Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 24th, 2009 at 10:58 am
Oregonian columnist Steve Duin has published pointed criticisms directed at the Portland Police Bureau’s handling of the Freedom Child bike light case in his column today.
Freedom Child is the 57-year old St. Johns woman who was involved with an altercation with two Police officers back in 2003. Child claims she was walking her bike down the sidewalk when Officers Jeffrey Dorn and Jason Harris reportedly pulled up alongside her in an unmarked car and began questioning her. Those questions ultimately led to Child being followed and then, according to Duin, “dragged…out of her home” and then arrested.
Child filed a lawsuit saying that her civil rights were violated because the Police Bureau ignored her complaint and offered her no opportunity to appeal. Child told the Oregonian, “We’re talking about a bike light… I’m walking on the sidewalk and they’re talking to me like I’m a bank robber.”
Last week, according to a report in The Oregonian, a federal jury ruled in favor of the Police Bureau.
“Anything goes, I guess, when the cops are in mockery mode.”
— Steve Duin, The Oregonian
That decision inspired Duin to write his latest column, Shining a bike light on cops.
In that column Duin shares his opinion that the six words on the cover of the Police Manual — integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, excellence, and service — “are little more than window dressing”. Duin rips the bureau’s handling of this case and ends his column with this bit of dark humor:
“Hey, lady: You forgot to switch on your bike light. You got nervous when an unmarked car pulled up next to you on a dark street. And you didn’t kiss the officer’s ring.
You got off easy.”
This case has similarities to another bike light case we’ve covered in recent months. Portlander Phil Sano was riding without a bike light and was tackled and then tasered repeatedly by Portland police officers. Sano was taken to court for resisting arrest charges but was ultimately found not guilty. Sano’s defense was that the officers never properly identified themselves and that they used excessive force in trying to subdue him. Sound familiar?
I know many officers here in Portland that are outstanding civil servants, but why is it that these things are still happening? Is this simply about a few rogue cops? Or are there larger, systemic problems at the Portland Police Bureau that need to be addressed? Does the fact that the person was on (or near) a bike have anything to do with it? Lots of questions that I wish I had time to dig into.