Off the record

There was a well-thought-out article in the New York Times last month about how police body cameras haven't resulted in greater accountability for wayward cops. The reporter concluded that the police departments use the body cam footage only when it backs up their version of events, and they hide it when it doesn't. I must say, I'm not surprised, but it was interesting seeing that truth spelled out so clearly. The Times story is here, and I've pulled it out from behind the paywall for you.

The article doesn't really describe the situation in Portland, because here, we're still fussing with getting the cops to wear the cameras. They wore them for a short while, but apparently it was only some sort of "pilot project," and now they're back to not wearing them.

Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, who's running this pop stand? The bobbleheads at City Hall can't get anything done.

Body cams might have been useful on December 27th, when the Portland blue shot and killed a guy, Tyrone Lee Johnson, outside Mall 205. The official account of the shooting is as vague and suspicious as they come. Oh, the cops are quick to tell you, there was a warrant out for the victim's arrest. He had a long criminal record. Yessir, and there was a gun on the ground next to his dead body – isn't there always? 

In a subsequent news release at around 7:30 p.m., PPB said officers had been dispatched just after 3:30 p.m. to "a large department store" in Mall 205 and were told that a suspect in a previous robbery was trying to steal merchandise, and that the suspect had an active arrest warrant....  There was a confrontation between the suspect and officers near the west end of the Mall 205 parking lot along Southeast 96th Avenue, and the officers shot and injured the suspect. 

Now, the guy must not have been on drugs, or you would have heard that, too. And if he had shown a weapon to anyone, that would have been prominently noted. The clear implication is always that the dead guy was a bad man who deserved to be executed. If we ever get body cams, there will be fewer of these stories. But as I say, in this poorly managed burg, that seems an impossible task.

There is some video of a part of the incident, however.  It's security footage showing some of the mall parking lot. It shows the suspect running away, and the police pulling up with their lights ablaze. He doesn't look like he wants a confrontation. He looks like he is running away.

What happened next, we'll never know for sure. If only there were more video. If only the police had body cams on. But this is Portland. We've been saying that for too many years to count. Maybe by the fall. Maybe.


  1. Since when do Portland police respond to shoplifters, anyway?

  2. The overarching problem isn't cops and their use of force, per se, it's that every time the cops use force a group of wacktavists are automatically convinced it was unnecessary. Case in point: Patrick Kimmons. He did a mass shooting in front of police, then ran right at them, caught on camera. Activists treated it like was another Kendra James or James Chasse. We went from "contain use of force and reform the cops" to "cops are an extension of white supremacy and every act they do is not justifiable."

    No where in this zeitgeist is there a utility for cameras.

    In my mind, the real issue is that plenty of folks in this city simply can't/won't comprehend that sometimes a bad guy needs to get shot by the cops. Doesn't matter if the bad guy just robbed a store with a gun, just raped someone while holding a gun, and pointed a gun at the cops - they're going to be upset because that's their culture now. The political class and the general public need to align on occasional lawful and justified use of force and tell the activists to get bent. The prime example of this is Patrick Kimmons, that gang-connected family should have been told to kick rocks, and the "justice for patrick kimmons" folks shouldn't be given political leeway when they block roads or otherwise "protest".

    Until then, cameras don't matter. We've had cameras that watched Kimmons shoot into a crowd of 6 people because he didn't like them selling cocaine on his turf.

    1. We're already where you claim we need to be: "The political class and the general public need to align on occasional lawful and justified use of force and tell the activists to get bent."

      What you seem to want is for the public to be OK with the cops and cops alone deciding the meaning of "occasional," "lawful," and "justified use of force" without any interference from the pesky public.

      There are terrible people in the world. That's why we have cops. If cops want to be judged as better than the terrible people they're supposed to be corraling, they have to be willing to be held to a much, much higher standard.

  3. Kendra James was a hope to die 100% dope fiend who committed suicide. I have contempt for those that attempt to exculpate a crazed and thieving working girl who CHOSE to do dope above all else in this life. That good child high school picture the Oregonian ran with? She looked nothing like that and had through determination and will made herself into that girl's antithesis.

    No, he doesn't want cops alone to be deciding...but someone and got to and you certainly are not there. "Pesky public" indeed. Portlanders have earned the Portland they've got . You're not even close to the bottom. There can be no doubt about that


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