He declined to share the date that the investigation began or provide any additional details. “It is ongoing,” Douthit said. “As soon as there is something to share, we want to make sure to get it out there.”

3. Outside Review of the Leak: On March 17, the city inked a $50,000 contract with California-based OIR Group to investigate the “unauthorized and inappropriate release of information.” In other words, OIR will scrutinize the leak itself. The firm has previously investigated officer-involved shootings in Portland.

4. Broader Cultural Review: On March 11, Hardesty called for an investigation into “the role of white supremacy and connections to far-right media and organizations within the Portland Police Bureau.” She and Wheeler are still ironing out details of this investigation. Their offices said in a joint statement March 19 that the scope of the investigation would include political and racial bias and “resistance to change” within the Police Bureau.

The mayor’s office says the first three investigations are seeking accountability for the leak itself. The fourth, broader investigation has loftier goals.

The pattern of leveraging any such advantage into a wholesale attack on a hated institutions is common practice, and works through media complicity in an environment where opposition to progressive power is all but impossible.

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