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Portland Copwatch Urges L.A. To "Say No" To Kroeker

by Portland Copwatch Monday, Jun. 24, 2002 at 9:33 PM PO Box 42456, Portland OR 97242

Portland Copwatch today issued an open letter to the people of Los Angeles, urging them to reject Portland police chief Mark Kroeker's bid for the job of L.A.P.D. chief. The group cites Kroeker's poor record on civil rights, police accountability, and community involvement.

June 24, 2002

An open letter to the people of Los Angeles:

Portland chief of police Mark Kroeker is currently being considered for the job of chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Some of you are familiar with him from his long tenure as a Los Angeles cop. We encourage you to review his performance during the last two years before you decide if you want him as your police chief. Consider the results of Kroeker's leadership:

Kroeker has continually failed to take any action on the issue of racial profiling. Even though the Portland Police Bureau's own statistics show that African-American drivers are 2.6 times more likely to be stopped by police than are white drivers, Kroeker insists that more analysis is needed before changes can be made.

Police-community relations reached a dramatic low after riot police disrupted a workers' rights parade and picnic on May 1, 2000. Riot cops, police horses, and all-terrain vehicles corralled parade participants in a downtown park where police attacked the crowd with "less-lethal" shotguns, batons, and pepper spray. Kroeker defended these tactics and claimed that the police acted with restraint. The Oregonian newspaper later described the police response as "riot control where a riot didn't exist."

In November of 2000 the Portland Alliance newspaper released tapes of Kroeker delivering sexist and homophobic speeches before an assembly of religious police officers. In the speeches, Kroeker describes homosexuality as a "perversion" and an "alternative death style," he tells of his work at a Christian summer camp where children were "disciplined. . . with a three-foot paddle," and he urges each woman to "be a submissive wife." Despite an enormous amount of local and national publicity, outrage from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans community, and numerous interviews with the press, Kroeker still refuses to apologize for his remarks.

In June of this year, Kroeker issued Portland officers electronic shock devices, known as "tasers." These so-called "less lethal" weapons have been banned in several European countries as well as in many U.S. cities because of their use as implements of torture. Additionally, tasers may have contributed to the deaths of two people in the custody of Pomonoa, California police. Contrary to his professed commitment to community policing, Kroeker made the decision to deploy tasers without community input of any kind and did not even announce his decision until after the weapons were first used.

In the summer of 2001 it came to light that Kroeker was maintaining a policy whereby records of officer misconduct were destroyed after five years, rather than after 75 years as required by Oregon law. This practice would seem to frustrate any effort at tracking problem officers (as was recommended in Los Angeles by the Christopher Commission in 1991), or identifying policy failures. Contrary to the urging of the Portland city auditor, Kroeker has refused to change his policy.

Kroeker's relationship with his officers has also been strained. Shortly after his arrival in Portland, he announced plans to institute military-style grooming standards. Kroeker said the new standards would make officers safer while performing their duties, and would improve the image of the department. Officers complained that they interfere with individual lifestyle choices that have no bearing on police work.

If you want an authoritarian who will alienate both the community and rank and file officers, who takes unilateral action to advance his own pet projects but does nothing in response to community demands, who brings rigid Puritanism to his views on social issues and cares not an ounce about discrimination -- then Mark Kroeker is your man.

On the other hand, if you want a police chief who takes community input seriously, cherishes democratic values, advances tolerance and accountability within the department, and tries to minimize conflict with the community, we urge you to look at other candidates.

In solidarity,

Emily-Jane Dawson & Kristian Williams
for Portland Copwatch

PO Box 42456
Portland OR 97242

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