It's purely coincidence, but worth noting nonetheless: The same day the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) took the very rare step of proactively releasing police reports surrounding a controversial arrest yesterday, the city agreed to pay out $90,000 to a victim of police abuse from the last time the PPB took such an approach (or at least one of the last times).
In a short hearing Wednesday, Portland City Council agreed to settle the case of Thai Gurule, who two years ago, at the age of 16, was beaten and tasered by a trio of Portland cops. The case got a lot of attention—not just for the drama of a teen being punched, kneed, and tasered on camera, but because a Multnomah County Judge later excoriated the officers involved.
To refresh: In September 2014, in response to footage of Gurule's arrest circulating on Facebook, the PPB released materials surrounding the incident—even before any news outlets had reported on it. As the Mercury wrote at the time:
It's the kind of thing that usually happens in deadly force cases, and usually only after several days of inquiries and reporting. In this case, the bureau issued the information before anyone even posted stories about what happened. (Normally, even in smaller cases, the bureau will decline to release reports weeks and months later, citing ongoing investigations.)
911 calls the cops released showed police had received reports of a group of eight or nine teens potentially fighting near Cathedral Park, and redacted police reports offered reasoning for Garule's arrest (essentially: cops had seen the Roosevelt High School football player walking with his brother and a friend in the vicinity, and took them for suspects).
One of those reports, by Officer Betsy Hornstein, claimed Gurule had twice wrapped his arm around her neck and punched her in the course of resisting arrest. "I was now in fear that [REDACTED] was trying to strangle me, and if successful, he could place himself at a great advantage to cause me harm..." she wrote in her report.
The only problem with that account: Videos shot by bystanders showed that wasn't the case, which a judge noted in a scathing verdict.
"Hornstein was not credible in several important instances," Circuit Judge Diane Stuart said, while acquitting Garule of criminal charges.
Here's one video of the arrest.
Garule, through attorney Stephen Houze, later filed a tort claim for $5 million, citing injury and psychological duress. City Council agreed to settle for $90,000 in a perfunctory hearing Wednesday, finding that "there is a risk the City may be found liable."
Gurule will get roughly $58,000 of the money. Houze gets the rest.
As I say, it's odd that the settlement should come the very same day cops once again took the extraordinary step of voluntarily issuing police reports (which the bureau is typically very strict about charging the public for). In that case, as in Gurule's, the bureau was responding to bystander footage—this time showing Portland organizer Kathryn Stevens being arrested during a November 21 demonstration.
Mayor Charlie Hales has since asked the city's Independent Police Review to look into the arrest, and the ACLU of Oregon has accused the city of potentially violating demonstrators first amendment rights.