Detailed discussion about the changes being explored—laid out in reports that rebuff all but a handful of community-driven proposals aimed at boosting civilian oversight—was quickly swallowed by the real-world manifestation of what police accountability means. It was the third such hearing, but it was by far the most intense. And it served as a perfect illustration of why, exactly, accountability and oversight are worth fighting for.
Justin James Bridges, a protester who remains in a wheelchair because of injuries suffered in the clearing of Chapman Square last month, was the first person to testify and set the tone when he held up his $22,000-plus hospital bill and said that he still lacks feeling in his right arm and leg. He kept on point, holding up his case (police say Bridges re-injured an old back injury) as an example of why misconduct cases need greater civilian oversight.
"Everybody has to be held accountable for their actions," he said. And when Adams asked Bridges if he'd filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review office, he replied, "Yes I have."
It was probably the most surreal hearing I've attended yet at city council. Adams repeatedly pleaded with speakers to relate their testimony to the accountability reports—an almost futile effort in the face of a stream of stories about cops poking and bashing people, or treating them roughly once in custody, or even making things tense just by showing up in riot gear. There were up-twinkles and even protocol-defying applause. The last speaker, in tears, was surrounded by a dozen or more occupiers who attempted to comfort and support her with the simple act of resting hands on her.
Her admonition to the mayor: "Please be nice to us."
Voices were raised, including Adams' as he tried to keep order, and security guards swept in in case the room needed to be cleared. Eventually, a compromise emerged in which those who were willing to stay on topic would jump to the front of the line, and then, after they were finished, Fritz would leave and Adams and Nick Fish would stay and listen to everyone else.
They got an earful, along with Chief Reese and his internal affairs captain, Dave Famous.
One occupier said he watched officers swinging their batons overhead during Saturday's failed clearout of Shemanski Park and said he was troubled that the city is rebuffing efforts to give new oversight powers to the Civilian Review Committee, which handles appeals of misconduct cases once the police bureau conducts its own investigations.
"I don't understand how that's independent," the man said before looking at Adams and telling him, his voice quavering: "I think you owe us an apology for the police brutality in this city."
An Occupy medic, Remi, also said he saw officers hitting people in the face and neck with batons on Saturday, including 15-year-old Walker Prettyman, who was photographed by the Oregonian and confirmed his injuries but said he wouldn't file a complaint.
"We need to make sure that the actions taken be measured by the actions that are going on," Remi said, saying cops had other means of clearing the park besides heavily armed riot cops.
Later, a woman held up her hand so the TV cameras filming the council meeting on public access cable could see the bruises she suffered from a baton on Saturday. A 16-year-old boy talked about having his arm twisted painfully when he was arrested at Jamison Square last month, with zip-ties fastened too tightly, even though he was trying to leave the park when officers arrested him.
And another man said his laptop was confiscated during the raid and that he was having a hard time getting it back. It had the last remaining footage of his young daughter, who died in January 2010, he said. The man, in tears at one point, was directed to Fish's office, which told me that a laptop was among the items recovered Saturday in Shemanski, and that anyone else with lost items should call the cops' property division at 503-823-2179.
The first mic check of the day, however, waited until after the hearing finally ended. It was a call to come back next Thursday for the next hearing.