Community Policing or Community Occupation?

by Paul Richmond Thursday, Mar. 08, 2001 at 10:41 PM (206) 405-4651 PO 95242, Seattle, WA, 98145

Mark Kroeker, one time flak for Daryl Gates, leads a blueprint for a militarized police.

errorCommunity Policing or Community Occupation?

I feel compelled to write after having just read Victoria Taft's article "A Missionary in the People's Republic of Portland - Police Chief Mark Kroeker. (Brainstorm, January 2001.)

First, since the thrust of Ms. Taft's piece is to label all critics of Chief Kroeker as unrepentant lefty ideologues, I'll throw out a few of my credentials. I've had a half dozen or so pieces published in the Oregon Observer, I've published an article written by and produced a television show with Advocates for Life Director Paul DeParrie, and I've featured Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America and an advisor to the Presidential Campaign of Pat Buchanan on my television show when I lived in Portland. I also wrote an article for PDXS newspaper that was instrumental in getting the $1.3 billion North-South Light Rail pork barrel voted down - former representative Bob Tiernan kept a mounted copy of this article in his office after the campaign. Yeah maybe I'm a lefty, but I'm not a hard-line ideologue. Now, to the substance of my critique.

Chief Mark Kroeker is not in trouble because of his failure to embrace Portland's PC style of "Community Policing." Chief Kroeker is in trouble because he's embraced an ethic of "Community Occupation," and even some of the most conservative elements don't like this.

Ms. Taft completely omits what it is that occurred on May 1st 2,000, Mayday in Portland Oregon, much less the implications these events have. She does not mention that the critics of this action include Commissioner Charlie Hales, probably the most pro-business conservative on the Portland City council, and target of a recall campaign from the political left. She does not mention that the critics include Police Union Representative Tom Mack who was concerned about the officers of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) being placed in an untenable position. It is this incident that has made Kroeker the pariah he is, not his religious beliefs, which seem to be roughly equivalent to former PPB Chief Tom Potter's.

The point is that Chief Kroeker's tactics are not those of police, which are intended to be part of a community, but those of a military commander who is there to occupy it. Portland, the Pacific Northwest, and the West Coast have all been leaders in the development and implementation of these tactics.

Writing in the September 1989 issue of the US Justice Department publication, Perspectives on Policing, former Multnomah County Sheriff, Lee Brown described the history of what is called "Community Policing," but should better be called, "Community Occupation," Mr. Brown, gives a history of the development of this style. This style, says Brown, came out of the inability of the police to prevent or at least control the civil unrest of the late 1960's and early 1970's. Brown went on to become Chief of the New York City Police Department during the unprecedented era of police corruption exposed and documented in the findings of the Mollen Commission, and a "Drug Czar" implementing national policies that have turned us into the nation with the largest number of incarcerated persons in the history of the planet. He has been identified by no less than Attorney General Janet Reno as "one of the fathers of "Community Policing," so his evaluation of the reasons for this style's existence should be taken seriously.

Portland itself has been identified as one of the leaders of what is called "Community Policing" but has been revealed as "Community Occupation." It has hosted two of the first International Conferences on "Community Policing," and two of its Police Chief's Tom Potter and Charles Moose, were finalists to distribute the "Community Oriented Policing" (COPs) grants created by the 1995 Clinton Crime Bill, designed to put 100,000 new cops on the street.

Since the implementation of what is euphemistically called "Community Policing" Portland has come to resemble a militarized zone. It's "Tactical Operations Division," the branch that carries machine guns, wears camouflage uniforms, conducts no knock raids, seizes peoples homes, cars and other property, grew from two (2) to fifty-six (56) officers in the space of a few years, as revealed by a report of the Portland City Auditor's Office. Those who were Lieutenant in charge of "Community Policing" such as Greg Clarke and Mark Parisi, all next became Captain in charge of the Tactical Operations Division. Since the "Community Policing" division gathered snitches and informants in the community, and called them a "ties" and "contacts", the succession within the PPB is a natural one.

The COPs plan exported this "Portland" dynamic to the rest of the country. Now better than 70% of those towns with less than populations of 50,000 have their own paramilitary police units. For those with populations greater than 50,000 the number of towns with paramilitary police units has exceeded 90%. They can call it "Community Policing." It is "Community Occupation."

Ms. Taft does cite what she represents as Chief Kroeker's resume of fairness. He was she tells us, a trusted advisor to Chief Daryl Gates in Los Angeles. She does not tell us that the first paramilitary SWAT team was born in Los Angeles and that Gates was its architect.

Ms. Taft also points to Chief Kroeker's experience "policing" Bosnia and Palestine for the United Nations as further proof of his qualifications to be Police Chief of Portland. That this experience in two militarized war zones serves as a resume enhancer for what was a few years ago labeled the most livable city in the U.S. is simultaneously horrifying and absurd. More so after a recent article in the Seattle Times: Allow me to quote some of it:

"...Soldiers at Fort Lewis are the first in the nation to form a combat unit with the agility of an infantry force and the training of a SWAT team.... (T) wo years ago, the top brass ordered Fort Lewis to lead an operation known as "transformation." Tanks and heavy vehicles are giving way to light armored brigades of 7,000 men and women, able to be anywhere in the world in 96 hours...Troops in "transformation" learn police tactics; how to kick down a door and the best way to use plastic handcuffs. Explosive grenades on the firing range are sometimes replaced with flashbang grenades...The initial training has attracted worldwide attention. Military observers from France, Thailand and Japan have visited Fort Lewis to tour exercises. German television has twice sent camera crews..."
Army Prepares for New Type of Battle, Alex Fryer, Seattle Times 2/25/2001

Coincidence that this program is being piloted in the Pacific Northwest? Coincidence that it is being piloted an hour's drive from Seattle, which witnessed an unprecedented domestic paramilitary occupation during its WTO Ministerial demonstrations? Coincidence that it is being piloted roughly a hundred miles from the "Community Occupation" of Chief Mark Kroeker? Not likely.

Part of this analysis is based on the region's history. The Pacific Northwest and Portland in particular has long served as a "laboratory" for the testing of new political strategies by the international moneyed elite.

There was an agreement signed in December of 1994 by all members of the Clinton Cabinet and every major political figure in Oregon, Democrat or Republican, including incoming Governor John Kitzhaber and U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, called "The Oregon Option." In the words of then Vice President Al Gore, The Oregon Option turned Oregon into a "laboratory."

The program was based on a program called The Oregon Benchmarks, something implemented by former Oregon Governor, now highly paid corporate consultant Neil Goldschmidt. Under Goldschmidt's "Benchmarks" executives from the largest utilities, banks and other monopolies got to wear the hat of government and redesign the way the state was run.

They came up with an agenda that not only gave unprecedented benefits to corporations but created unprecedented intrusions into peoples lives. An aggressive social service program was begun and thousands of parents were put on trial in front of judges to see if they were fit to keep their children.

Education was also remolded. "Tracking" was put in place and many children were funneled into industrial trade tracks away from any chance of higher learning. Schools adopted "community touchpoints" where representatives from police, social services and "other" agencies are put in contact with children and get to ask them about any problems they may be experiencing. Since the number of people they bring through the system often determines these programs success, they come to resemble desperate sales people on commission more than they do impartial advocates in their behavior. Their results often turn into vicious witch-hunts.

Chief Mark Kroeker's boss, Portland Mayor Vera Katz, had a tremendous stake in these plans. Mayor Katz was one of these plans' architects. She had sat on panels of the National Center for Education and the Economy with the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton, George Bush Sr.'s Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, and Citibank President David Rockefeller. The plans they developed were test marketed by their 1991 introduction to the Oregon State Legislature by then Speaker Katz of HB-3565, known as the Katz Education Bill. The implementation of the Katz Bill was then measured as a "benchmark" of the Oregon Progress Board, with elements eventually included in the Clinton Education Bills. Katz felt so strongly about the Oregon Option that she even referred to Portland as a "laboratory" in her January 1995 State of the City Address.

So the bottom line here is that this is simply part of the political landscape and has to be part of the analysis of what is taking place in the Northwest, and Portland in particular. With this background it's not hard to connect the dots.

* A police chief with extensive experience in military occupation.

* A nearby experimental military force being trained in urban operations.

* An economic backwater state that's served as an official corporate testing area for new styles of government

* A local police chief whose reign comes to resemble a form of "Community Occupation."

Since there is no legitimate reason to turn what was only recently voted the most livable city in the United States into an occupied paramilitary zone, it is obvious that Chief Kroeker and his agenda should be rejected and vanquished. Perhaps the only worthwhile point in Ms. Taft's article is that the reasons for doing so should be clear. Portland, especially since it serves as a national model, should reject Chief Kroeker because it is rejecting his agenda of "Community Occupation." It should make clear that it is rejecting it for this reason so that "Community Occupation" does not surface again. There are legitimate purposes for police. A military occupation of their community is not one of them. Not in Portland. Not anywhere.

Paul Richmond
Paul Richmond is the Northwest Regional Vice-President of the National Lawyers Guild and author of the Seattle NLG's Report on the WTO Ministerial available at