Portland Sergeant Said it’s Common for Police to Mislead Public to Prevent Videotaping

A Portland police sergeant admitted to investigators that he deliberately misrepresented the law to get a protester to stop videotaping officers during a November 2016 protest and acknowledged that he’s far from alone in the deception.

Sgt. Erin Smith said other officers also mislead the public about the much-misunderstood law.

Smith’s revelations were included in an investigation of a complaint filed by a man who was filming police during a demonstration in front of fuel storage facilities in Northwest Portland over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The city’s Independent Police Review office investigated the complaint and shared the outcome with the Citizen Review Committee, which advises the office and hears citizen appeals of bureau findings on alleged police misconduct.

Leaders of both groups were none too pleased to see the statements from a 23-year Police Bureau veteran and street supervisor.

Smith “shockingly described this misrepresentation as a common practice among police,” Anika Bent-Albert, assistant director of the review office, wrote to the Police Bureau in a recently released memo.

The citizen committee has urged police administrators to halt any attempts by officers to trick people about their rights.

Bent-Albert, on behalf of the citizen group, told police that “neither the community nor the bureau is well served by officers deliberately misrepresenting the law or threatening improper arrests – especially when the intent or result is that citizens forfeit their rights.”

“We encourage you to see that any pervasive misunderstandings about the acceptability of this conduct are addressed immediately and decisively in officer training,” Bent-Albert added.

Benjamin Kerensa, who complained about Smith’s actions, obtained Bent-Albert’s memo through a public records request. The city initially challenged its release, saying it dealt with officer discipline.

But the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office last week ordered that the memo’s last two paragraphs be made public because they addressed broad policy and training issues “of serious concern to the citizens overseeing the police discipline process.”

The paragraphs note that Smith in the investigation not only admitted to falsely telling Kerensa that he didn’t have the right to film officers, but described his misrepresentations as “a common practice among police.”

The disclosure “wasn’t too much of a surprise,” Kerensa said Tuesday.

The two paragraphs that were released from a memo written in December by Anika Bent-Albert, assistant director of the Independent Police Review office, to the captain of the Police Bureau’s professional standards division.
Kerensa noted that Smith’s supervisor, Traffic Capt. Mike Crebs, argued there wasn’t evidence that Smith had threatened him with arrest for filming during Kerensa’s hearing before the Citizen Review Committee last year.

Crebs didn’t think that Smith’s remarks to Kerensa that he “could be arrested” for filming officers violated bureau policy or rose to the level of a threat. The bureau initially found the allegation “not sustained” but recommended a debriefing with the officer.

The citizen committee disagreed and recommended the bureau “sustain” the allegation.

Police Chief Danielle Outlaw responded to the citizen group’s concerns in December, saying she agreed with the committee’s findings that Smith violated bureau policy by misrepresenting the law to Kerensa and had improperly threatened to arrest Kerensa who was lawfully filming officers. Smith is expected to face discipline on those grounds.

All bureau members are expected to read the bureau’s directive on truthfulness, complete a test affirming their knowledge of it and follow the policy, Sgt. Chris Burley, bureau spokesman, said Tuesday.

Officers in unrelated cases have faced termination for breaking the truthfulness policy. Burley said he couldn’t comment about any discipline in Smith’s case, calling it a “pending personnel matter.”

The ACLU has worked to ensure that police officers know that the public has the right to record them. Agency lawyers helped represent a woman who was detained by transit police in 2013 for video-recording them arresting a stranger on a public sidewalk just outside downtown Portland. The woman, Carrie Medina, took police to court in 2015, and as part of a settlement reached last year, the city of Gresham agreed to pay $85,000 to Medina, and police in Gresham and Portland enacted new policies about the rights of bystanders to record their actions in public. The Portland police adopted a new policy in October 2016.

“The ACLU of Oregon reviewed the proposed training as part of the settlement agreement. It is very concerning that after Portland Police Bureau trained its officers on this issue,” that a sergeant and his supervisor believes “it is appropriate to lie to a member of the public about the law as a ‘tactic’ to try and get the member of the public to stop filming,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director for the ACLU of Oregon.

The Oregon Legislature also passed a bill in June 2015 that clarifies that state law allows video-recording police from a public vantage point.

Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2018/02/memo_sergeant_claimed_portland.html

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Filming Cops
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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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