I ask you to consider copwatchers as documentary filmmakers. Given policing’s absolute lack of oversight by local authority, their in-the-field reporting is the only means of assessing paper training directives against actual officer conduct. When copwatchers record a scene, interview participants, or offer commentary in video posted online, they plant themselves squarely in journalists’ traditional role.
Oregon law enforcement has drawn a stark, blue line: it seeks to suppress a new form of reporting … arising as corporate media ownership diminishes investment in investigative journalism, concentrates news distribution outlets.
ACLU of Oregon initiates #TheyReportToYou, a campaign to raise voter awareness of District Attorneys’ power. Among other deficiencies, the effort directs voter attention to the number of uncontested elections for that office. Multnomah DA Rodney D. Underhill responded by handing out legal consequences to door-knocking by inquiring copwatchers.*
Local suppression of community-based police oversight is part of broader, inter-agency collusion.
“Community concerns were recently confirmed,” reported Mike Smith of Film the Police Portland yesterday. According to Smith, Chris Ponte, founder of Cop Block’s Oregon Chapter (UPDATE: now posting at Oregon Cop Watcher), was “confronted at his place of work by FBI agents in suits taking him into custody …” (Video below.) Smith, helming loosely knit associates, “denounces this repugnant miss use of a law-enforcement apparatus meant to Combat Terrorism. Chris was later interrogated about photographs that appeared in his Facebook account. So yes, we have the FBI going through local activist Facebook accounts looking for reasons to arrest them with federal warrants.”
UPDATE: as teased out in the comment thread below; initial, warrantless intrusion was likely initiated by PPB Kapitän Mark Kruger, retaliation following Ponte’s attempted interview. Through relationships present in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a municipal beef became an FBI investigation. In the thread, an unidentified agent contends PPB Detective Jeff Myers rifled through Ponte’s posts.
More, after yesterday’s 6-minute example of citizen journalism.
Smith is a reporter. His YouTube channel demonstrates he’s also a boisterous record keeper, of institutional memory in the civil pursuit of police accountability. He evinces renewed concerns over Feds’ Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). (See my post Behind the City’s Terrorism Task Force Stands a TITAN Fusion Center.) He offers warning while two dozen community organizations inspire an active campaign to demand the City of Portland once again withdraw collusion with the FBI’s domestic surveillance and intervention apparatus. (More at Feds a Bad Influence on Portland Police. Plot spoiler: on 13 February 2019, Jo Ann Hardesty fulfilled a campaign promise: the City of Portland withdrew from surreptitious collaboration with the JTTF.)
I also call your attention to other reporting to emerge yesterday. Federal security agents in 2016 deployed electronic control weaponry against defense attorney Marcus Mumford, during Federal trial at Portland. The Oregonian declared “Several defense lawyers, as well as Mumford, surmised that the government suddenly dismissed the criminal charges against him after Mumford’s lawyer asked for all texts and email messages between the marshals during the Bundy trial.” It’s assumed they likely revealed “unprofessional and embarrassing communications.”
Agents who tackled and tazed Mumford on 27 October 2016 likely included bad actors Deputy US Marshal Jesse Lindstrom and Federal Inspector Karl Knobbs. Two days prior, and two floors above, in the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse, Lindstrom physically intervened upon your reporter, Roger David Hardesty, who stood waiting to testify on Portland Police Association contract renewal. My prior, written testimony submitted to the US Department of Justice (DoJ) argued the bargain had been negotiated clandestinely; that it violated transparency provisions in a 2012 Federal Agreement to reform unconstitutional policing. Knobbs formed part of the team tackling Hardesty, and preventing his oral testimony on the corrupt bargain.
Add this puzzle piece.
The City of Portland secured the services of Lindstrom, Knobbs (left) and two other Federal agents … when subsequent public hearing convened at City Hall, to abro-gate the 2012 plea deal to reform police. (See Obstruction of Justice, Portland Style.)
Online circulation of the image presents its own style of reporting. The alert photographer, while at a City Hall hearing earlier this year, had long been irked by Knobbs’ “physical bullying” of a disabled friend . The pair had been in court support together, during 2014 civil suit contending police brutality by the City of Portland’s riot squad.
I imply orchestration, in ‘security’ agents’ migration from Federal Court to City Hall … when police issues surface on an agenda. Portland’s JTTF presents as a nexus of (private corporations, lobbyists and) law enforcement agencies. One shared task is to detect ‘threats to policing.’ In orchestration with Homeland Security’s Titan Fusion Center in Salem, JTTF engages in social media surveillance, sets targets, and initiates countermeasures. I contend the FBI’s JTTF used these tools against Ponte. I suspect Lindstrom and Knobbs form one set of agents that authorities rely on … to roll out countermeasures.
Call to action.
Support the ACLU campaign to break City ties with the JTTF. Sign and share their petition.
Protect your copwatchers and police accountability activists. Unlike body-worn cameras, cops do change their conduct when independent observation is directed at them. To make copwatching neighborly, or a civic duty, would certainly be to increase safety for immigrants and communities of color. As a check on police power … for five years asserted by US DoJ to be unconstitutionally exercised in Portland … copwatchers improve justice delivery.
*NOTE: Mainstream journalists knock on doors, set up satellite trucks in streets outside newsmakers’ homes. Some in public office court the attention. Copwatchers Uncle Bob & Son of Hightower could have sought comment from Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB’s) Public Information Office (PIO), but it is unimaginable that the officer in charge would describe how police policy navigates clandestine, backroom channels.
Readers should note that Sgt. Chris Burley, promoted to PIO since employing lethal force in the 2010 police homicide of Keaton Otis, now offers ‘no comment’ on behalf of PPB. DA Underhill took PPB Officer Cody Berne into his office as a county prosecutor. Appointment of Berne, also on-scene and complicit with failed investigation into the Otis lynching, puts both police and the community on notice … law-enforcement exoneration of coworkers will continue to premise justice delivery. Those having faced grand juries, for most egregious acts, will stand as sentinels … protecting those who follow.
I also ask you to look askance at any endorsing the concept of ‘community policing,’ particularly when hearing it proposed as remedy to police violence. DA Underhill’s response at his doorstep – and secrecy surrounding officers’ home addresses – offers fundamental evidence that there is no desire, functionally, to be in community. Even when not outright snitch programs, community-based policing discussion rarely turns to upending traditional power imbalances. Indicators of actual community integration into policing include a means to set or at least influence policy, training and disciplinary outcomes. Collaboration in top secret effort, as with JTTF, is the antithesis of transparent partnership. Agents have justice advocates under surveillance, while local authority sets law enforcement policy by covert means. Agents of the state will resort to physical coercion. This might indicate to you that it is wise and timely that such collusion is disassembled. The City must sever ties with JTTF.
UPDATE: PPB Chief Danielle emulated Underhill three weeks following this post. The public figure obtained an indefinite stalking protective order against Son of Hightower. Burley forwarded the police narrative.
Further reading: The Politics of Community Policing: Rearranging the Power to Punish, Lyons (pp. 10-11). “The more democratic forces (subjecting unaccountable forms of power to critical public scrutiny or moderating competing demands) and the more disciplinary powers (to surveil and normalize) both require a degree of transparency and a linked capacity to gather information and construct more or less persuasive stories. When this transparency directs power and information in panoptic fashion, only in the direction of the state, it encourages docility and dependence …” (Italics mine.)