PORTLAND'S POLICE appear to be adopting a curious double standard when it comes to combating indecency on our city streets.
For some, like 21-year-old Michael Hammond, the standard is strict indeed. Hammond was arrested for riding his bike naked, along with two friends, on NE Alberta during the Last Thursday festival back in June.
Because the cops tend to turn a blind eye to naked bike riders during the annual World Naked Bike Ride—and because Oregon's statewide indecent exposure law is less strict than Portland's—Hammond claims he did not know about the city's indecent exposure statute, which makes it illegal to expose one's genitalia "in view of a public place open and available to persons of the opposite sex."
Video of Hammond's arrest shows him being grabbed and taken to the ground by three cops after he refused to put clothes on. Hammond also claims that afterward the cops were piling on the moral outrage in the back of their patrol car.
"I asked Hammond if he thought it was appropriate for young children, women, and men to see his penis," wrote Officer Cody Berne, in his arrest report.
In addition to indecent exposure, Hammond was also charged with resisting arrest and assault in the fourth degree—charges he thinks are overzealous and extreme.
"I work for people with developmental disabilities," he says. "If I get stuck with these charges I'm going to look like a violent pervert and that's not who I am at all."
Last week, the cops also asked naked roller-skater Gennifer Moss to don a bikini bottom while she skated on the waterfront, in an incident reported across the state.
But it seems some Portland police are quick to forget their prudish mores when it comes to searching alleged criminals in the street.
"You're going along the breast line, you're touching the breast, you're shaking the bra out, you're coming around again and down, around the waistband, down the zipper line. Your hand is actually going up into the crotch area, you're feeling for anything hidden in there," said Officer Christopher Kulp in court on July 24, when asked to describe his "inventory" search of a female suspect.
Kulp discovered a meth pipe in the woman's bra, but shocked Judge Michael Marcus with the description of how he found it.
"In my 18-plus years of listening to motions about stops and frisks and inventories and so forth, I never recall hearing anybody doing an inventory search in as intrusive a manner as to have contact with a member of the opposite sex's genitals or breasts," Marcus said. "It seems to me that what's really going on is that the defendant was surprised, felt violated, was astonished, and frightened by this behavior."
The judge gave the woman a sentence of discharge, which meant that although she was found guilty of drug possession, she was freed without jail or probation.
At another hearing on September 10, Officer Peter Hart told Judge Marcus he pulled a suspect's pants down and cut a hole in his underwear with a knife while conducting a search. On cross-examination by the suspect's defense attorney, Kristen West, Hart admitted conducting the search in the middle of the street on NE 72nd, in full view of the public, and to "reaching [his] fingers in" to the suspect's underwear.
"I said he could pat me down, I didn't see that I could stop him," the suspect testified. "And then he reached right up, and literally grabbed my balls."
Judge Marcus ruled that any evidence found on the suspect by Officer Hart should be suppressed. In this case, Hart retrieved a golf ball-sized object containing several small packets of alleged crack cocaine, from the suspect's genital area.
"You've noticed that they have drugs there," the cops' public information officer, Cathe Kent, told the Mercury when asked about exposing suspects to humiliating searches in public. "This is where they hide it, and we're trained to retrieve it. If people were being groped and manhandled, there would be complaints."
Kent says criminals have also been known to hide drugs in their nostrils, ear canals, belly buttons, and children's diapers, and says searching somebody's underwear is "not a good part of the job."
"But these people don't have any morals," Kent adds. "We respect them more than they respect themselves."
Attorney West disagrees.
"There are ways that officers should be trained to do their jobs without humiliating and embarrassing people and violating their privacy," she says. "They need to take every encounter in a new light, not stereotype a certain class of person and use that as a justification to violate their individual dignity."