Dispatcher: “9-1-1. What is your emergency?”
David Kif Davis: “My Jewish ancestry has been insulted. I’ve got PTSD, and somebody called me a skinhead. I want an apology.”
Dispatcher: “9-1-1. What is your emergency?”
Charles Johnson: “I just threw a cup of water in somebody’s face at a public hearing. It’s how I express my First Amendment rights. And don’t call me a suspect or a subject. I’m a victim.”
Dispatcher: “9-1-1. What is your emergency?”
Bob West: “I’m bipolar, and I like to film the police. One of them put his hand out towards my camera. It was unprofessional. You would’ve thought I was a rapist or something. I want to file a complaint.”
Eavesdropping on the future of police reform in Portland, Ore. would be hilarious if it didn’t have the potential of becoming a reality. How is it that a handful of manipulative, aging adolescents – wielding cameras as if they were guns – think their constitutional rights should take priority?
Last year, Portland was hailed as a potential national model in how to pursue police reform. Instead, it is a national model on what happens when self-serving agitators, under the guise of “community involvement,” seize control of the agenda.
Davis, Johnson, West and their cohorts want to custom-design police reform to their own specifications. They shut down public meetings with no fear of repercussions – because they are “mentally ill.”
Too bad Stanford rapist Brock Turner didn’t blame his criminal conduct on mental illness instead of alcohol. He might have avoided a public backlash.
The bodies inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., hadn’t even been all removed when the “mental illness” excuse was offered to explain Omar Mateen’s rampage, as if it somehow would make a difference to the 49 who lay dead.
Portland’s police-reform bullies have done their best to try and destroy the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB). Board members, many of whom claim some form of mental illness or expertise with the mentally ill, were appointed by the City Council.
But there has been infighting on the board. Some board members side with the agitators.
Kathleen Saadat, 76, a long-time civil rights advocate in the black and gay communities in Portland, is resigning as chair of the board after several months of bruising public hearings. Even as her term winds down, the bullies cut her no slack at the latest meeting, striking with a well-planned attack.
Almost from the start of the meeting there was trouble. Laura Vanderlyn (whose signature shriek at many meetings has been “police murder babies!”) refused to abide by rules of the public hearing. When Saadat attempted to call Vanderlyn out of order, the hooting and hollering began as planned.
Joe Walsh, a retired union boss from Long Beach, Calif., who now rides herd at various public meetings in the Portland metro area, roared at Saadat from his front-row seat: “You’re out of order! That’s why you’re quitting, coward!”
Walsh sprawled in the middle of the floor in front of the dais playing a tape recording of his voice screaming over and over: “The COAB is for the community … the COAB is for the community … the COAB is for the community.”
Somebody in the audience shouted that Walsh “should have Kathleen Saadat’s job.” (In the photo of Walsh that ran with The Oregonian’s story, the big guy is West, a convicted rapist.)
When the meeting finally resumed, Davis took center stage. He has a shaved head and takes special glee in defying Sadaat.
In April, one day after Davis’ escalating attacks disrupted a board meeting, board member Bud Feuless had had enough. He took to Facebook and addressed the effect that Davis’ ego trip was having:
“Do you know how many citizens have complained about his filming them without permission and following around all (and only) the Black people in the room. This is not the place for childish skinheads like him and their self-serving agendas and wasting our time.”
The Facebook post enraged Davis and his friends, and Feuless took it down. At the most recent meeting, Feuless apologized to his fellow members for having created a distraction, but he would not accede to demands by Davis and his friends to apologize directly to Davis and resign.
From her seat in the audience, Vanderlyn crowed that they had kept a screenshot of Feuless’s Facebook post as if they had the goods on him.
When Saadat told Vanderlyn she was out of order and violating her agreement to behave, she was led out of the room by police.
“Good job, Bud! You got someone arrested because you can’t apologize!” yelled Davis.
“Fuck you, Kathleen Saadat!” shouted Katie Houle, an agitator who frequently brags that she works for a federal agency (Portland HUD) and thus has special knowledge about the inner workings of bureaucracy. (“I’m a victim of domestic violence, I’ve been raped by the cops and … I have a mental illness.” )
Saadat followed those outbursts with a well-intentioned, but misguided gesture.
“Mr. Davis I’m going to give you (three) minutes in case it will calm you down.”
Of course, it didn’t. Once Davis gets wound up, he doesn’t unwind. Why should he?
Eventually cops led him from the room. There would be two more breaks in the meeting, which would limp to an early adjournment without delving deeply into the actual agenda.
Much of the board’s best work in the past has simply been thinking out loud about how police do their jobs, and how they could do them better. On issues such as use of Tasers and pepper spray, the disagreements underscore how grey these areas can be. One subject the board quickly reached unanimity on was recommending an end to the 48-hour rule, allowing a waiting period before Internal Affairs can interview officers after a shooting.
At Thursday’s meeting board members’ frustration came out. They don’t get paid, they sit through disrespectful and intimidating outbursts by the same people – and for what? Are the board’s recommendations even considered? When they asked for an immediate end to the 48-hour rule, they never heard back from the city.
Representatives from the mayor’s office and the city attorney’s office explained that the rule is part of the city’s contract with police. The contract runs for another year, and the City Council cannot unilaterally change it because of the board’s recommendation.
The board was starting to coalesce and work together when the malcontents took over. Why were they allowed to take over? It’s the Portland way – like apologizing even when you’re right.
Meanwhile, Walsh, Davis, Johnson and West have been emboldened by small victories.
West filed a complaint of unprofessional conduct against an officer he was filming. The Citizen Review Committee (another police watchdog group) agreed with West that the officer should not have reached towards his camera.
In March, Johnson threw a cup of water on a member of the Citizen Review Committee during a meeting. COAB member Dr. Rochelle Silver came to his defense calling the incident “an anomaly.”
Hales attempted to bar Walsh from City Council meetings for months at a time because of his disruptive behavior. U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon ruled the restriction was unconstitutional, that the city could only remove Walsh from specific meetings when he acts out.
Consequently, the police-reform agitators frequently cite Simon’s ruling. Davis told the Citizen Review Committee on June 1 that he’s looking forward to his own court victory.
“I just filed a court claim against the city … I’ll be glad to take their money … We’re going to start suing you guys.”
Davis must have been pleased when at the same meeting of the Citizen Review Committee, COAB member Myralviani Rivier was present and offered a defense of him and the others.
Rivier urged committee members to adjust meeting rules to “take into consideration that having a conduct disorder or special defiance disorder or destructive disorder due to having a mental illness diagnosis (means) some people might run over a minute. That’s OK.”
The Community Oversight Advisory Board came into existence last year after the Portland Police Bureau was required under federal court order to change how it interacts with the mentally ill. In 2011, former Mayor Sam Adams had asked the U.S. Dept. of Justice to investigate incidents of excessive force.
In similar court orders in other cities, compliance is usually overseen by a court-appointed monitor or by the Justice Department itself. Portland wanted to do something different. The city created the oversight board made up of 15 voting community members and five non-voting police members.
The city also hired a Chicago-based team of academics with expertise in police reform to serve as compliance officer/community liaison and to file quarterly reports based on the Community Oversight Advisory Board’s recommendations. Almost immediately, there was criticism by some Portland activists towards the Chicago group because they were outsiders.
However, the Community Oversight Advisory Board was hailed as an innovative concept. Board members were praised by attorney Jonas Geissler of the U.S. Department of Justice who said they were playing a role that could change policing nationally.
But the board quickly began losing members. It was initially chaired by former Oregon Chief Justice Paul J. DeMuniz. He resigned after the first meeting.
Unfortunately, COAB was built more on words than a strong foundation. Mayor Adams, who welcomed the federal investigation, did not run for re-election.
His successor, Mayor Charlie Hales was initially enthusiastic, announcing, “The empaneling of this board is a tremendous next step in our ongoing effort in police reform.”
Now Hales is on his way out, having declined to run for re-election. His police chief, Larry O’Dea, is on administrative leave for accidentally shooting a friend in a squirrel-hunting incident and then lying about it. Still another humiliation was U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, forced out after she had an affair with a subordinate and then lied about it.
Last year, Marshall encouraged people to apply for the community board, saying it would “bring community voices to the center of the discussion. … We will be monitoring the city at every step of the way.”
She isn’t monitoring anything now.
After shutting down the latest COAB meeting, the police-reform bullies seemed please with their work. Walsh, who calls himself “Lone Vet,” in honor of his veteran’s service, groused that he couldn’t get arrested by “the coppers.”
In planning for how they would disrupt COAB meetings, Walsh urged, “If COAB fails, we must have a program ready to offer in its place.”
If COAB is suspended, maybe it’s time Portland decided to follow instead of lead. It could use a court-appointed monitor or someone with the Justice Department, like other cities have done. The monitor can decide which recommendations from COAB to incorporate in its reforms.
Not everybody is going to be happy. No “community” agrees on everything.
Without COAB, where will the police-reform bullies gather to agitate?
Not U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon’s courtroom, that’s for sure.
No matter how “mentally ill” they may be, Simon is not going to let them violate the majesty of his courtroom.