Surveillance: whose eyes are where?

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.

Photo by Mary Eng

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.)

5 thoughts on “Surveillance: whose eyes are where?

  1. hardspace says:

    City, multiple County, State & Federal collusion.
    Court documents do not describe how an unnamed Portland Police Bureau Detective learned in July 2017 that Ponte was depicted on his Facebook page in a set of posts … from January.

    Inter-agency collusion, in a Portland Police Bureau matter, is confirmed.
    Oregon State Police, Criminal Justice Information Services' Law Enforcement Data System is a database created for law enforcement records such as warrants, protection orders, stolen property, criminal histories, and other vital investigative files.An unnamed FBI Special Agent described a local cop’s search through Oregon State Police’s Law Enforcement Data System, to find a prior conviction in another jurisdiction. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles complied with – at minimum – request for a photograph. According to a Clackamas County Probation Officer, Ponte had successfully completed 14 months’ probation in March. That employee in October directed the city cop to Ponte’s place of employment (outside Multhomah County), where Human Resources and coworkers were interviewed. Following request by local law enforcement, we are to believe the Federal ATF’s Firearms Technology Criminal Branch (location not identified) swiftly identified a shotgun Ponte had fired with coworkers. And that it had passed through interstate or foreign commerce, to be to hand in Oregon. (Further, Federal involvement, indicative of JTTF collusion: when still a City investigation, the US Forest Service was able to identify the remote site where firearms were used recreationally.) We are to believe an FBI agent (name redacted) then took jurisdiction, and asked all papers, including his affidavit describing the PPB Detective’s actions and the charges against Ponte, be kept secret. With US District Magistrate You’s assent, Assistant US Attorney Thomas Ratcliffe began prosecution.

  2. hardspace says:

    Oregonian reporting does not explain how a PPB detective discovered the 5-month old Facebook photographs. It does disclose investigation into Ponte “began around the same time that Portland police Capt. Mark Kruger got a stalking order against Ponte in Washington County.” Kruger (below) has been known to dress in Nazi garb: a fact not disclosed in turn-of-the-century civil rights lawsuits against him. The City Attorney withheld that evidence. null

  3. hardspace says:

    Federal Judge Orders Ponte’s Release
    Oregon’s top-ranking Federal Public Defender Lisa Hay used the phrase: “Don’t make a federal case out of it,” in reviewing a January 2019 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “Not every case deserves the significant punishment that comes with a federal prosecution.”

    The office of the U.S. Attorney for Oregon acknowledged Ponte’s case should be thrown out: U.S. Attorney Thomas Ratcliffe and and U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez had wrongly inflated federal definition of an Oregon felony.

    Ponte served a 10-day jail stint for state charges; felon in possession of a firearm. Facing Federal time for the same crime, Ponte accepted Ratcliffe’s offer of a year and a day in prison. Hernandez ultimately sentenced the copwatcher to six months in prison, and six months of home detention.
    “I feel like the government stole five months of my life from me,” said Ponte. Smith, whose video prompted this blog post (above), recorded a welcome home. Documents came out.

    U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown recused herself from the case, saying she had officiated at Kruger’s wedding and signed his marriage certificate.

    Reporting ultimately identified Portland Police Bureau Detective Jeff Myers as searching Ponte’s Facebook profile, to produce evidence of a firearm in Ponte’s grasp.

  4. hardspace says:

    Prison Changes a Man

    It may be ironic that Copwatching video now militates against Ponte. In #TextGate, local media sourced reams of text messages wherein Lt. Jeff Niiya, head of Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team (the ‘riot squad’ mentioned in the original post), connived with the leader of an alt-right group ‘Patriot Prayer’ to rumble in the streets of Portland, Oregon in August 2018.

    Clear violation of the PPB Discipline Guide (313.40 Aid to Criminals) became evident when Niiya informed Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson that law enforcement would go dormant, regarding Gibson’s confederate in ‘mutual combat’ … Tusitala ‘Tiny’ Toese. “I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason,” texted the Police Lieutenant.

    In admirable display of citizen journalism, online researchers spontaneously began connecting months’ old, conspiratorial conversations with real-world events.

    It was a strange experience for me, when my one-time ally at Oregon Cop Block appeared online. Video record of a confidential conversation with riot policeman Niiya circulated in the social justice community.

    (More after 2 minutes from video, posted by Robert West.)

    Niiya warns Ponte that he’s been identified in an ongoing investigation. Such disclosure contributes to what the US Justice Department considers a ‘pattern’ of police conduct. Ponte grins and allows “So much for ACAB,” acronym for ‘All Cops Are Bastards.’ The parties separate, Ponte and Uncle Bob laughing over secretly recording Niiya.

    Contrast transparency in communication styles. Law enforcement misconduct festers in secrecy, non-disclosure agreements: copwatcher West’s work product gets hundreds of views.

    Emotions were pointedly less upbeat during protester occupation of Portland’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Center, June-July 2018. It was apparently during police crackdown on the weeks-long encampment when Ponte assaulted an anti-fascist protester. He’s hands-on-hips in the helmet; his antagonist enters, left. Brawler ‘Tiny’ flexes in red, white and blue; center.

    The victim of Ponte’s assault is masked. It’s general indication of membership in, or close cooperation with, militant anti-fascists of Antifa. Valuing public disruption, at times contravening authorities’ legal code, cohort members are not natural allies with copwatchers. They’d prefer not to be recorded, when in direct action.

    Not being at liberty to freely record the street scene would undoubtedly frustrate a documentary producer. Ponte, seven months later and online, claims his victim had threatened to stab him, “moments earlier.” Unlike ‘Tiny,’ Ponte was never charged.

    It’s a complex social environment. Recording militant actors puts them at risk: video evidence might dovetail with Federal prosecution that wrought so much havoc on Ponte. In an era when Portland’s riot squad – with backs to Patriot Prayer hate mongers – have targeted traditional media with less-often-lethal weaponry, assault in video recording is more commonplace than you might imagine.

    UPDATE: photo shared by Colonel Kurtz; Ponte has scrubbed much of his former, online identity.Ponte now occupies his own, individualized space in that complex social environment. He last week re-posted an image, of him cradling an assault rifle, which led to unjustly extended incarceration. He asserts unequivocally, “I film the police,” and work product is appearing at his YouTube channel, Oregon Cop Watcher.

    As I initially launched into copwatchers as documentary filmmakers, I will step away from this chapter of the story. It should be known that Ponte and anti-fascists provoke one another heatedly in online media. I’m itching to share a screen-capture, purportedly shared by Tiny, crediting Ponte with anti-anti-fascist video … but I cared not to step into the world of Patriot Prayer, to authenticate the tweet. Falsehoods there are far too distant from in-the-field recording of officer conduct that I valued in the original post, above: Surveillance: whose eyes are where?

    I depart this comment with observation that my saga folded in upon itself. In the original post, I depicted attorney Marcus Mumford, defending right-wing militants. His lawyers’ requested texts and emails exchanged between Homeland Security goons who deployed electronic weapons against him in a courtroom. I could not have imagined public disclosure of clandestine communications would become a theme, in my subsequent observations.

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