A federal jury last month had already awarded Halsted, the fellow behind Hollywood Theater's Grindhouse Film Festival, $206,372 in cumulative damages. Halsted's attorney and the city eventually agreed to the rest of the money to settle Halsted's legal bills and other costs.
Halsted's story first appeared in the Mercury. It went like this:
He was tackled while walking home from a bar on NE Broadway after getting drunk. Halsted said he felt a bright light, heard someone shout for him, and then ran—before he was Tasered five times. His face was also ground into the pavement, and witnesses said police tried to keep him from getting help after he was arrested. Later, a deputy district attorney found no probable cause to charge Halsted with tagging or any other crime. Halsted even had a receipt from the bar where he'd been drinking.
The council vote was initially placed on the city's consent agenda, among a list of city items that are approved all at once with no discussion. Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman asked that it be pulled off that list so he, at least, could talk about it.
Handelman mentioned that Halsted was Tasered five times—most police agencies and training organizations recommend a maximum of three Taser cycles. And he also wanted to make the point that most payouts in police tort cases never go before council to be aired publicly; it depends on how they're labeled: judgments vs. settlements vs. jury awards.
"It's very confusing to figure out which ones have to come before council and which don't," he said. "How are taxpayers supposed to track these? City policy should be to make all of these things public."
To hammer that point, he read the names of about a dozen people who've received a total of more than $1 million city payouts in Taser-related tort claims over the past 20 years—a list he has only because the Mercury asked the city for it last year. Otherwise, those names wouldn't be out there.
City commissioners didn't respond to that particular complaint when they voted to approve Halsted's payment. In fact, only Amanda Fritz had any remarks prepared. She seized on the number of Taser cycles delivered to Halsted and noted a city audit (which, I'll add, is backed up by other expert and reports) that called on cops to officially dial things back.
"I'm worried," Fritz said, "that we have policies that are more more permissive than guidelines."