02-19-2017  8:05 pm      •     

Do you know what rights you have? Ron Williams' strategy will target those on the receiving end of police use of force, as well as the elected leaders in charge of setting bureau policy. Instead of relying on the police to change tactics, he wants to help empower people to know their constitutional rights.
Oregon Action will be holding the first constitutional rights training session for community members on Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 700 N. Killingsworth St. For more information call 503-282-6588. Similar trainings are held by other rights groups throughout the year, most notably by Portland Copwatch, which just finished a series of three classes held in November.
Williams wants people – especially young people – to know that they have inherent rights when being stopped, questioned and searched by police. The event will contain education about what you can and cannot do during a police interaction, role-playing scenarios and how to report complaints or commendations after the incident. While Williams wants to educate people about their rights, he also wants to make sure interactions with police are less hostile. He says he hears too many stories about youth who end up in the criminal justice system when they react badly to an officer's request after a simple "community policing" interaction.
"Kids don't have the same maturity to sort things out while it's happening," he said. "But the kid knows intrinsically that something's wrong."
Another issue for Williams is the use of "consent" searches – a random search that is conducted when the officer does not have probable cause and the citizen agrees to it – thereby waiving a citizen's Fourth Amendment rights. By definition, if an officer asks to search, they do not have enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. Many studies have indicated that citizens do not realize they have a choice to say no.
"If you haven't done anything wrong, you should say, 'No officer, I don't want you to search our bags,'" Williams said.
Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch, says knowing your constitutional rights are key, but that change from the officer's perspective is desperately needed. He believes many officers treat people with suspicion and rudeness if they exert their right not to be searched or give their name when they are not considered suspects of a crime.
"By educating the public, we can help foment that institutional change," he said.
The other part of Oregon Action's strategy is to meet with city officials. There have already been preliminary talks with Dan Saltzman's office. Saltzman will be the new police commissioner under the Sam Adams mayoral administration. Incoming commissioner Amanda Fritz made a commitment to meet with the Oregon Action campaign, although Williams said he is still unsure about how the new administration will treat the issue of racial profiling.

In 2004, 13 percent of those stopped were Black; in 2007, that number increased to 14 percent. Total stops also increased for Latinos by one percentage point, and "unknown" race stops increased from 4 percent of stops to 10. Stops of Whites decreased from 71 to 63 percent over that same period. Searches are more common – 8 percent of Blacks stopped are searched; only 4 percent of Whites stopped are searched. It is unknown if police are searching based on a consent or probable cause. Blacks are less likely to be found with "illegal items" during searches – only 29 percent compared with 33 percent of Whites. (Images from the 2007 Portland Police Traffic Stop Data, released in July 2008).




The numbers that show the most disparity are the pedestrian and bicycle stops. Nearly 24 percent of all pedestrian/bicycle stops are that of African Americans. African Americans are also more likely to be searched when stopped – 36 percent of African Americans stopped were searched; 28 percent Whites were searched. Illegal items were found almost 50 percent of the time for both groups.


The Skanner.com, December 3, 2008.

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All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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