3/3/2023 News Roundup


<<A yearlong investigation into how an image glorifying violence against protesters made it into Portland police training materials has finally produced results—and more questions.

Last week, the city suspended Portland Police Sgt. Jeff McDaniel for 10 days without pay after concluding he was “more likely than not” responsible for inserting the meme, which shows a man in a helmet and body armor beating a “dirty hippy” and is titled “Prayer of the Alt Knight,” into a training presentation on crowd control.

The Portland Police Bureau initially attempted to fire McDaniel, but Police Chief Chuck Lovell ultimately decided to suspend him instead.

McDaniel denied inserting the meme, and his union argued the city couldn’t prove he was lying.

Advocates say it’s too little too late. “Too often, when officers are aware of problems within the bureau, there’s only silence—and that silence does not allow for accountability,” says Juan Chavez, an attorney for the Oregon Justice Resource Center who has filed many lawsuits against the Police Bureau.

Despite the yearlong investigation, it remains unclear how many people viewed the offensive slide. Only one other person interviewed by investigators admitted to having been aware of it.

That was Cmdr. Craig Dobson, who told investigators he found the slide “during his presentation at the 2018 Oregon Basic [Rapid Response Team] training,” according to the Feb. 21 disciplinary letter released by the city. Dobson told investigators he confronted McDaniel, who oversaw the training. McDaniel told him the slide “was for humor,” Dobson told investigators.

The bureau’s crowd control policies have been under scrutiny in recent years. A decade ago, the city settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice over Portland’s history of police using excessive force against people with mental illness and, more recently, protesters.

The city hasn’t abided by the settlement agreement, the DOJ alleges, and the case is ongoing.

On Monday, OJRC’s Chavez filed legal documents in that case, raising questions about the slide investigation, notably: Why didn’t the commanding officer who said he became aware of the slide in 2018 report it to his superiors? And why, if it thought McDaniel was lying, didn’t the Police Bureau fire him?

“The city’s primary concern appears to be avoiding litigation, either from the community or by [the Portland Police Association], not in creating or upholding a true accountability system,” Chavez wrote Feb. 27 in that court filing. “The outcome [of the investigation] will do little to change the parts of the system and police culture that allow the pattern and practice to persist.”

In a statement, Mayor Ted Wheeler defended the decision not to fire McDaniel—pointing to PPA’s formidable track record for getting officers’ firings overturned during arbitration (“Winning Record,” WW, Feb. 8).

“I believe that we have imposed discipline that recognizes the reality of the legal framework we must operate within,” Wheeler said.

“Discipline imposed by the chief and myself has been overturned by arbitrators far too often because our recommendations are perceived as being too harsh.”

The PPA applauded the bureau’s “very thorough investigation,” arguing that although McDaniel had kept a copy of the offending presentation, there was no evidence to prove he’d created it. “Police officers are human beings and are not perfect,” the union said in a press release. “When they make mistakes, they are entitled to the same due process rights and standards of evidence as all other American citizens.”

What is noteworthy about Sgt. McDaniel, however, is how often Portland protesters have taken him to court, alleging actions in keeping with “Prayer of the Alt Knight.” Those lawsuits, all filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, have had limited success.>>

<<When: Nov. 17, 2011

What happened: An Oregonian cameraman captured McDaniel pepper-spraying Liz Nichols in the mouth during an Occupy rally.

Ruling: Nichols lost. A federal jury ruled McDaniel’s use of force wasn’t excessive.

When: Oct. 12, 2016

What happened: Again, McDaniel was accused of pepper-spraying a protester. This time by Allyson Drozd, who was at City Hall to protest the ratification of a new police labor contract.

Ruling: Again, the jury wasn’t convinced McDaniel was at fault. A video played at trial didn’t show the spraying.

When: Jan. 20, 2017

What happened: Matthew McGaugh was peacefully protesting President Donald Trump’s inauguration when he was tackled, tear-gassed and arrested by Portland riot police, according to the legal complaint. McDaniel was one of the officers alleged to have ordered his arrest.

Ruling: McGaugh demanded $100,000 in damages. He got a $15,000 settlement.

When: June 4, 2017

What happened: Police used nonlethal munitions and herded protesters into a tight group after hundreds of Portlanders arrived downtown to protest a Patriot Prayer rally. Two sued the city and responding PPB officers, including McDaniel.

Ruling: Judges threw both cases out, saying officers had “reasonable suspicion” to detain the counterprotesters.>>



<<A 30-year-old suspect, who was shot and injured by a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office deputy after reports of gunfire in Troutdale, was indicted by a Multnomah County Grand Jury.

Sean Ryan Bahrman was indicted Monday, Feb. 27, on four counts of menacing and one count of second-degree criminal mischief.

The deputy involved in the shooting, Sgt. David Jackson, who has served with the MCSO for nine years on the patrol unit, remains on leave, following standard protocol. An investigation into the shooting is being conducted by the East County Major Crimes Team.

At 1:40 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, deputies received reports of a man, later identified as Bahrman, firing a weapon at a business in the 25100 block of Southeast Stark Street in Troutdale. The 911 caller said the man was shooting windows at a business, which had several people inside, as well as at vehicles in the parking lot. The community members were warned to shelter in place as both deputies and Gresham Police officers responded.

Bahrman was holding what appeared to be a real firearm, and reportedly fired at responding law enforcement. Deputies and officers said they attempted to de-escalate the situation by maintaining distance and telling him to drop the weapon. Bahrman did not comply, and began moving toward a neighborhood on Southwest 29th Street. He placed his first weapon on the ground and pulled out a second weapon.

For 10 minutes law enforcement said they tried to de-escalate the confrontation, as Bahrman allegedly waved the weapon in multiple directions, including at a home and himself.

After the second time pointing the weapon at law enforcement, Deputy Jackson fired a single shot, hitting Bahrman in the left abdomen. He dropped the weapon and first-aid was administered before he was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. After treatment, he was booked into the Multnomah County Jail. No other injuries were reported from the confrontation.

Police described both weapons as “replica firearms” that used ball bearings as projectiles.>>


<<A Troutdale man pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court after allegedly firing what turned out to be either a pellet gun or a BB gun at a Home Depot last month.

The man, 30-year-old Sean Bahrman, is also accused of pointing that gun and a second replica gun that also appeared to be a real handgun at law enforcement officials, one of whom shot and injured Bahrman.

Bahrman was indicted Monday on four counts of unlawful use of a weapon, four counts of menacing and one count of second-degree criminal mischief.

Court records identify the official who fired a rifle round into Bahrman’s abdomen as Sgt. David Jackson, a nine-year veteran of the sheriff’s office who remains on paid leave.

Employees hiding inside the Home Depot near Southeast Stark Street and Southwest 257th Drive in Troutdale called 911 around 1:40 a.m. on Feb. 18 to report someone firing at the building and trucks in the parking lot.

Court records later identified the weapon Bahrman allegedly carried as a pellet gun. A press release from the sheriff’s office called it a replica firearm with ball bearings.

Gresham police and sheriff’s deputies arrived and found Bahrman in the parking lot outside the store, holding what looked like a handgun, court records said.

Law enforcement officials told Bahrman to surrender and drop the weapon, but he allegedly pointed the weapon and fired in their direction. No officer or deputy was hit, according to court records.

Bahrman allegedly walked toward a footpath on the west side of the store, still holding the weapon. Law enforcement officers continued telling him to drop the weapon, but he kept walking allegedly. At one point, Bahrman allegedly sat down on the footpath and placed his weapon on the ground. He then retrieved a second weapon, which also looked like a gun, court records show.

Bahrman allegedly left the first weapon on the ground and continued down the footpath, carrying the second weapon in his hand. He exited onto Southwest 29th Street, which is a residential street lined with houses, according to court records.

Deputies and police followed Bahrman, using a patrol car as cover.

Bahrman repeatedly pointed his weapon at his own head, nearby homes and law enforcement officials.

As Bahrman was pointing his weapon at approaching officers and deputies, Jackson fired one rifle round at Bahrman’s abdomen.

Bahrman dropped to the ground, injured. He was taken to the hospital and released later that morning, according to court records.

Bahrman allegedly told detectives he was trying to provoke the police to shoot and kill him, that he pointed the weapon at police at least three times and that he believed the weapon was capable of killing someone, court records show.>>


<<A Clackamas County grand jury found the actions of deputies who shot and wounded two people in Wilsonville last month were “justified and lawful,” the district attorney announced Wednesday.

Three Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputies fired at a man and a woman who were allegedly fleeing in a stolen car on Feb. 14.

Investigators allege that one of the suspects was armed and opened fire, but have not said who fired a weapon or whether a firearm was found at the scene.

No deputies were struck by gunfire, but a patrol car was hit, the sheriff’s office said.

The deputies – Sam Eason, Chris O’Connor and Scott McBride – were placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which is standard protocol.

Officials did not say Wednesday whether the deputies, who have each worked at the agency for over 15 years, have returned to work.

McBride was one of three deputies who fatally shot 34-year-old Bruce Steward on Feb. 15, 2015. The state medical examiner called Steward’s death a “suicide by cop.”

Officials identified the two suspects as Brandon Gilpin, 29, of Tallahassee, Florida and Felisha Marie Cunningham, 34, of Unionville, Tennessee.

Gilpin is still in the hospital and will be arraigned after his release.

He is facing seven charges, including attempted murder, reckless driving and felon in possession of a firearm.

Cunningham was released from the hospital and indicted Wednesday on six charges, including two counts of attempted murder and felon in possession of a firearm. She is being held without bail, court records show.

The Clackamas County District Attorney’s office said Wednesday it could not provide additional details about the deputies’ use of force until the criminal cases against Gilpin and Cunningham are over.>>



<<Oregon’s number of residential psychiatric treatment beds per capita is about average compared with other states. But the state also has one of the highest rates of mental illness. The result: Four out of 10 Oregonians with serious mental illness are not getting treatment, according to analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.>>

<<The state hospital is the tentpole at the center of Oregon’s mental health system. Records show it is overburdened and wildly expensive. >>

<<Although the Oregon Legislature is now rushing to fund improvements, critics say state leaders have allowed the situation to deteriorate for too long.

“It’s a human-made problem,” Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton says of the forced release of patients. “The state hospital is inadequate to meet the need. The hospital has known that for years. The Oregon Health Authority has known that for years. And now we’re paying the consequences.”>>

<<To find a time when Oregon’s mental health system actually worked, Jason Renaud, co-founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland, says you need to go back to the beginning.

In 1861, Dr. James Hawthorne opened the Oregon State Insane and Idiotic Asylum in what was then the standalone city of East Portland. “He recognized that these were illnesses and that people can be treated with compassion,” Renaud says. “It’s been going downhill since.”

Lawmakers eventually moved Hawthorne’s patients to a new hospital in Salem in 1883.>>

<<That facility, Oregon State Hospital, is the primary treatment center for “aid and assist” patients such as Martinez-Romero—people who are charged with crimes but deemed too mentally ill to stand trial.

Over the years, the state hospital weathered criticism for keeping patients in inhumane conditions and applying abusive treatment methods.

The 1950s saw the beginning of a nationwide movement to “deinstitutionalize” the mentally ill, placing patients in community programs that experts say are more effective, more humane—and much cheaper.

But Oregon’s investment in community programs didn’t keep up with the need—leaving few alternatives to the locked-down psychiatric hospital it has repeatedly downsized. The Oregon Health Authority reported in early 2022 that the state was short 480 licensed residential treatment beds, about a quarter of the capacity needed in community programs. The state has funded less than half of that 480-bed deficit.

At its peak in the 1950s, when the state’s population was less than half what it is now, Oregon State Hospital held more than 3,500 patients. But that number plummeted thanks to civil rights-era reforms, and has hovered at 600 to 700 for more than a decade.

The state considered expanding the hospital’s capacity when it rebuilt the Salem campus and added a Junction City satellite in the early 2010s, but advocates convinced lawmakers not to, arguing the money was better spent on community-based services.

The state then failed to invest sufficiently in those community services, which allow patients to receive care nearer their homes and in less restrictive surroundings.>>

<<Oregon has the nation’s highest prevalence of mental illness, according to a 2022 report by Mental Health America. And its access to care ranks in the bottom half of states.

As a result, the state hospital is overflowing. As of January, there were 98 criminal defendants awaiting a bed. Greg Roberts, superintendent of the state hospital at the time the new Salem and Junction City campuses opened, tells WW nobody should be surprised at the current state of affairs.

“To the extent that your community mental health system is robust, then you can rely less on a state hospital,” Roberts says. “But to the extent that your system is not robust, the state hospital starts to become the only game in town.”

Administrators say one answer to the hospital’s overcrowding would be to add more beds. But lawmakers have repeatedly rejected that solution, focusing instead on community services that rarely materialize.

State. Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland), who chairs the Oregon House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care, says community facilities are less expensive, closer to patients’ families and, unlike the state hospital, often covered by Medicaid. “We need to ensure that when people are ready to leave OSH,” he tells WW, “they have somewhere to go.”

Nosse has also noted that the state hospital is struggling to recruit and retain staff, a problem that also limits community programs’ capacity.

Last fall, the shortage of beds at the state hospital and in Oregon communities reached a breaking point. Under pressure from judges and advocates, the state resorted to releasing more defendants from the hospital before they were sane enough to go to trial.

“This revolving door of people offending, being held, released and reoffending is taking a toll,” Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner told lawmakers in December.>>

Originally, Oregon State Hospital existed to serve three groups of patients: those who had been tried for a crime and found guilty except for insanity (GEI); patients charged with a crime but unable to aid and assist in their own defense because of mental illness; and patients who had not committed a crime but had been civilly committed because a judge found that they presented a danger to themselves or others or were unable to take care of their basic needs.

During the past decade, “aid and assist” patients such as Romero-Martinez have outstripped all patients in the other two categories.

In 2000, less than 10% of the state hospital’s beds were taken by aid-and-assist patients. Now, it’s nearly 60% (see “OSH Average Daily Population,” below). It’s such a daunting figure, people who have been civilly committed now often go to emergency rooms instead. That is overwhelming local hospital systems, which aren’t equipped to serve such patients.

The state’s housing shortage has exacerbated the challenge of providing community mental health resources. And the pandemic ratcheted up the stresses both on patients and the state’s mental health workforce. All of those factors increased pressure on the state hospital. “It’s kind of a perfect storm,” says Bob Joondeph, who ran the nonprofit advocacy organization Disability Rights Oregon for 30 years before retiring in 2018.

Joondeph remembers when the state bused people with mental illness back to Old Town from a state hospital campus in Wilsonville. Now, that campus is closed and Portland’s cheap housing has largely disappeared.

As new condos replace single room occupancy apartments, many people struggling with mental illness now live on the streets.

“It’s reverted to the way it was 40 years ago,” Joondeph says. “Except now, there’s even less housing.”

By 2022, Oregon’s mental health system was a tinderbox. Last September, a judge in U.S. District Court in Portland threw a match on it.

As part of federal litigation suing the state’s mental health system, Disability Rights Oregon pointed to a 20- year-old court order requiring that people with mental illness who were charged with a crime should stay in jail no longer than seven days before they were sent to the state hospital. State officials admitted they were failing to meet that standard.

“We’ve run out of good ideas,” then-Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen told lawmakers in December. “We’re left with which bad idea satisfies the need.”

Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman brokered a compromise that’s come to be known as “the Mosman order.” Patients charged with violent crimes like Martinez-Romero who would have once been given three years of treatment at the state hospital would now get kicked out after one, thereby making more room for people on the waitlist.

Critics say the policy ignores reality.

“[The] recommendations assumed the existence of a functioning mental health system with adequate capacity, which Oregon has not had for years,” wrote attorneys for the community hospital systems in response to Mosman’s order.

Prosecutors agreed. “It’s like squeezing a balloon,” Barton, the Washington County DA, told WW. “The hospital has been squeezed, and it’s popping out at our end. But there’s nowhere to put these people.”

Barton, along with DAs in Lane and Marion counties, has spoken out forcefully against the early release of patients from Oregon State Hospital. It’s a tricky position in a state dominated by progressive politicians who support deinstitutionalization and alternatives to incarceration.>>

<<Barton has suggested creating “restoration to competency” programs in jails, a strategy being employed in dozens of states from California to Georgia.

These mental health treatment programs operate out of specialized units in jails and offer an alternative to shipping inmates to overcrowded state hospitals. Barton tells WW it’s the “least horrible on a list of horrible choices.”

But his own county’s sheriff, Pat Garrett, bristled at the idea.

“The answer is a resounding NO,” he told the county’s presiding circuit judge, Kathleen Proctor, in a December letter, arguing such a program wasn’t feasible—and plainly illegal under state law.

Barton has joined the federal litigation between the state and mental health advocates and the hospital systems, along with two other DAs and five judges, as friends of the court, arguing that Mosman’s order to release patients after one year is only compounding an existing problem.

Washington County has so few community treatment centers that the only way to get treatment for people with severe mental illness is to wait for them to commit a crime and then send them back to the state hospital.>>

<<In September, the state projected 74 aid-and-assist admissions a month until February. In January, there were 101.

Making those defendants wait in jail, where they rarely get effective treatment for their illness, is a constitutional crisis, says legal director Emily Cooper of Disability Rights Oregon. “Jails have been the de facto mental health provider for decades now.”

Some patients are admitted to the state hospital on low-level charges that wouldn’t result in prison time. About 1 in 6 aid-and-assist patients currently at the hospital face only misdemeanor charges.

Keeping them locked up at the hospital longer than their presumptive sentences amounts to criminalization of a disability, Cooper argues.>>



<<Questions about the Portland police’s upcoming body camera program were front and center during a hearing before a federal judge Tuesday, as the city and the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) continue to struggle over a policy agreement. The use of body cameras is a condition of the longstanding settlement agreement between the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and city of Portland, which seeks to remedy PPB’s disproportionate use of force against people with mental illnesses.

Under the settlement agreement, the city of Portland and Portland Police Association (PPA)—the police union representing rank-and-file officers—are allowed to develop the policy that instructs how the body cameras are used. However, the two sides have been unable to agree on a key policy point. The PPA argues that officers should be able to review their camera footage before writing a report—a policy referred to as “prereview”—in any and all circumstances. The city believes officers should not be able to prereview footage in cases where force has been used, like when an officer shoots a member of the public; in those cases, the city argues that officers should write their report or make a statement from memory before being able to review video footage of the incident.

During the status hearing Tuesday morning, legal representation for the police union argued that allowing officers to review camera footage before writing a report increases the accuracy of the original report and is in line with other police department practices throughout the nation.>>

<<According to an analysis of body camera policies in 32 cities comparable to Portland by the Mental Health Alliance—an advocacy group for people with mental illnesses that is involved in the settlement agreement—eight police departments prohibited prereview of camera footage in critical incidents prior to officers giving a statement about the incident. Nine departments only allow prereview after a critical incident if it is approved by a supervisor or chief of police, and 15 departments either allow or encourage officers to prereview video before giving a statement.

US District Judge Michael Simon, who oversees the settlement, questioned the union’s reasoning for wanting officers to prereview footage before giving a report. Simon noted that an officer’s memory of an event is important data when understanding and documenting force incidents.

“What’s wrong with the process of an officer’s subjective understanding and recollection of [an incident], followed by a review [of video footage], followed by a supplemental report?” Simon said. “I think that would be very effective in the truth seeking process.”

While Simon oversees the settlement agreement, the final body camera policy will be decided by a third-party arbitrator. The city and PPA are currently deciding on a neutral arbitrator, who then may take several months before making a decision.>>

While the DOJ has declined to declare a formal opinion on the body camera policy until after the arbitrator makes a policy determination, DOJ attorney Jared Hager noted that Portland should not look to other cities as a blueprint for its body camera policy because Portland’s adoption of the technology is only in response to the unique conditions that put it into a settlement agreement with the DOJ in the first place.

In other words, the body cameras are a tool to solve a problem with the Portland police’s use of force without proper documentation during the 2020 protests and the body camera policy should be developed with that problem in mind.

Hager also raised concerns with a part of the proposed policy that limits a supervisor from reviewing more than three body camera videos as part of an officer’s annual review.

“If I told my boss she could only read three of my briefs, I’d probably be out of a job,” Hager said.

Representatives for the city and police union noted that there is no similar limit for body camera videos that record use of force incidents, just a limit for end of year performance reviews.

The status hearing also touched on the Police Accountability Commission (PAC)—the volunteer committee responsible for developing a new, voter-approved police oversight system for officers who engage in misconduct that’s now under the purview of the DOJ settlement. According to PAC member Aje Amaechi, the settlement dictates the commission complete their work by late October 2023, but the Portland City Council has directed the PAC to complete their recommendations in June. Amaechi called the city deadline “arbitrary” and that shortening the time the PAC has to complete its work “feels like an act of sabotage.”

Judge Simon declined to weigh in on the timing of the PAC’s work, saying that it was up to the commission, the city, and other involved parties.

The court also touched on the recent investigation into the right-wing meme that appeared in a 2018 PPB training presentation. The meme, which threatened violence against protesters, was discovered in September 2021 and an investigation into who was responsible for including the picture in the training slides was launched that same month. The investigation concluded in February 2023, finding Portland police officer Jeffrey McDaniel responsible for the meme. McDaniel received a 100-hour suspension as punishment.

During a press conference Monday ahead of the status hearing, the Mental Health Alliance (MHA) raised concerns that the investigation into the meme slide took more than a year. Under the settlement, PPB investigations are expected to be completed within 180 days.

“180 days came and went and came and went again, which is in clear violation of the settlement agreement,” said Eben Hoffer, a member of MHA, during the Monday press conference. “We’re flummoxed and concerned as to why these high-profile, clear violations of a federal court order put in place by the Department of Justice receives no response from the Department of Justice, and we think that the judge should ask them why.”

While the length of the training slide investigation was not discussed in-depth during the hearing Tuesday, an independent court monitor could take on the role of enforcing the police reforms spelled out in the settlement agreement. Currently, the DOJ acts as both the plaintiff in the settlement agreement with the city and as a monitor for the progress of the settlement. The DOJ and city are currently in mediation over whether an independent monitor should join the settlement agreement.>>



<<Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler abruptly halted an in-person city council meeting Wednesday morning after a testy, expletive-laden exchange involving at least one person who used their allotted time to give public testimony to address Commissioner Rene Gonzalez’s ban on distributing tents and tarps to unsheltered Portlanders.

Wheeler called for a recess shortly before 11:30 a.m. and the city council reconvened virtually.

The meeting had entered a public comment period to address a report submitted that morning to city council by the Police Accountability Commission, a group of council-appointed Portlanders tasked with developing a new system to investigate, discipline and monitor the Portland Police Bureau.

Instead of addressing the report, however, four people who signed up to testify used their time to address Gonzalez’s controversial Feb. 14 policy change, which temporarily bars Portland Street Response employees from giving away tents or tarps to people living outside.>>

<<“I would respectfully ask people to stay on topic,” Wheeler said to the second speaker. “That is not on the agenda today.”

City council cut off the microphone after a third speaker also used their time to address Gonzalez’s policy.>>


<<City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez announced last week that Portland Street Response, the mental health crisis team under his watch as fire commissioner, would no longer hand out tents and tarps to homeless Portlanders.

He says the policy, which he crafted, received full-throated support from Fire Chief Sara Boone and the city’s fire marshal. He says Portland Street Response didn’t push back, at least “not to us.”

“Hypothermia is a risk, as is frostbite. But when talking about frostbite, you’re losing fingers,” Gonzalez tells WW, in an interview first published in Wednesday’s edition. “But these burns, they’re life changing even if they don’t kill you.”

Gonzalez says data from the Legacy Oregon Burn Center drove the policy: It showed that stays of homeless patients in beds at the burn ward went from a total of 294 days in 2017 to 1,803 in 2021.

Advocates have pushed back against Gonzalez’s policy, calling it cruel and inhumane during the coldest and rainiest months of the year. That criticism intensified after a hypothermia death during a record-setting snowstorm on Feb. 22.

“This weather event comes just days after Commissioner Gonzalez ordered the Portland Street Response to stop handing out tents or tarps to people,” wrote Justice Alexander Hager, communications director for the nonprofit Sisters of the Road, in a Feb. 24 fundraising email. “It also comes in the middle of a violent agenda of nonstop sweeps, traumatizing and destabilizing people who are struggling to simply survive.”

Gonzalez offered his explanation before the snowfall. He argued that his approach was the best of several unpleasant options after camp blazes spiked citywide over the past three years.

All outdoor, unconfined fires are illegal. But Gonzalez says he won’t ban cooking and heating fires—not yet, at least. “Every single fire you see in a homeless camp is illegal. The challenge is, what do you do about them? Do you put them all out? The practice has been to not put them out. Because of humanity, and recognizing that people are using this to keep themselves warm.”

The Joint Office of Homeless Services handed out tens of thousands of tarps and tents early on in the pandemic. It regularly hands out other warming supplies to homeless Portlanders. That would mean Gonzalez’s policy to ban PSR’s distribution of tents and tarps—which adds up to fewer than one thousand last year—might make a meaningless dent in fires at homeless camps.>>


<<Throughout the course of 2022, the Oregon Health Authority reports that 522 died while homeless. Beyond those statistics, it can be difficult to learn much about the individual people who die on the streets — many lack vital records or strong connections to family or friends.

But late last year, a reporter at the Bend Bulletin was covering an emergency shelter opened during particularly cold temperatures when he met someone who was once a prominent figure in the central Oregon city.>>

<<I just bumped into this guy and he said, ‘Hey, I was actually the mayor,'” remembered reporter Bryce Dole, “and he had been living in that shelter for a few months at that point.”

That man was Craig Coyner III. In 1984, Coyner was indeed the mayor of Bend, and he served on the city council for more than a decade. He died earlier this year — still homeless — and Dole decided to contact Coyner’s family and friends to find out what had brought the former mayor to this end.>>

<<Craig Coyner III struggled with mental illness throughout his life. It came to a head about two decades ago. Coyner had been a lawyer, but he lost his license after a series of ethics violations. His wife died in 2008. Later, he lost his home.>>

<<“Kind of in the mid-2000s, Craig had stated publicly after he’d been disciplined by the Oregon Supreme Court that he had been struggling with mental illness … he’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and he had been self-medicating with alcohol,” Dole said. “He struggled with substance abuse a lot throughout his life, and this is according to his family members, his friends, his colleagues, all of whom I interviewed for this story, as well as his daughter.

“So he proceeded to have his license suspended by the Oregon State Bar and never had it reinstated. And then, around the housing market crash, was trying to fight for other people who were losing their homes at that time and at that exact same time he was actually struggling to pay his own bills. And over the next about, a little bit less than a decade, he fought a mortgage company trying to keep that home, and he ultimately he lost.

“So it was kind of the culmination of several different struggles that he’d been experiencing for a lot of his life. And while he was experiencing homelessness at the end of his life, a lot of his family members didn’t really know where where he was. He’d kind of drifted out of their lives.”

In January, Coyner was taken to the hospital after getting frostbite on his feet. Doctors amputated one of his toes, but he ultimately died of a stroke while going through withdrawal from substances.>>



<<Portland Police officers are using data science to help track down stolen cars, in the same way sports teams use analytics or companies optimize performance.>>

<<To make better use of the raw data collected by officers, the Portland Police Bureau turned to an unlikely partner — researchers at Oregon Health and Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute.>>

<<Portland has seen a rising number of stolen vehicles over the past several years. 2022 set a new record with 10,894 reports of stolen vehicles in the city, according to police data.>>

<<East Precinct officers created the stolen vehicle operation in November 2021 to try to tackle the growing problem. Their initial strategy was to flood an area with police officers, along with aerial support from a police airplane, to make traffic stops, arrests and recover stolen vehicles.

Each operation covers one work shift and focuses on a specific area of East Portland.>>

<<To some degree, it worked. During the initial five stolen vehicle operations, from November 2021 to March 2022, officers at East Precinct recovered 14 stolen vehicles. Police also made several arrests, but most were not related to stolen vehicles.

The officers wanted to find a better way, so they turned to the data.

The idea was to find out how veteran officers identified stolen vehicles, then translate that into a formula that could help others working these special missions.>>

<<In March 2022, officers at East Precinct started tracking attributes they observed on stolen vehicles, then they filled out a detailed, one-page questionnaire. Nearly 100 factors were collected in total, then compiled in a database and analyzed.

The factors included physical characteristics of the vehicle and vehicle driving behavior. Police said they don’t track data about the driver’s racial profile as part of this effort.

Officers at East Precinct call these elements “enrichment factors” — essentially hallmarks of a stolen vehicle. Examples can include a missing license plate, a broken window, no lights or abnormal lane changes. The more enrichment factors present, according to the theory, the more likely a car is stolen.>>

<<Prior to considering enrichment factors, police officers at East Precinct recovered one stolen vehicle for every 31 stops. Now, they’re recovering one stolen vehicle for every five stops.

In the past 15 operations, officers at East Precinct have recovered 106 stolen cars, made 169 arrests and recovered 24 guns.>>