The Portland Police Bureau has been in the news recently because of a series of incidents in which officers used excessive or deadly force, most notably the incidents involving James Chasse, Jr., Aaron Campbell, and the beanbag shooting of a 12-year old girl on a TriMet platform. James Chasse, Jr. died in September 2006 after being beaten, tasered and having 26 ribs broken by police officers. A wrongful death lawsuit is currently pending. On January 29th, 2010, Aaron Campbell was killed when officers responded to a 911 call regarding Campbell who was upset over the death of his brother. Campbell was unarmed. The Campbell shooting brought national attention on the Portland Police Bureau including a rally highlighted by Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Kafoury & McDougal has a history of standing up against police brutality, false arrests, and the use of excessive force, most recently winning a judgment in September 2009 against the city of Portland on behalf of Harold Hammick, Alex Clay, and Ri’Chard Booth. The jury in that case awarded $175,000 against the City, finding that officers had abused three young African-American men who had done nothing wrong at gun-point in a parking garage. The spokesperson for the Police Department, Detective Marty Wheat, supported the officers conduct, suggesting Portlanders should be glad that no one was shot.
Historically, our city council members have feared the wrath of the police union, and so the worst officers know they can get away with anything, and the police are a law unto themselves. Yet, today, as stories of police arrogance and brutality pile up and as more white citizens feel threatened or abused, we have arrived at a moment where civilian control – for the first time in decades – seems within reach.
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