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Is it illegal to ride in Waterfront Park after hours? — UPDATED

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Notice of Exclusion written to
Matt Cleinman for trespassing
in Waterfront Park.
Larger version (90kb jpg) –

At 4:30 am this morning, a Portland Police officer issued a Portland man a notice of exclusion and warning for trespassing because he was riding his bicycle through Waterfront Park while the park was closed.

Matt Cleinman, a 25-year old resident of Northwest Portland was biking home from work when he came upon a Portland Police Officer who he says was “rousing homeless folks” under the Burnside Bridge. Cleinman, who told us he is very concerned about “criminalizing homelessness” says he then stopped his bike to ask the officer what was going on.

“I very politely asked the officer, ‘Do you mind me asking what’s happening?’ He told me the park was closed and these people were trespassing. Then, before I could respond, he added, ‘And so are you, do you have any ID?”

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At that point, Cleinman says the officer began writing him up a warning and exclusion that says he is prohibited from entering the park for 30 days. If Cleinman disobeys the warning, he could be arrested for trespassing.

Portland City Tour ride -19
The path in Waterfront Park.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Cleinman tells us he asked the police officer if the park being closed (it is officially closed from midnight to 5:00 am) meant that the trail was also closed. “Yes” the officer told him.

Cleinman is now confused about whether or not the officer was right.

The issue comes down to whether or not Waterfront Park is considered a transportation corridor. If it is, the pathway cannot be closed and the police officer in this case is wrong. We have dealt with a similar issue on the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade. Both of those facilities are officially recognized as transportation corridors because they were paid for by federal transportation funds. As such, they must remain open 24 hours a day.

In December of 2008 City of Gresham officials decided to close the Springwater at night, but later changed their stance after the FHWA pressured them to reverse the decision. Now, the park around the pathway is closed at night, but the path itself remains legally open for transportation use. (In other words, as long as you’re actively passing through, you’re O.K., but once you start loitering, it’s trespassing.)

Cleinman plans to appeal the exclusion.

UPDATE: 1:10pm
Portland Parks PIO Beth Sorensen says Waterfront Park is not officially considered a transportation corridor. It was not funding through federal transportation funds. Therefore, the pathway technically closes to everyone between midnight at 5:00am.

Here’s full statement from Sorensen:

“You both [Sarah Mirk from the Portland Mercury and I] inquired about the rules regarding the paved path along the riverwall in Waterfront Park, specifically whether or not that path is an official transportation corridor.

The answer is no, that route was not funded with federal dollars and is not a designated transportation corridor. Therefore, the park closure hours, 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m., apply. There are viable alternatives for both cyclists and pedestrians along SW Naito Parkway, including a sidewalk and bike paths.

This is not a rule we actively enforce, unless there is an incident involved. Typically, PP&R rangers, PPB and PPI would respond to specific incidents which occur in parks, including Waterfront Park. Not knowing the specifics about this incident, I would recommend you call Mary Wheat at PPB [Portland Police Bureau].”

In the case of Matt Cleinman, his appeal will likely come down to whether or not the police officer feels Cleinman’s questioning and inquiries qualify as an “incident”.

UPDATE 2:11pm
We asked Parks PIO Sorensen about how people are supposed to access the Steel Bridge lower deck path if Waterfront Park is illegal (Sorensen has said that Parks is not “impeding anyone” by closing the trail at night because there are bike lanes and sidewalks on Naito that can be used as alternate routes).

Sorensen was interested to learn about the Steel Bridge issue and said she could do some checking to see whether or not Parks could make a specific transportation easement across the Park so people could access the lower deck of the bridge.

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Comments
  • Patty January 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Even if the trail is not considered a transportation corridor (this designation comes with federal funds for trails), it should be considered open and usable at night.

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  • Marcus Griffith January 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Anyone else trouble by the fact that numerous people bike through there at night and the police don’t care about it until someone asks about unusual police activities?

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  • chasingbackon January 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    move along, nothing to see here.

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  • hank2125 January 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    He’s lucky he didn’t get the beanbag treatment.

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  • naomi January 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    If you see a cop ticketing someone, the last thing you should do is saunter on over to them and start asking them what they’re doing and why they’re ticketing people. Avoid cops, do not approach them, let them approach you.

    And I’m going to go out on a limb here, but this story doesn’t sound quite right. The cyclist didn’t display any sort of negativity or hostility toward the cop? If the cyclist takes this route home each night after work, clearly he/she should’ve been aware that cops regularly ticket people hanging in this area almost nightly. I know because I also take this route each night around 2am.

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  • Thomas Le Ngo January 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    @chasingbackon: Or inversely from Cleinman’s perspective, “these aren’t the homeless people you’re looking for.”

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  • Thomas Le Ngo January 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    So the big question now is whether the trail construction was funded by any federal money similar to TE. TE wasn’t around until the 1990s, though. And Waterfront Park has been around since the 1970s.

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  • Dave January 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    I’d be amazed if that citation holds in court. I’d also be amazed if the waterfront path is really considered by anyone (except disgruntled officers) to be closed at any time. Do you know what the case is for the Esplanade? Seems like they’re basically considered as complimentary paths on opposite sides of the river.

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  • JE January 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Camping in the park and/or under the bridges is against the law. It is not “criminalizing homelessness” or “unusual police activities.”

    The question of whether or not it is a transportation corrider is interesting. And what about the Esplanade as well?

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  • Mark C January 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    4:30 in the morning is actually one of the best times to ride through Waterfront Park (or the Esplanade). During the day you’re guaranteed to encounter clueless pedestrians, joggers, or cyclists who think they’re the only ones using the path.

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  • Mike Quigley January 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Down in Eugene some guy was arrested and fined for plugging quarters into expired parking meters. I guess Oregon cops have nothing much to do. How about laying off about half of them? Saves money and makes for a better ratio between cops and real criminals.

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  • RyNO Dan January 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    So, was he “actively passing through”, or not ?
    I’m guessing that the judge would say that this user has stopped, and was no longer actively passing through, and thus
    exposed to tresspassing.
    But the cop should have definitely given him a chance to go on his way. As described, the cops duckish behavior is completely believable. Regards,

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  • SkidMark January 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I’m pretty sure you can appeal the exclusion, citing that you use the path for transportation to and from work.

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  • mark January 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Mr.Cleinman,
    Can you send your home address to the police so they can send the homeless to camp out in your yard. I don’t want them in my city.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) January 15, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Just published an update which you can read at the bottom of the story.

    It all comes down to how the paths were funded. If federal transportation $ is used the path cannot ever be closed to traffic.

    The Esplanade was built with federal transpo. funds and therefore must remain open.

    However Waterfront Park was not funded with federal transpo funding so it is technically closed to ALL USERS from midnight to 5am. That being said, Parks and the Police will not ticket you if you are riding through.

    However, if you stop and an officer feels the need to ticket you, they would be correct in that you are technically trespassing.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson January 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    How are you supposed to get to the lower deck of the Steel bridge if you can’t enter the park? And as far as I know that was paid for by transportation funds.

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  • Michael42 January 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    A classic example of being punished for “contempt of cop.”

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  • Jim F January 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    He got what he deserved. Leave the cops alone when they are doing their job (which involves enforcing the law, not bowing down to your liberal politics) (and I am a liberal).

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  • naomi January 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Yes, the cop was being a dick. But the cyclist was being antagonistic. Why would you stop and ask why the cop is ticketing someone else? What business is it of yours? Keep riding, avoid the hassle (and the ticket for trespassing). If you want to fight for homeless rights, there are better ways to do it.

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  • Esther January 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    thanks for your question Dan.

    re: the original “incident”: When I see what appears to be a police officer targetting an indigent, homeless, or mentally ill person, or person of color, I stop and watch. I don’t interact, don’t interfere, and I’ve fortunately never witnessed something that was outright wrong. Criminalization of homelessness (which yes, this it is; it’s cruel and unusual to wake people up at 4:30am for gods sake! That’s in the middle of the circadian trough/sleep cycle!) is unfortunately systemic, ongoing and every day. It is probably better to donate and volunteer with an agency like Nrothwest Pilot Project, Transition Projects Inc., Sisters of the Road, and Central City Concern than to try to be a western style maverick singlehandedly attempting to stop cops from rousting homeless people (who are LIVING, not just “camping.”) Whether this guy deserves a ticket for being an attempted mavericky maverick is another question, but fortunately I don’t think this problem has a long-term bearing on cycle access to the waterfront…

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  • Michael42 January 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    @Jim F

    Yeah, heaven forbid mere *subjects* dare to even address the enforcers, much less ask what’s going on.

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  • JR January 15, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I don’t like the issuing of a ticket for simply questioning the officer. I also don’t like the ability of an officer to issue a ticket for riding a bike through this or any other park. The City needs to realize that bike paths through parks are a form of transportation. I avoid biking the streets at night because of all the drunk drivers and the difficulty of being seen by drivers who are actually sober. Bike paths through parks provide a safer means for me to get home. That shouldn’t be a crime.

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  • q`Tzal January 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Waterfront Park might be officially closed from 12:00am to 5:00am but unlike Gresham trying to shut down the Springwater Corridor by closing off the East Gresham Park the Waterfront Park area can not be physically secured in its current condition. It would need to be fenced off in its entire perimeter with gates that lock at every entrance.
    So, by default, the park is open 24/7.
    Perhaps there is some legal precedent that shows that enforcing the unenforceable is prohibited or at least not advised.

    OTOH, approaching a lone police office who’s otherwise engaged it police work is ill advised. Doing so after dark on a bike, which can be nearly silent, is asking to have a gun drawn on you. If the police officer had been surprised he, or she, would have had a good reason to draw their weapon. This could have gone much worse.

    Next time, show up with more people and a camera phone that posts live to YouTube.

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  • Esther January 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Although, on the other hand- this could be a good opportunity to talk to parks & rec about officially opening transportation through parks. I can easily think of a few parks that come in handy for crossing – Columbia, Skidmore, Laurelhurst. Although, again, pragmatically, I can’t envision an uptick in pointless ticketing in the middle of the night?

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  • Dave January 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Esther: that’s a good point – I think it could be an interesting discussion to have about making paths through parks officially noted as transportation paths as well – it seems like that would be a step towards portraying cycling (and gasp! walking) as real means of transportation.

    I think Copenhagen designs “green routes” through the city that go through parks and such, and are officially listed as bikeways, simply to give people more pleasant routes to take if they decide they don’t want to ride on the on-road facilities.

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  • Ethan January 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Typical (bad apple) cop behavior. If anyone questions what you are doing, cite them.

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  • ScottG January 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Perhaps the BTA and Willamette Valley Ped Coalition would be willing to get involved in reversing the city ordinance or other rule that closes the park at night? I’m happy to lend my support to that via letter writing to the appropriate officials.

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  • red hippie January 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Interesting article that really hits on the periphery of on a couple of issues. First of all the cops have a really tough job balancing priorities here. How do we keep the water front from turning into a permanent homeless camp? The cops have to go in an clean it out periodically and use the trespass ordinance. I suspect the cyclist (or any other) would not of had a problem as long as he did not make it blatant that he was there. Riding through there every morning, I know the cops don’t routinely clean people out. So this really comes down to a quality of life issue, so in this case I commend the cops and if I’m riding through, I’ll just keep going with a nod to the officer.

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  • ILikeYourNewHaircut January 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Next time, also get his badge number.

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  • Michael M. January 15, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    red hippie (#28) – To answer your question: build affordable housing.

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  • q`Tzal January 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Perhaps there is some esoteric legal reason why it is cheaper to close a park for some portion of the day?
    Probably required to provide staffing for an officially proscribed night shift if a park is officially open for the entire portion of the shift in question.

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  • chelsea January 15, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    It seems wrong that citizens are not allowed to politely question the activities of the people who are supposedly protecting them. The suggestion to look the other way when concerned about injustice potentially taking place has led to a lot of unfortunate things, historically speaking.

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  • well January 15, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Well perhaps is Mayor Adams had guts to manage the Police Bureau like nearly every other past mayor we might expect more fair treatment of cyclists but oh well…

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  • Vance Longwell January 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    The 6th amendment to the Constitution of the United States requires that due-process be afforded Mr. Cleinman prior his being sanctioned. Since these exclusions are a ban from public property, a court proceeding is required to do so.

    These exclusion orders violate the 6th amendment. Here is an opinion by the Oregon Appellate Court regarding a similar case with Calvin Carpenter (Statue Man), and Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, also a park.

    http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A106786.htm

    The opinion is clear at the bottom of the page under the ruling. This court ruled that an exclusion-order in Carpenter’s case was illegal. Carpenter caught a trespassing-charge after willfully violating the exclusion order. The court found the predicating exclusion unconstitutional.

    I tried to file kidnapping charges against the armed security-guard masquerading as a Portland Police Officer who issued the citation to me on private property. The DA at the time (4/24/07) refused to accept my charges (Something I now know is illegal.)and sent me away with threats of violating said order.

    I was banned from the City building, public sidewalks, public-schools, public medical facilities, and so on. All without a charge being leveled against me. All without my day in court. No appeal, just summary execution of a sentence, and I hadn’t even done anything wrong.

    The MUP in Waterfront park is sidewalk. It’s not a transpo corridor, it’s not really even a park. Any reasonable human-being will observe this MUP and conclude that it’s a sidewalk. There are not hours posted, and no real notification that that is a park, that there are rules, and when they will, or won’t be enforced. You can’t just ban somebody from public property without a trial City of Portland.

    Careful too, I was issued my exclusion by an armed security guard working for Oregon Campus Services. They’ll tell you they are cops but they are in the employ of the school, and don’t belong to the Police Union. A DPSST ticket does not a cop make. So, I was issued an illegal citation by an armed private citizen, on private property, all while being kidnapped.

    City of Portland: The Portland Business Alliance is not an elected body. You service all of Portland, not just the draconian policies of a few downtown area small business owners. Enough, “Cleaning up downtown”, already.

    Here’s a re-post at my blog on the subject in case there’s anything helpful in there.

    http://vancelongwell.blogspot.com/2009/03/so-youre-just-walking-along-minding.html

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  • Matt Picio January 15, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Even though the path is not a DESIGNATED transportation corridor, an argument could be made in court that it is a de facto transportation corridor based on use, and based on the fact that people have been walking / running / riding through it for years with little or no enforcement to the park hours. A sympathetic judge could potentially so rule.

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  • Matt Picio January 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    naomi (#19) – All it takes for our rights to be taken away is for average citizens to stop questioning authority and passively accept whatever said authority proposes is in the public interest. Since when did it become a crime to question authority and ask people to justify their actions?

    red hippie (#28) “How do we keep the water front (sic) from turning into a permanent homeless camp?” – well, provide them someplace sheltered to sleep at night, rather than criminalizing homelessness would be a good start. The economy sucks – homelessness is a predicament which will become MORE prevalent, not less – and we need to start coming up with humane, equitable, and compassionate means of dealing with and accommodating it. Put simply, we care about people instead of yelling at them to get off our lawn while holding a shotgun (which is effectively the strategy the city has chosen).

    Michael M (#30) – Affordable housing generally doesn’t work – unless people start letting government raise taxes to pay for services and programs, there’s no effective way to pay for it.

    Vance (#33) – I know this is rare, but I agree with pretty much everything you just said. The exception being the posting of hours – there is a sign at most, if not all of the sidewalk entrances to the park, including the end of the Steel Bridge. I think you’ll join me in finding it ironic that it’s perfectly legal to be on the Steel Bridge walkway (which is private property owned by the Union Pacific RR) at 2am but illegal to stand 5 feet away on the sidewalk that rests on public property “owned” by the City of Portland.

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  • Vance Longwell January 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Agreed MP #36 – My whole post is a mess, sorry folks. I have a lot to say on this issue, and am having a hard time constraining my exuberance. The idea I was trying to impart was that legally-speaking I think a reasonable person might mistake that path for a sidewalk. Should have just left it at that. Sorry.

    By the way, tickets or citations, are actually court affidavits. In my case, Campus Security was just whipping these up with MS/Word or something. So be sure that citation is actually real, and not just something their precincts give them to scare people with.

    I will endeavor to write coherently even when I get all worked up. Do some research on this folks, and you won’t like it one bit. The fuzz, and the DA, and the PBA are all off their collective chains, and it doesn’t take a degree in advanced wing-nut to see it.

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  • Vance Longwell January 15, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    This is so Portland-of-old here. An ugly underbelly that has always existed. The crazy stuff people enter into trying to get spangers off the street is monstrous. Portland has such a liberal rep these days, too funny, ’cause it ain’t.

    As late as the mid-nineties there were still, “rainers”, installed on the side of every business in town that had a property-line abutting the sidewalk downtown. Anybody remember those? That’s where you take a long, small-diameter pipe and drill it full of holes. Then you hang that on the wall of your business overhanging the sidewalk underneath, attach a garden hose, and viola, no bums.

    I’ve always hated this about Portland. Downtown is not your mall fools. If you can’t seem to do business down here, move. What ever you decide, stop hassling poor people!

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  • matchu January 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    That’s odd. Waterfront Park used to be “the highway” through Portland until the Interstate-5 corridor was completed in the 1960s. It was designated as a portion of the federal US-99W under the name Harbor Drive. Now, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle (i.e. the bicycle) through it during the late night or very early morning.

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  • rex January 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Vance, I had pretty much given up reading your posts, but you are making sense here.

    BTW if matchu is right, that it was public right-of-way it likely still is unless it was specifically revoked.

    We must always protect our right to public property. It is ours, and cops a supposed to protect our rights not abridge them.

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  • naomi January 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Matt Picio #36: Yes, but there’s a place and time for that, rather than the somewhat typical Portland judging of most cops as guilty until proven innocent. 99.5% of the time, the cop likely has a reason for doing what they’re doing. Most cops are good, and as it turns out, he wasn’t out of bounds in writing a ticket for the folks in the park at that hour (dick move it was? Yes. Was the cop doing something wrong? no.)

    How would you like it if people came in from off the street, up to your cubical (or office, or desk, or what have you) and began to question you about your job, what you’re doing, etc, etc? It’s silly to think we should all have the right to interfere with the police when they are speaking to someone simply so we can try to bust them as doing something wrong and pat ourselves on the back.

    I’m not denying it was lame of the cop to ticket the cyclist, but it was also lame of the cyclist to stop at 4:30am and walk over to a cop and start asking him why he’s doing what he’s doing. It comes off as highly antagonistic.

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  • Michael42 January 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    @naomi

    Any citizen has the right to approach an officer and ask what’s going on. As long as they’re being civil and not interfering, it’s by no means antagonistic, nor “lame.”

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  • naomi January 15, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I would consider it interfering and lame. Your average cop knows more about the law than your average citizen, any day. Doesn’t make them right 100%, but makes walking up to them and questioning them when they’re clearly busy with someone else come as antagonistic. A cop is trained to obey the law (and in most cases they do). When I fly on a plane I don’t barge into the cockpit and ask what they’re doing in there.. I think this town shows too little respect towards our PD. And, of course, in the end, the cop wasn’t doing anything wrong.. merely ticketing someone who was breaking the law by being in a park during the hours it’s closed.

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  • Michael42 January 15, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    @naomi

    And you can have that opinion if you want – but the public’s right to talk to officers and ask questions is kind of how journalism gets done, so you benefit from that “interference” every day.

    Your cockpit analogy is incorrect and neither here nor there.

    And in the end, the person who got ticketed wasn’t doing anything wrong either – he wasn’t interfering (police are rarely shy about arresting for that.)

    But unlike the cop, he had no power to summarily punish someone for simply asking a question.

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  • Michael42 January 15, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    @naomi

    And you really ought to have a look at sites like http://carlosmiller.com/ and http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com/ before you automatically put too much faith in cops.

    Then again, Portland was where cops staged the “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION OUR AUTHOURITAH MARCH” when one got investigated for shooting a 12-year-old girl with a beanbag shotgun, wasn’t it?

    Seriously. Marching not because the cop was punished, because he hadn’t yet, but because mere mortals had the temerity to even question his judgment in using a less-than-lethal firearm round to subdue a 12-year-old.

    Portland shows too little respect for the police? You’ve got to be joking.

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  • Paul Johnson January 16, 2010 at 12:15 am

    If they’re going to close the Willamette Greenway at night, they should put signage or lane control signals to that effect at the enterances, per MUTCD/SHS.

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  • wsbob January 16, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Consider it from this perspective: There the cop is in the park at 4:30am, issuing citations for trespass to homeless folks trying to get a nights sleep. Clienman, at 4:30am rolls up to the cop, asking questions…politely he says…of the cop, ‘Do you mind me asking what’s happening?’.

    (Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the cop thought Clienman was being a nosy busybody)

    One question I’d have is, ‘Where were the homeless folks when Clienman asked his question of the cop? Maus doesn’t say anything about that in his story, but one can presume that they were right next to or in hearing and visual range of Clienman and the cop having their conversation.

    Suppose the cop decides to not bother citing Clienman for trespass, even though if the homeless people are trespassing just by virtue of being in the park after hours, so must Clienman be also. Very possibly after Cleinman rode along on his way, the homeless guys would be complaining about them being cited but not the dude on the bike.

    And Cleinman, if he’s the vigilant citizen he says he is, might well have been complaining to maus that he had proof the cop was unfair, because he issued trespass citations to homeless folks, while letting people like himself go free.

    Note to bikeportland staff: Why is an illegible thumbnail of Cleinman’s alleged citation posted without a link that would present readers with an enlarged version they could read, to see for themselves that it’s actually the citation the caption says it is? If you’re afraid the public is going to take his address and phone # and do something with it that it shouldn’t….block that info out with your nifty photoshop skills.

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  • Michael42 January 16, 2010 at 6:21 am

    @wsbob

    That perspective doesn’t work.

    The hour of day or night is not relevant to whether Cleinman can ask the officer a question. Neither is whether he is or the cop thinks he is being annoying. Neither is the proximity of the other subjects, as long as Cleinman isn’t interfering with the officer’s ability to do his job with them, which obviously isn’t the case as he was not cited for that.

    Doesn’t matter if the cop decided to not cite Cleinman for trespass. If he’d stopped, asked a question, and moved on he’d still be in motion. The point of this article is that in other areas it’s fine to ride through if the park is closed, and that this area is apparently an exception for some reason – or the cop just wanted to punish Cleinman for daring to ask him a question.

    Apologize for the cop all you want, it still doesn’t make what he did to Cleinman not a punishment for contempt of cop.

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  • Big Kahuna January 16, 2010 at 10:10 am

    RE: #20, I am not necessarily trying to defend the cops in this situation, but I think it’s a little absurd to call waking someone up for trespassing “cruel and unusual.” Let’s keep things in perspective here.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) January 16, 2010 at 10:41 am

    wsbob,

    Here’s a larger version of the Exclusion Notice (I’ve also added a link to it in the story).

    http://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/mattcleinmanexclusion.jpg

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  • naomi January 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Michael42: We’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Fortunately, my viewpoint doesn’t result in being fined for interrupting a cop while he’s issuing a citation. And by the sound of this story, it seems like the cyclist in question already had an idea why the officer was issuing tickets (the opening of this story reads: “Cleinman, who told us he is very concerned about “criminalizing homelessness” says he then stopped his bike to ask the officer what was going on.”)

    Sounds like he knew what was going on but wanted to interject regardless. Instead of getting to pat himself on the back, he got a ticket. Yes, it would’ve been nice of the cop to let the cyclist go with a warning, but I’m not at all surprised he got ticketed. The path is to be used for transportation only during that hour. If you stop, hop off your bike and move to the area under the bridge where the homeless folks are, you’re no longer using it for transportation, thus, you’re trespassing (and antagonizing a cop). At least wait til he’s finished writing the citation for the homeless folks before butting in and trying to stand up for others (even though they were breaking the law).

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  • spare_wheel January 16, 2010 at 11:07 am

    “Your average cop knows more about the law than your average citizen, any day.”

    And some officers know more about profiling, harassment, brutalization, and killing than your average citizen, any day. I not only stop and question police when they are making dubious arrests but I take pictures. We need a police force that protects all citizens not just the wealthy elite. (I’m an idealist.)

    Its seriously beyond belief that some would question a citizen’s right to talk to an officer of the law.

    “How do we keep the water front from turning into a permanent homeless camp?”

    I am interested in hearing what exactly your beef is.

    Does their attire or eau de toilette offend your sensibilities?

    Are you worried that your children will wonder about the unfettered lifestyle of the vagabond?

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  • spare_wheel January 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

    The officer’s details:

    Jacob Jensen
    DPSST 43494
    Central Precinct

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  • greenerwheels January 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

    My concern in this situation would be distracting the officer from what he was doing. If the officer was alone and in the middle of doing his job @ 4:30 in the morning, a distraction could have created a dangerous situation for everyone involved. Probably better to witness what you could while moving on and start documenting what, where and when while fresh in your mind. If this is your regular commute and it happens on a regular basis, try to bring a friend as a witness. In any case distracting an officer while he’s doing his job very rarely helps anyone.

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  • Michael42 January 16, 2010 at 11:44 am

    @naomi

    Except you can’t agree to disagree on facts. You infer a lot of things about Cleinman, but you haven’t actually countered any of my statements.

    You can have the viewpoint of yourself being a subject of the police, and you can be a sheep all you’d like.

    But then you don’t get to give anyone else grief for standing up for themselves, or acting like citizens with actual rights.

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  • Randy January 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Most parks that close at night have signage and gates.

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  • Tom Wald January 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    In Austin, Texas, we’ve encountered the same issue. Recently, some bicyclists were ticketed for using a bike/ped facility in the downtown area that is commonly considered a transportation corridor.

    We expect to see the nightly bans lifted, but it will take some untangling and a little convincing to do so. We need agreement from both the parks department and the police department (APD covers parks here too). Concerns about camping, homeless loitering, and serious crime are what we have to contend with.

    Our bike program staff is working on it, but there are many other things on their plate at the moment, e.g.
    http://lobv.org/nueces

    Our website or http://austinontwowheels.org/ is likely to show updates on this issue when they happen.

    Tom Wald
    Executive Director
    League of Bicycling Voters

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  • wsbob January 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    michael42, I didn’t say the hour of day canceled Cleinman’s right to ask the cop a question, but the hour and the circumstances certainly weren’t favorable to his getting a simple answer to his question. Is there some reason Cleinman wasn’t able to recognize this?

    He had that right to ask the cop a question. But the fact is, the cop happened to be involved in taking care of business. It apparently wasn’t an emergency that prompted Cleinman to approach the cop; it seems that his purpose was to try get the cop to explain to Cleinman at that moment, what business the cop was taking care of.

    While it apparently wasn’t serious enough for the cop to feel it warranted a citation for interference, Cleinman’s presence in the park at that hour, and his purpose in approaching the cop most likely didn’t impress the cop as being helpful.

    At 4:30 in the morning. People aren’t technically supposed to be in the park at that hour. The cop can’t stand there and issue a citation for trespass to one person, then turn around on the same spot while the former group is still there looking on, and let another person go free for the same violation. That’s unfair treatment and the homeless people wouldn’t might not have appreciated that.

    Small difference perhaps, but if it had me in Cleinman’s place seeing the cop at work, and I’d really wanted to take time to roll up and question the cop about what he was doing, I might have done so by asking a question such as ‘Excuse me, officer…when you’re done there, could I ask a question?’.

    I could be wrong, but I think there’s a good chance that Cleinman would have received a much more favorable response and likely wouldn’t have been given a citation.

    Maus: thanks for posting that link.

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  • Michael M. January 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Randy (#56) — Most parks in Portland close at night, few have gates. And as has already been mentioned, there are signs that indicate Waterfront Park’s hours. A quick visit to Portland Parks & Recreation website will tell you the operating hours of all of Portland’s parks.

    Matt (#36) — Of course affordable housing works. Come by and visit my building sometime. Affordable housing is as workable as affordable education, affordable health care, affordable parks, affordable law enforcement, fire protection, and so on — and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than most of those things, not to mention foreign wars, bank and auto industry bailouts.

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  • naomi January 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    wsbob (#58): Very well put.

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  • Michael42 January 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    @spare_wheel

    Awesome. Accountability is good.

    @wsbob

    So what if the officer doesn’t like the question? Officer Jenson was still an asshole to Cleinman. That’s still pretty obvious.

    And who cares what the people he was already ticketing saw Jenson let Cleinman go after asking a question? Cleinman wasn’t camping out under a bridge.

    So Cleinman at least accomplished getting this whole park closure/travel corridor thing out and being discussed… while Officer Jenson basically showed the world he’s an ass. Awesome.

    “I might have done so by asking a question such as ‘Excuse me, officer…when you’re done there, could I ask a question?’.”

    Really now?

    “I very politely asked the officer, ‘Do you mind me asking what’s happening?’”

    Wsbob, thanks for bringing us today’s RTFA moment.

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  • naomi January 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Michael42: You don’t have to be camping to be trespassing. At least have the courtesy to wait until the cop is finished doing what he’s doing (he was writing a ticket, not beating people with a club or something that required immediate inerjection) to begin asking him questions. I implore this type of courtesy in my own office and it seems to work well with my co-workers. Just because it’s a cop doesn’t mean you have to be annoying about it and interrupt them…. at 4:30am… when you were riding past and decided to get involved. Well, now the cyclist is involved.

    Just sayin’

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  • wsbob January 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    michael, Everyone knows cops on the job often aren’t the friendliest people in the world. Isn’t the more important question here one of whether trespassing occurred, and how Cleinman might have avoided being given a citation or that?

    The story above reports the officer responding to Cleinman’s question saying that because the park was closed, the homeless people were trespassing. Because Cleinman also brought himself into the park at that hour, he was apparently trespassing as well. It wasn’t camping that Cleinman and the homeless people were found by the cop to be in violation of, but instead, trespass.

    I think there’s a difference between the type of question I offered an example of, and the one Cleinman is reported as having asked.

    The type of question I suggested is intended to convey to the cop ‘Hey…I can see your busy, but when you’re done, if you’ve got some time to spare, I’d appreciate some information about the incident you just had to deal with. If you know you’re not going to have any time…just say so and I’ll move right along’.

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  • Michael42 January 16, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    @wsbob

    No, the important question here is why a portion of transportation infrastructure might or might not be closed to traffic and why even officials contacted don’t seem to be clear on it.

    Secondary would be these weird police apologist justifications for contempt of cop charges.

    Christ, are we talking about asking a question of a fickle deity or of a reasonable, professional human being?

    Because really, there’s no way the officer couldn’t have simply said “yes, I mind, move along please” to Cleinman’s question.

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  • ivana tinkle January 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    WTF? Take it to court and contest it! there needs to be a “gray area” for commuters. Perhaps it’ll be a good subject for the next town hall meeting….

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  • Chris January 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Wow, Naomi, you are definitely one of the new good Germans. That’s all.

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  • Pete January 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    He was just cited and not tazed?? ;)

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  • PoPo January 17, 2010 at 12:55 am

    wsbob hit a very important note in his comments regarding fairness. Not only are there legal complications if officers don’t enforce rules consistently and fairly, particularly across individuals who appear to be of distinct classes or groups of people (not that officers do that perfectly all the time), but there is also the immediate challenge of managing the particular interaction. Damage is done to relationships on all sides if an officer excludes some folks for being in a park after hours, but not others. The first words out of the excluded people’s mouth is “why do you let him go?”

    The issue of homelessness in this city is extremely complicated and political, and the police often find themselves stuck in the middle.

    It is fascinating to see cycling and transportation get drawn into the fray in this incident as well. Unfortunately, it also drew in Mr. Cleinman. Though I suspect fascinating is not the word he would choose….

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  • Michael42 January 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

    @PoPo

    Unfortunately, the rule itself isn’t consistent.

    And here, officer discretion wasn’t about making people more aware of what’s going on with the law in the first place, but to punish the subject for annoying the cop.

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  • PoPo January 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Hmmmm….

    I guess I’m not sure what you mean about the rule not being consistent. Can you elaborate? If the rule is nobody in the park between certain hours, how is the rule inconsistent? Perhaps you mean that the enforcement of the rule seems inconsistent?

    Since I wasn’t present at the time of the interaction described, and have not spoken with the officer about his thinking, I don’t know exactly why the officer made the decision that he did.

    I did want to help provide some more information for consideration, however, based on my own understanding and experience as an officer tasked with making the same sorts of decisions.

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  • Michael42 January 17, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    @PoPo

    No, it’s not consistent between parks/areas. If you read the story above, it states that different areas have different rules based on funding… which somehow I doubt is apparent from just looking at the place.

    Then again, we’ve handled this sort of thing over here before:

    http://www.theindycog.com/2009/11/city-responds-to-monon-ticketing-spree.html

    http://www.theindycog.com/2009/11/more-in-depth-look-at-monon-after-dark.html

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  • PoPo January 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Oh, now I see what you mean. The Eastbank Esplanade received federal funding as a transit corridor so no closing hours, but to any layperson, that park doesn’t appear any different than any other city park. Indeed, inconsistent rules among parks.

    And thanks for leading me to a bike blog from my home state–interesting to see what’s happening back home, and to see similar issues being dealt with all over the place.

    My father grew up in Crawfordsville, Indidana, and I remember him talking about watching the trains come through town on the Monon railroad when he was a kid. I see that now at least part of it is a bicycle path.

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  • spare_wheel January 18, 2010 at 10:08 am

    “The issue of homelessness in this city is extremely complicated”

    The only complicated thing about homelessness is our society’s unwillingness to address the problem.

    In 2001, a 220 ft (67 m) long and 8 ft (2.5 m) wide cantilevered walkway was installed on the southern side of the bridge’s lower deck as part of the Eastbank Esplanade construction, making a total of three publicly accessible walkways, including two narrow sidewalks on the upper deck. The bridge is currently owned by Union Pacific with the upper deck leased to Oregon Department of Transportation, and subleased to TriMet, although the City of Portland is responsible for the approaches.[4]

    The above is from wikipedia. If true, the exclusion order by Officer Jensen prevents ingress into a federally funded transportation corridor.

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  • Vance Longwell January 18, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Game. Set. Match. spare_wheel. Bravo. Nice work.

    naomi – Sorry ’bout the dogpile. I especially feel your pain. “How would you like it if…”, I think is how you started that sentence. It’s logical-fallacy to compare approaching a private-sector employee on private property to that of a professional civil-servant possibly engaged in illegal behavior on public property.

    I am debating you because you have a vote. Clearly you will use that vote in support of area law-enforcement. Therefore, I feel compelled to persuade you to investigate the logic, and common-sense, of your position. I point out this one error I could find in your logic not to belittle you, or throw kidney-shots. I point out your flawed logic with hope that you might reconsider the length of chain we use to restrain people whom we grant the power of life and death to.

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  • Matt Picio January 18, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Naomi (#41, #43) – most of the time, the police do their jobs conscientiously, absolutely. But questioning should never be used as an excuse to harass the questioner. The difference is simple – If you come up and question what I’m doing on my job, I do not have the power and authority to ticket you, detain you or harass you. The police do, and as such they deserve a higher level of public scrutiny and are held to a higher standard. If they don’t like it, they can find another job. I hold police in the highest respect, but in return I expect them to act according to the highest standards and traditions which they espouse.

    And frankly, frequently citizens *do* know more about a specific law than the responding officer does. It’s inevitable, really, because the “interfering” citizen generally acts when it involves something she or he cares about, and it’s not practical for a police officer (much less the average citizen) to know every law on the books. Unfortunately, there is no social nor legal convention to deal with that situation.

    As for showing too little respect – a single bad action undoes a dozen good ones in the eyes of the public. Chief Sizer, Commander Reese, Captain Hendricks, Lieutenant Parman and countless others on the force are good people, trying to balance multiple conflicting priorities, deal with a shrinking budget, flagging recruiting, the loss of public confidence, and a myriad of other problems. The countless sergeants, officers and staff are by and large doing an outstanding job. That said, there are a few officers on the force who ruin that reputation for the department at large. There has to be a balance between officer safety and civil rights and oversight. Yes, vocal tone and body posture more than anything will dictate the character and direction of the encounter with police, and I don’t have sympathy for those who start beligerent and don’t modify their behavior once the officer responds in kind. But immediately turning on someone for questioning and turning that into a citation does not reflect professionalism, impartiality, nor the highest traditions of police service.

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  • Matt Picio January 18, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    spare_wheel (#73) – I would argue that anyway. The paths in Tom McCall Waterfront Park are part of local and regional trail systems which are in part funded by transportation dollars. How do you separate them? Just as the railroad was required to provide an easement for every crossing of a public road built across the rails after they were laid, parks should be required to provide access to those trails to the public – they are part of the Waterfont Loop, and they provide a better path for those who don’t feel safe riding the bike lane on Naito. 2am is not the time to be riding on Naito with people leaving the clubs – that’s the time to be in the park and away from the drunk drivers.

    While we’re at it – why can Parks set hours in the first place? There are plenty of valid reasons to be in the park at 2am, and some people might prefer to, or might be swing-shift workers who want to relax before going to bed. Why is the city able to discriminate against them?

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  • [...] last Friday morning, a man was kicked out of Waterfront Park for 30 days by a Portland Police officer because he was riding in the park at 4:30 am (the park is [...]

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  • wsbob January 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Various people seem to interpret this incident as one where Cleinman was harrassing or hassling the cop, or the cop was doing the same to Cleinman, or maybe a little of both.

    Read Cleimnan’s account of the exchange in the story above, in the following excerpt of the story above:

    “… “I very politely asked the officer, ‘Do you mind me asking what’s happening?’ He told me the park was closed and these people were trespassing. Then, before I could respond, he added, ‘And so are you, do you have any ID?” …Cleinman tells us he asked the police officer if the park being closed (it is officially closed from midnight to 5:00 am) meant that the trail was also closed. “Yes” the officer told him. ”

    Cleinman never suggests harrasment, threats, or any other kind of physical or verbal abuse was made by the cop. The cops response to Cleinman’s questions were factual, succinct and to the point.

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  • wsbob January 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Michael42 #61, it occurred to me today that something else an officer could say in this type of situation might be something like the following:

    ‘Unless you have an emergency, I’m busy at the moment. If there’s a non-emergency item you’d like to ask me about, you’re welcome to stand over there, just outside the park, and when I’m done here, if I have some time to spare, I’ll be happy to try answer your questions.’

    More of a mouthful than Officer Jensen has been said to have come up with but, hey…it was 4:30 in the morning. Maybe he just hadn’t had his coffee yet!

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  • SJ January 19, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Hypocrites.

    “The cop was being a dick, lay them off, they’ve got nothing better to do . . .”

    Look, cops apply laws. If someone is in your yard at 3:00am, you want a cop to be a “dick” and get the person out of your yard.

    When a story like this comes out, people are pretty quick to attack the integrity of the cop first.

    So which is it? Do you want a cop to do his job (even if he’s in a bad mood, and let’s see, he’s at work, under a bridge, in the middle of the night, away from his own family, maybe trying to hook people up with benefits or a shelter) or bend to your will and apply rules and laws as YOU see fit?

    This reminds me of the woman who wanted to consult her lawyer when she blew through a stop sign on Broadway. She was clearly in the wrong, but “the cop was being mean” and arrested her for being both wrong and an idiot.

    I wonder how is her legal fight/case of “brutality” is going?

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  • Michael42 January 21, 2010 at 4:35 am

    @SJ

    Yeah, it’s not like we have any evidence some cops have it in for homeless people, if you want to have an anecdote comparison.

    http://bit.ly/johnnylaw

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  • SJ January 21, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Michael,

    No doubt this happens. So I guess citizens on bikes should monitor cops’ behavior and work at all hours, to start. They should then ask a lot of questions of cops and make themselves as useful as possible, thereby greatly improving policing across the city. Wouldn’t it be cool if a citizen biker were there to ask the cop you called questions while the cop was trying to recover your stolen car?

    OR they can work directly with the homeless if they’re so concerned; donate to agencies like JOIN; give up their possessions because they’re so passionate about using their own needless resources for the better good; do some pro bono work on behalf of the homeless.

    Most people, because of their inaction regarding Portland’s homeless, “have it in for homeless people,” by indirect lack of help. There might be a bad cops, and this will always be the case, but they are out there working while we go about our lives.

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  • wsbob January 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I wouldn’t agree that cops in general hold a special animosity towards homeless people. The city tells them, ‘Hey…get these people out from hangin’ out under the bridges…from hangin’ out in front of storefronts making big messes.’…so they do. Some are nice about doing this job, some are indifferent, and occasionally, some are outright mean about it.

    Certain types of people are inherently susceptible to mistreatment of other people. Sworn is as police officers, that tendency can become a problem that’s hard to correct by the individual, the PD, the city, or the society at large.

    Homeless people are just one example of citizens they’re sworn to serve, that these cops ‘have it in for’, as Michael puts it. Their victims can be anyone.

    Alright Michael, you’re Chief of Police for the day, month, year…What would you do? How could the police department do a better job of weeding these people out of the force? Would you just fire any cop or cops about whom stories, formal complaints, and what not, have suggested are mean, vindictive, or violent? How are you going to get rid of these people and keep the rest of the police force working for you so that people in the city can rely on their protection?

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  • Michael42 January 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    @SJ

    Or you could make a ridiculous extrapolation that in no way negates the rights of the cyclist in this story (to simply ask a question without retribution), and proceed to deflect the issue to everyone else not doing enough about homelessness… while saying that since cops choose to be cops they should somehow not be held accountable because other people don’t choose to be cops?

    How does all that excuse the cop from being a jerk, exactly? Oh wait, it doesn’t.

    @wsbob

    I never stated all cops have it in for any one group. I gave an example in opposition to SJ. Do not mischaracterize my statement.

    We don’t need to be chief for the day. Instead of doing something hypothetical, maybe help with the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project?

    I see you’re stating the myth that somehow police couldn’t do their jobs if reports of misconduct were taken seriously.

    “When examining reports by last reported status, 45.9% had resulted in some sort of adverse outcome for the officers involved. Of those, 14% (596) were disciplined internally and 31.9% (1,363) were criminally charged. Of those who were criminally charged, 32.5% were convicted for a 10.4% total criminal conviction rate for alleged misconduct incidents.”

    So let’s see, even when a complaint is substantiated in a case where criminal charges are filed… less than a 1-in-3 chance of being convicted. But even then…

    How about getting police to be held consistently to a standard, much less the mythical “higher” standard:

    “Here’s how the numbers compare between the police misconduct stats our NPMSRP gathered and the statistics made available by the US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2004 (latest available):

    * General Population probation sentence rate: 28%
    * Law Enforcement probation sentence rate: 37%

    “So, people convicted of criminal offenses are sentenced to prison more often than police officers when convicted of criminal offenses.

    * General population mean felony sentence length: 37 months
    * Law enforcement population mean felony sentence length: 12 months

    “But, more starkly, the general population sentence length is 3 times that of those given to police officers. Police officers, on average, only spend a year in jail when sentenced while anyone else spends, on average, a little over 3 years.

    “So, how effective are prosecutors at gaining convictions on police officers formally charged with criminal acts? It appears to be less than half that at this point…

    * General population conviction rate estimate: 68%
    * Law Enforcement conviction rate estimate: 30%

    “So, we can see that, at least as far as criminal sentencing statistics go, police officers are held to a lower standard than the rest of the population, not a higher one.”

    It doesn’t look like police have much to fear when it comes to being held accountable, does it?

    So, wsbob, where are your facts and research showing that even the criminal cops are being weeded out even now? If we have to live in fear of the police deserting us if we hold them accountable, do we even want the “protection” they provide?

    Finally, are there good cops? Would PoPo here admit to marching against police accountability in Portland? Is he a good cop if he did so, or won’t speak out against it?

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  • Jackattak January 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    wsbob -

    That isn’t a realistic scenario. The truth of all that is that the chief has zero control over any of those things due to the amount of griping the Union would put forth if she went running around firing all the bad cops.

    Besides, if she did do something like that, we wouldn’t have much of a police force.

    I keed, I keed!

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  • wsbob January 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    “@SJ

    Yeah, it’s not like we have any evidence some cops have it in for homeless people, if you want to have an anecdote comparison.” Michael42 #81

    Michael, actually, I couldn’t make out exactly what your were trying to say in your comment #81, which is why I didn’t cite it with my own later comment.

    This following statement your wrote, doesn’t make much sense either:

    “I see you’re stating the myth that somehow police couldn’t do their jobs if reports of misconduct were taken seriously.” Michael42 #84

    Myth? I don’t recall stating any myth whatsoever. You cut and pasted a batch of stats and added some grievances against the police. Are they helping you come up with any good ideas about how to correct some of the things you see wrong with the PD?

    Michael, I don’t think I’ve ever said, in this thread or any others, that the police department is doing a good job of keeping misbehaving cops out of or off the force. In fact, at least part of the reason for me making comment #84, is that I don’t think the police are doing a good job in this area. I’m tempted to say it’s doing a lousy job of this, but…for now, I’ll stop short of that.

    I thought you might have a few ideas about how to bring things around, hence the ‘chief for a day’ mention. Think about it.

    This poor thread is about ready to disappear off the main page. Start a thread in the forums if you’d like to see more discussion on this topic.

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  • wsbob January 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Jack…I know it’s not a realistic scenario any more than those so called reality tv shows are realistic scenarios. It’s a good thinking exercise though.

    At least…I feel it helps me get a little better sense of what kind of situation the chief might be facing in trying to keep all those officers on line and working.

    Some of the things that are key parts of the culture; confidence, loyalty, solidarity…more that don’t come to mind right at the moment… . Anyone that’s going to be functional heading up the department has got to factor all that stuff in plus tons more.

    Way off topic….but most likely, bye-bye thread…soon.

    Good luck Cleinman. As others have said, maybe citation won’t stand…the judge will see that Cleinman really had no intention of trespassing, and give him a ‘not guilty’. Or, maybe Jensen, having thought it over, will just not show up; case out. He may decide that, Cleinman, having to take time out of his day to show up and plead his innocence of trespassing is misery enough.

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  • Michael42 January 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    @wsbob

    In other words, you don’t get it. And I’m not talking about thinking exercises, I’m talking about what we’re already doing, now.

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