It's one thing to be a journalist and have the Portland police bureau stonewall you. It's always frustrating; but something that local journalists have come to expect. For example, when the Oregonian wanted to look at personnel files for Scott McCollister (the officer who shot Kendra James) it took two years and a lawsuit to get their hands on the information.
But, what if you were a parent whose son was the victim of a DUI/hit-and-run? And the police wouldn't release police records so you could find out whether or not the driver was insured?
That's the unenviable position of Barbara Fauria. Three weeks ago, the Mercury reported about her son, Rafael, who had allegedly tagged a building and was then chased down by the business owner. Unfortunately for Rafael, the business was a martial arts studio. The incident ended several blocks away from the studio when Rafael landed in front of oncoming traffic on SE Grand.
That much was related to the Mercury by the police bureau's public information office. But attempts to obtain more information were met with claims of confidentiality.
Surprisingly, the victim's mother encountered the same resistance when she requested simple information--like whether the driver was insured and who exactly was the one-man anti-graffiti task force that chased her son for blocks before the accident.
Since her son has spent a great deal of time in intensive care since the accident, information about the driver's insurance is vital. And, if her son is planning to press charges against the studio owner, the process would be easier if his name was known. But, says Barbara Fauria, the police don't seem interested in helping.
"The attitude of the police is, 'Look, lady, you're the one with the sick kid. You figure it out,'" she told the Mercury. "They're acting like this information is a huge secret."
It is time for a change. During former Police Chief Tom Potter's mayoral campaign, he constantly pledged to return Portland to effective community policing and transparency. Now is the time to deliver on those promises. It's a shame when the police bureau is unwilling to untie its tongue--especially when it's their job to serve the public.