A wide array of activists--from Latino groups, to those advocating police accountability, to proponents for better mental health care--seized upon the shooting to illustrate the police as trigger-happy, saying that fatal force was far from necessary.
According to Sgt. Brian Schmautz, police spokesman, the two officers were given the medals for their "personal courage and devotion to duty." (During this ceremony, every officer who used deadly force within the last two years was given a medal of valor.) Schmautz also cited statistics showing the high turnover rate for officers involved in fatal shootings, implying that positive reinforcement, like medal ceremonies, helps counterbalance the criticism officers face when they shoot and kill--especially in a high-profile case like Poot's.
To protest the medals, Portland's Hispanic Police Advisory Committee is calling for a formal apology from Mayor Vera Katz and the immediate removal of Chief Mark Kroeker.
The awards were the latest indication that the police bureau continues to ignore public criticisms. Surely a back-patting gesture like an award was not only in poor taste, but again illustrated that Chief Kroeker and Mayor Katz consider themselves and the police bureau largely unaccountable to the public.
In a second blow for local police watchdogs, during a meeting last Thursday, the Board of Directors for the Police Accountability Campaign (PAC) was forced to eliminate the only remaining staff position. PAC has led a crusade for a citizen review board and served as a clearinghouse for complaints about police abuses.
When two local foundations refused funding to the group, "we just ran out of money," says PAC's Adrienne Ratner. Currently, PAC is trying to recruit volunteers to take over the staff responsibilities and is looking for donations to help PAC pay office rent. ANNA BOND