The City that Works
The tragic beating death of James Chasse at the hands of Portland Police was frightening. The MAX train security video that showed a Portland officer shooting a bean bag gun at point blank range into a 12-year-old girl's leg was disturbing – in part because the shooter was one of the same officers who helped beat Chasse to death.
But the Portland Police Union protest against City Hall Tuesday morning was an outrage. More than 500 police officers marched in a call of no confidence against Chief Rosie Sizer as well as City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the police commissioner. The police officers wore blue t-shirts in support of rogue cop Chris Humphreys, and carried signs that read "Safety, not politics!"
Afterward Portland city commissioners Nick Fish and Saltzman issued statements about the situation that were so wishy-washy that it's hard to say what exactly was the point of making a statement at all.
Chief Sizer this week backed down from her statement that the video of the 12-year-old's shooting was "troubling." Apparently this whole police union backlash was triggered simply because she called for an investigation of the girl's shooting.
To that we can only ask: Where's the accountability? Are the Portland police so vulnerable that no person of power ever dare say a single word against them? Even in the case of a child being shot?
Then who IS allowed to question the mistakes and motivations of these city employees? Do they answer to no one?
The city at this time needs to take back some of the bargaining powers that they gave away to the union in the past. They work for us – we don't work for them. Becoming a police officer is a choice. So if they don't want to follow the leadership the city offers, they should seek employment elsewhere.
They are city employees, first and foremost.
It may come as a surprise to Commissioners Saltzman and Fish, and Chief Sizer, and police union's leadership – but tens of thousands of law-abiding Portlanders fear for their safety any time they see an officer. Particularly Portlanders who are African American and Latino, and, increasingly, anyone struggling with a mental illness.
We are reminded of an incident several years ago when a Black man in a convenience store on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard wrestled an armed man to the ground – only to be shot in the back by the first police officer to arrive on the scene. There's also the case of the elderly minister delivering Meals on Wheels to shut-ins who was pulled over, dragged out of her van and arrested for refusing to show a police officer her drivers' license.
Portland police have used their Tasers on an autistic youth, an elementary school student, even a woman in the throes of a diabetic seizure.
Of course it's easy to look back on the long history of excessive violence used against everyday citizens by Portland police officers who lose control.
Police are in the bullying business – that's why they need the controls imposed by leadership, both civilian and within the ranks.
Today we are demanding that Portland's leaders exercise the rights that the citizens of Portland have given you by making everyone accountable. Everyone. No exceptions.