THE PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU has apologized to the pastoral administrator at St. Francis Assisi Catholic Church on SE 11th and Oak for dragging a TV crew from the show Cops into a homeless feed without her permission.
"It is a violation of how we feel about the church as a place where people come when they're in need," says Valerie Chapman, the church administrator, who says four officers and a sergeant from North Precinct barged into the homeless feed on Thursday, September 10, without asking her permission.
"They did not have permission, they did not talk to anyone at the door, that is simply not the case," she says.
"It was a failure to communicate," says Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese, saying that his review of the tapes—which will not be released to Cops for broadcast or to the public for review—shows that the officers spoke with a staff person before entry. Reese says he is "trying to build a relationship" with Chapman and her staff, adding that the cops who entered St. Francis were from a different precinct and "unfamiliar" with the church.
Chapman counters, saying her staff had no idea that the TV crew was separate from the police. "It didn't occur to anyone that they were there to shoot a TV show," she says.
"We've listened, and we have told Valerie right up front this was not appropriate," says Reese, adding that the officers were "very low key" and "compassionate" in the performance of their duties. The officers were looking for a transient who had killed another homeless man at a nearby camp, earlier, he adds.
Street Roots first reported the St. Francis incident on Thursday, October 1. The paper ran an editorial the following day, saying: "The underlying message is that this is a two-class town when it comes to policing."
Meanwhile an investigation is continuing into a crash between a patrol car and an oncoming Subaru Outback at SE 136th and Stark last Tuesday night, September 29. The crash put two Cops crewmembers and a police officer in the hospital. Investigators believe that alcohol was a factor in the accident, says the police bureau's Public Information Officer Mary Wheat, with a grand jury expected later this week.
Both Wheat and Reese praised Cops for increasing "transparency."
"That's not true at all," says Dan Handelman from activist group Portland Copwatch. "People behave differently when they're on camera, and in this case, I think officers try to show off."
Handelman describes the raid at St. Francis as "outrageous, on so many levels."
"I think it would be great if we had unbiased people following the police around with video cameras but that's not what happens on Cops," Handelman continues. "But I find it to be a propaganda piece for people who support law enforcement."