The City of Portland, Oregon has a new Police Chief. Instead of employing a change agent from outside a Bureau that’s in patterns and practices of illegal activity, local authority has been grooming PPB Assistant Chief Lawrence O’dea for the job. Did they co-opt Portland’s Human Rights Commission while doing so?
O’dea rose through the ranks of the bureau’s Traffic Division. In 2004, PPB began releasing (three years behind it’s collection) ‘stop data‘ indicating African American drivers are stopped twice as frequently as whites, also subsequently searched at twice their rate in our very-white population. The damning insight? African Americans were about a third as likely to be engaged in anything illegal. We’ve since learned black motorists are twice as likely to accrue legal sanction after traffic officers get hold of them, and that rates
hold true are twice as high for pedestrians as well. The practice, however, has not changed in a decade when O’dea has been given ever-increasing authority.
This race-based disparity in policing is called racial profiling.
In 2012, as Assistant Chief of Operations (which oversees Traffic), O’dea helped rehabilitate Nazi sympathizer PPB Capt. Mark Kruger. O’dea tapped this deficient officer to lead Command Staff training, two years after Kruger was finally disciplined for bringing shame to the Bureau a decade earlier. O’Dea reported Kruger’s class received “excellent peer reviews,” in a bureau that refers to itself for cultural cues.
O’dea’s bio discloses he was PPB’s Crowd Control Incident Commander in 2003. In 2004 the City of Portland paid $300,000 to settle cases of civil rights violations in March 2003: police had illegally fired less-often-lethal rounds and indiscriminately used chemical weapons in crowd control.* It came out in 2010 that Portland’s City Attorney had conspired with local authority to prevent disclosure of Kruger’s pro-Nazi vandalism while evidence in this civil rights case was being assembled.**
Almost immediately following the Mayor’s unilateral notification of O’dea’s appointment, indicating there’d be no national search for job candidates with experience in reforming police culture, His Honor’s office posted a laudatory response by Portland’s Human Rights Commission (right).
We find troubling, the promptness of the HRC response, not to be found among their other press releases.
Is this the work of a commission? Or was it the work of a few insiders, angling to perpetuate a defective police culture?
If the entire body had advance notice of the appointment, and then sufficient time to study and assess O’dea’s record on human rights – and did not subsequently engage in open deliberations – we submit for you a pattern of HRC-condoned choke points for public collaboration. If the entire body did not participate in drafting accolades for the ‘old boy network,’ distributed on their letterhead, we suggest the citizen volunteers on the Commission are mere pawns. They are obstructionists, defeating the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division call for Portland to begin “persistent, continuing commitment to inclusion and transparency, as well as effective structures to facilitate continuing dialogue.” (See Findings, pg. 40.)
(We note the HRC never offered hearings, to encourage victims to provide evidence of police misconduct, while the DoJ investigation was underway.)
It is possible to analyze Portland’s illegal use of force within the context of human rights.
HERE is modeled dialogue, prompting us to realize state-sponsored violence is not confined to overseas dictators. Steven W. Hawkins, E.D. of Amnesty International USA, brings home our need to address illegal police conduct in a human rights perspective. He calls transparency and impartiality the “bedrock” of human rights standards. In a global analysis, he eloquently inspires Human Rights activists to leap over Portland’s “self-defeating accountability system.” (Term depicted in DoJ Findings, pg. 27.) Says Hawkins, get thee to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council (below).
Montague Simmons, from the St. Louis-chapter of the Organization For Black Struggle, offered these demands by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Compare them with the HRC’s bland pronouncement … appreciating O’dea’s role in the HRC’s police community subcommittee (which also stymies public involvement and singularly represents a police agenda). It’s in that body where community participation in an unimplemented 2009 Police Plan to Address Racial Profiling has withered.
Instead of endorsing an unchanging continuum, we wish the HRC had lauded a press release issued by the UN’s Human Rights Council at the end of last month. The Council has before it a report by the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. We’d like to have heard an HRC response to this statement, on
“… the need to take advantage of the International Decade for People of African Descent to address various State institutions; among others, the judiciary, law enforcement authorities and education authorities; and urge them to bring about structural changes in relation to the ongoing practice of racial profiling.
[T]he phenomenon of racial profiling affects a multitude of rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of movement, work, and education.”
So attuned to the needs of local police authorities, we doubt the Portland body even recognized that, last year, the UN began this ten-year plan for the “elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” as well as long-term advocacy for “the right of peoples to self-determination.”
Instead, the City boxes out every opportunity for people of color to engage in self-advocacy.
For those of you who are interested in procuring racial justice, we submit the UN Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
*Plaintiffs donated a portion of their $300,000 settlement to form a Northwest Constitutional Rights Center in 2004. Jo Ann Hardesty was subsequently elected chair of their Board of Directors. The organization advocated police respect the Bill of Rights.
**In a 2014 settlement, Mayor Hales ordered disciplinary records pertaining to Kruger’s pro-Nazi vandalism removed from his police file. They were replaced by a letter of commendation by then-Chief Reese. We wonder whether the twice-promoted Kapitän Kruger is also being groomed for eventual HRC endorsement.
Watch the video.