Two years ago at an anti-war protest, a Portland police officer pepper sprayed Bill Ellis pointblank in the face. In reaction, Ellis sued the city and was part of a recent $300,000 settlement. Yet, in spite of this tacit admission of guilt, the city refuses to take administrative action against the officers involved--a negligence that brings attention to the Citizen Review Committee, a publicly funded police watchdog agency based in city hall.
Four years ago, in an attempt to rebuild public trust in the police bureau, city council created the CRC. Since then, the agency has done little to restore confidence in the oversight process. The CRC overlooked the Ellis case along with other cases involving the excessive use of force by Portland's police. Two years ago, they dismissed the case involving the shooting of Jose Mejia Poot. Critics blame Richard Rosenthal, director of the Independent Police Review Division that oversees the CRC, for preventing the watchdog agency from doing its job.
Rosenthal insists that the CRC cannot act on the Ellis case because the victim settled a lawsuit with the city. But he assures that the pepper spray incident will be taken into account when reviewing police policy on public demonstrations. Rosenthal maintains, "Mr. Ellis' attorney's actions have tied our hands. Just because we cannot handle an appeal on the Ellis case does not mean we can't do anything. This will still affect policy."
But Dan Handelman of Copwatch alleges that Rosenthal is turning the CRC into "a rubber stamp for the [police] bureau." In regards to the Ellis case, Handelman claims "CRC members in January did say they were very concerned. They are the community's voice on these cases, but they have become marginalized."
Handelman blames Rosenthal's time fighting crime in LA as a DA for making him "too cynically jaded." He believes "Portland is nothing compared to what he saw in LA. If you're not concerned with the person hurt in this case, then you have no business running a police review board." ANDREA CHALUPA
After a public outcry against a proposed Home Depot along the Burnside Bridge, Portland Development Commission sent developers back to the drawing board to reconsider plans. Those revised plans are now available on-line: www.pdc.us. Check them out. PB