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 local, investigative journalism, and 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 to copwatchers’ inquisitive door-knocking by handing out legal consequences.*

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 as FTP Portland, “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 (JTTF), a municipal beef became an FBI investigation. Six comments form the arc of an unexpected story: Ponte’s travails … brought on by a cop holding Nazis in esteem … resulted in (unlawful jail time and) a one-time copwatcher aligning himself with street-fighters evoking White Supremacist belief.

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 the FBI’s 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.)

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 public 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 was promoted to PIO … after employing lethal force in the 2010 police homicide of Keaton Otis. He 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 inter-agency justice delivery. Cops who’ve faced grand juries, for most egregious acts, now stand as sentinels … protecting officers who follow upward trajectory on a violence curve.

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 with 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.)

Post has been substantially updated over time.
Last re-write 28 May 2019.

6 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. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles complied with – at minimum – request for an identifying photograph. According to a Clackamas County Probation Officer, Ponte had successfully completed 14 months’ probation in March. That employee in October directed a city cop in Multnomah County to Ponte’s place of employment, outside PPB jurisdiction. 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 recreationally with coworkers. And that the weapon 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 discharged.)

    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:

    Inciting Incident

    Oregonian reporting does not explain how a PPB detective came across Ponte’s five-month old Facebook photographs. It does disclose investigation “began around the same time that Portland police Capt. Mark Kruger got a stalking order against Ponte in Washington County.”

    Kapitän Kruger (above) has been known to dress in Nazi garb: a fact not disclosed in turn-of-the-century civil rights lawsuits against him … following a protest. The City Attorney for Portland, Oregon withheld that evidence.

  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 sentencing Ponte. Bernstein at The Oregonian disclosed Brown had officiated at Kruger’s wedding, and signed his marriage certificate.

    Bernstein’s 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. I’m unsure as to contemporary reporting structure, but the Portland Mercury exclusively nominated both he and Kruger … when polling for ‘Portland’s Most Rotten Cop’ in 2004.

  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’), 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. (Toese had an outstanding warrant.) “I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason,” texted the Police Lieutenant in 2017. (See ‘mutual combat’ in the following comment.)

    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 and non-disclosure agreements: copwatcher West’s work product get over a thousand 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, claimed his victim had threatened to stab him, “moments earlier.” Unlike ‘Tiny,’ Ponte was never charged for this assault.

    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.

    My initial post, Surveillance: whose eyes are where?, began with solicitation that you think of copwatchers as documentary filmmakers. Ponte and anti-fascists now provoke one another heatedly in online media. I’m itching to share a screen-capture, purportedly shared by Tiny and crediting Ponte with anti-anti-fascist video … but I care not to step into Patriot Prayer’s world, to authenticate the tweet. Falsehoods there are far too distant from in-the-field recording of officer conduct that I valued in the my original premise.

  5. hardspace says:

    The Story Arc Circles … Ominously

    Christopher Ponte has been arrested again. He’s also been named as a defendant in a four-count complaint, filed on behalf of an urban cidery appropriately named Cider Riot!

    And my assessment of Portland’s historic copwatching community grows convoluted.

    To recap from the note at Surveillance: whose eyes are where? – the initial post above – Ponte, Robert West (known as ‘Uncle Bob’) and ‘Son of Hightower,’ as copwatchers, all brooked legal consequences in 2017 … for attempting to interview Portland’s Police Chief and the Multnomah County District Attorney. I contended they should receive the same constitutional protections as reporters for corporate media.

    Ponte is easily recognizable at the far right. He’s just broken from a ‘loyalty oath’ huddle among Patriot Prayer congregants. May Day protests had just gotten under way at Portland, Oregon in 2019.

    Many hours later, by 7:30pm, Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson (introduced in the prior comment, above) moved a cadre of brawlers to Cider Riot! They accosted boisterous anti-fascists “who had filled tables in an outdoor seating area for a party promoted by Rose City Antifa,” according to Shepherd’s Willamette Week reporting.

    Ponte can be seen here, deploying mace to provoke patrons. Bivins – re-reported as far away as London’s Daily Mail – also captured a 12-second video of Ponte landing a punch. Uncle Bob arrived on the scene with Gibson: he wears neon green as he documents nearly thirty minutes of the mêlée.

    Interestingly, Ponte was not charged for these offenses.

    On 2 May Ponte alerted followers “In 3 months im off Federal Home Confinement,” and later gave the date of 20 August. He has continued posting dozens of true-to-form copwatching files at Oregon Cop Watcher; a 24 May work product gathered an audience of more than a thousand viewers. Initially required to post $40,000 bail following his latest arrest – for violating ORS 166.270 Felon in Possession of a Firearm – Ponte’s voice narrates two distinct videos posted on his purported release date of 21 May 2019.

    No arrests were made at Cider Riot! on 1 May. This is particularly galling, as a young woman was clubbed to unconsciousness at 8pm. More after these disturbing twelve seconds:

    And we pivot from police violence … to an absolute lack of law enforcement. (Academics term refusal to serve and protect as “de-policing.”) Sparling in the Portland Tribune reported “Police sent out a press release before the melee started, declaring the “peaceful” events of the day concluded.” Ramakrishnan, at The Oregonian/OregonLive interviewed Cider Riot! owner Abram Goldman-Armstrong regarding his May Day alert. “Employees called Portland police, but officers did not arrive until about 20 minutes after the fight had ended.” An affray depicted for more than thirty minutes, in non-contiguous Stumptown Matters footage. Goldman-Armstrong “chastised” Portland Police “for not showing up to defuse the fight, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for his handling of far-right groups.” A ‘hands-off’ attitude toward right-wing hooligans might more correctly depict the Mayor’s policy regarding White supremacists.

    According to Shepherd, “representatives” at PPB and Multnomah County DA Underhill’s Office in January informed the Mayor’s senior policy adviser “they couldn’t arrest or indict people involved in “mutual combat” … a term for brawls in which all participants consensually engage.” By 2 May, Shepherd had done her legal research: she knowledgeably reported “Mutual combat is not a defense against assault charges.”

    The following day the Oregon Justice Resource Center filed its preliminary complaint.

    PPB responded with a Flash Alert, later on 3 May. Cops’ Information Office propounded “It takes time for police response to spontaneous fights between groups of individuals who are armed and actively engaging in violence.” “Central Precinct Officers responded and had officers staged and waiting for cover four minutes after the fight call,” or ’emergency request for services.’ PPB surveilled from the air: unlike firefighters, “Officers continued to monitor and receive updates while they waited for appropriate resources to respond.” Then, appallingly, “as officers were waiting for cover, updates continued to come in with reports of people throwing sticks, rocks, glass, and the deployment of pepper spray.” (It’s not a menu item: DoJ investigators, ostensibly still implementing a 2012 plea deal to remedy illegal use of force by Portland police, encourage the terminology “chemical agent.” Portland code 14A.60.030 declares it unlawful for any convicted felon to “furnish, transport, carry, possess, or use, within the City limits, any tear gas weapon.”

    If investigators employed social media mining tools to identify the woman assaulted, they did not reveal it. PPB undertones cast aspersions on the injured party and her rescuers … for lack of civic engagement. The weaponless victim’s attacker (right), masked and adorned in a German-style helmet, sporting chest protection and weilding an extended tactical baton, appeared with Ponte as they trucked off to do harm after May Day protests had concluded. Goldman-Armstrong’s complaint identified him as Ian Kramer … a trained fighter who has coached at Impact Jiu Jitsu, Beaverton.

    Let’s return to independent media production. In their earlier, after-action Flash Alert, PPB was effectively desultory. They passively divulged “Information came in that a subject was unconscious in the area, but officers did not locate that person in the area they were reported to be and no further updates were provided.” As if police have no role as detectives. Importantly, for a thread on copwatching, PPB advised “Information learned from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube should be shared as these tips may lead to the identification of a suspect or suspects,” and hinted vaguely at financial reward.

    It seems ironic that, with no police present, our copwatching trio folded in upon itself. Son of Hightower – who was not on scene – was obviously conflicted, in review and analysis of footage supplied by Gibson’s backers. He found it “sad” that Ponte has shifted focus. Uncle Bob remained a firm Ponte ally, when offering his anti-Antifa commentary.

    In an absolutely sublime twist, LCRW Archive expediently resolved to preserve Joey Gibson’s 27-minute live-stream. With a court case pending, the rabble-rouser has removed the original evidence from his social media account.

    Ominously, LCRW Archive preserved several videos made by Ponte, and not posted at Oregon Cop Block. Among them is Hide and go seek with Antifa recorded 9 May (and purportedly deleted by him, from his Facebook account). With spooky affect, Ponte gives clues to mental defect. Having declared his location in an open area of downtown Portland, Ponte asserts “Right now [Antifa ‘thugs’] are watching my Facebook and are all probably alerting each other that I’m over here.” He then lopes onto light rail, intending to circle back on unseen adversaries.

    This from a man now twice charged with Felon in Possession of a Firearm. From a man with a history of going to his adversary’s homes.

    In his Complaint, Goldman-Armstrong warns “the right-wing extremist group; Defendant Patriot Prayer USA, LLC; marked Portland as a target for violent intimidation.” Attorney Chavez pleads that “Despite knowledge of the risk of harm to Plaintiffs, and the foreseeability of this injury, Defendant breached their duty owed to Plaintiffs …” Any interest in public safety requires this admonition become a “May Day, May Day” call for local authority.

    It does not require a leap of logic to predict that – in the absence of law enforcement – my follow-up comment will be part of broad, community effort to resolve an escalating “terror-campaign,” executed by “Defendant Gibson and his acolytes.” Given Portland’s history of murderous White supremacists, it is not unreasonable to countenance a pending homicide.

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