...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Monday, April 26, 2004
      ( 11:15 AM )
The Geriatric Police Beat(ing)

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, the Portland Police are once again defending themselves in an incident where two white cops pulled over a black motorist for a minor traffic violation and the motorist (unarmed) ended up dead. In the most recent incident, the cops shot James Perez dead within 30 seconds of pulling him over. A grand jury failed to get an indictment of the copy who shot Mr. Perez, so the city is going forward with a public inquest (which won't solve anything or bring any justice, but will at least allow the story to be told publicly instead of remain secret).

But this week, the Portland Police Department's inability to train its officers to deal with any sort of conflict situation with anything other than overt violence really brought shame on them. The department had to settle a lawsuit for $145,000 (should have been more, in my book) brought by Ms. Eunice Crowder. Ms. Crowder is a 71-year old blind woman who was beaten, pepper sprayed, tazered and thrown in jail by the cops last year.

Eunice Crowder, you see, didn't follow orders. Eunice
was uncooperative. Worried a city employee was hauling
away a family heirloom, a 90-year-old red toy wagon,
she had the nerve to feel her way toward the trailer
in which her yard debris was being tossed.

Enter the police. Eunice, who is hard of hearing,
ignored the calls of Officers Robert Miller and Eric
Zajac to leave the trailer. When she tried, unsuccessfully,
to bite the hands that were laid on her, she was
knocked to the ground.

When she kicked out at the cops, she was pepper-
sprayed in the face with such force that her prosthetic
marble eye was dislodged. As she lay on her stomach,
she was Tased four times with Zajac's electric stun gun.

And when Nellie Scott, Eunice's 94-year-old mother,
tried to rinse out her daughter's eye with water from
a two-quart Tupperware bowl, what does Miller do?
According to Ernie Warren Jr., Eunice's lawyer, the cop
pushed Nellie up against a fence and accused her of
planning to use the water as a weapon.

So, not content to bully young black men and women, the Portland police seem to feel that even little old blind women are deserving of a smack-down. The police seem to feel that everyone is blaming them lately - they ask constantly for understanding and support because their jobs are so terribly difficult. In the words of the head of the police union:

"What sets us apart from people like most of you is that
you'll never face a situation in your job where -- in less than
10 seconds -- the routine can turn to truly life-threatening,"
King wrote. "When that happens to us, when we have to
make that ultimate split-second decision, we don't just ask
for your understanding, we ask for your support."

Well, I guess Ms. Crowder is lucky they didn't use their normal split-second choice, which seems to be pulling out their guns and shooting. The training of this police force is woeful - the fact that they are trained only in aggressive, offensive skills - such as shooting people - and have no training in conflict resolution, de-escalation of tense situations, or even proper use of non-lethal tactics, leads me to believe that the incidents of unarmed citizens being abused or even killed by the police will only increase.

Don't ask us to support you when you can't see any choices beyond shooting your weapons at traffic stops or beating up old blind women. Don't ask us to support a police department that is more intent on defending itself and preserving the status quo than it is focused on systemic change and investing in community relations. Don't ask us to support you when you consider us, the citizens, your enemies. And don't expect me to raise my son believing that the cops are "peacekeepers" and "protectors." Shame on you, Portland Police. Shame.

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