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

Monday, April 12, 2004
      ( 9:28 AM )
Out of Hand

You may or may not know that we had another police killing here in Portland two weeks ago. I blogged about it when it happened. Once again, it was an unarmed black person who had been pulled over for a minor traffic violation. This time, the shooting happened in less than 30 seconds after the cops pulled the victim over. There will now be a public inquest into James Perez's death, which basically has no ultimate power to do anything, but after the last police shooting, less than a year ago, which investigation was shrouded in secrecy, there was little the authorities could do but sanction the public inquest.

It's an infuriating situation, but some groups and people are taking things into their own hands. I strongly disagree with the tactics being taken, especially by Rose City Copwatch. I understand that they are trying to take radical steps to provoke change in the system, but what they are doing is not going to accomplish that. Today as I walked to the bus, I passed at least 4 of their new posters, stapled to the lamp posts along my street. I don't necessarily disagree with what the posters, say, but the problem is that they are basically "Wanted" posters with the pictures of the white cops who did the two shootings. It's a terrible precedent. I don't like it for two main reasons:

1. While keeping the cops accountable is one thing, but putting their pictures on the posters is like advertising for retaliation. Vigilante justice doesn't solve anything. The main problem with Portland cops right now is that they aren't trained in anything except using their guns and tazers. They go through no conflict resolution training, they seem to have no training in de-escalation tactics for tense situations, and it appears that more often than not, they just pull their guns and start shooting. Add to this the fact that there aren't enough cops anyway and you get a very bad "us against them" mentality that is a recipe for nothing but bad. There is no excuse for the shooting of these unarmed people, there were many ways the situations could have been de-escalated, especially considering that what started the situations were minor traffic violations. But the fact that they occurred in my community, which is the poor, "diverse" part of town, the fact that blacks and latinos feel (justifiably so) targeted by cops, and the fact that indeed, crime really HAS gone up recently (as is usual in bad economies and when all the gang members put in jail ten years ago are all getting out on parole at the same time), all add together to make the whole thing a tinder box. Encouraging vigilante justice or even intimating that these cops are "fair game" does absolutely NOTHING to solve the problem and just creates more opportunity for crime, and ultimately, for death.

2. These posters are racist. Not because they have pictures of white cops. But because they are purposely put up in black neighborhoods. Assuming that the people of my community would respond to such things is on its face, racist. Trying to incite anger and even crime by targeting the very people who are already under suspicion by the establishment and feeling the weight of injustice and discrimination is despicable to me.

These posters do nothing but spiral down the situation. It gets harder and harder for people in the community who want to create an environment for change by both changing the system AND empowering the people who are victims of it to have any voice when the unthinking actions of people who put up posters like this are becoming so prominent.

There is no easy solution. Rose City Copwatch, you're not making it any better. Shame on you.

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