3/4/2023 News Roundup


<<Proud Boys member Tusitala “Tiny” Toese was found guilty on 10 charges related to an August 2021 “patriot” rally, the Multnomah County district attorney’s office announced this week.

Toese was found guilty on March 2 of two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of unauthorized use of a weapon, two counts of riot and two counts of first-degree criminal mischief.

On August 22, 2021, Toese helped organize a rally in Northeast Portland, during which he incited the crowd by calling for violence against any leftwing protesters who showed up to the event.

Counter-protesters showed up at the rally and a brawl began during which a car was smashed in with bats and a leftwing protester support van was flipped by Toese’s group.

Senior deputy district attorney Nathan Vasquez shared with the court Toese’s hatred of leftwing protesters and how he purposely incited violence against counter-protest members.

“Due to Mr. Toese’s long-term involvement in violent activity, the state is seeking enhancements to increase Mr. Toese’s sentence above the mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months in prison,” said Vasquez.

His sentencing is scheduled for March 24.>>



<<Dozens of Portlanders spoke in opposition Wednesday to the city’s proposed plan to use gunshot detection technology to curb rising rates of gun violence in Portland. Despite an overwhelming negative reaction to the plan during a town hall event, a representative from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office could not answer whether the city would use the input as reason to halt the project, or move forward with the pilot project regardless of the adverse response.

“It’s abundantly apparent that people do not want this,” Celeste Carey, co-chair of the Portland Committee for Community-Engaged Policing (PCCEP), said. “‘We don’t want gunshot technology’ is what the public is saying. So, will council abort this process?”

“I wish I could give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but I don’t represent the City Council,” Stephanie Howard, Wheeler’s director of community safety, replied. “I need to report back to them on this.”

In response to a rising rate of gun violence in Portland, Wheeler announced he was creating a one year gunshot detection technology pilot program. The pilot, which would use artificial intelligence to detect possible instances of gunshots and alert the police, needs to be approved by city council before going into effect. While the Mayor’s office is currently evaluating possible technology providers who have applied to run the pilot program for the city, Wheeler’s office spent over a year exclusively considering technology provider ShotSpotter—a company that uses hidden microphones to detect gunshot-like sounds—for the program. After OPB reporting revealed that ShotSpotter officials had been directly lobbying city and police officials to adopt the technology, Wheeler’s office opted to evaluate other vendors in addition to ShotSpotter. ShotSpotter is currently under investigation by the City Auditor’s office for possible lobbying violations.

Public concern around ShotSpotter’s lobbying prompted the PCCEP to host the town hall Wednesday evening to gather public input on the plan.

During the virtual town hall about the possible pilot program, about two dozen Portlanders spoke in opposition to both ShotSpotter and gunshot detection technology overall. While many of the commenters cited a need to address gun violence in the city, none of the nearly 200 attendees spoke up in favor of Portland developing a pilot program with the technology.

“Portland does need long-term, community centered approaches to addressing our gun violence problem,” Amanda Lamb of the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC) said, “but what we don’t need is a police surveillance tool that can be used to further victimize the very communities that we’re trying to help.”

According to an analysis of ShotSpotter by OJRC published in February, the technology is not proven to be effective at reducing instances of gun violence and, in some cases, over- and under-reports gunshot and gunshot-like sounds. The report also raises civil rights-related concerns, pointing to a 2021 report by Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General that found Chicago police used alerts as the sole rationale for stopping and questioning members of the public and patting them down. In Portland, the technology for the pilot program would likely be placed in neighborhoods with higher rates of gun violence, which overlaps with areas of the city where more people of color live. Portland’s office focused on surveillance technology, Smart City PDX, also raised concerns that gunshot detection technology could “be used to justify stop-and-frisk actions on residents” in a 2022 report.

While cities and jurisdictions that use ShotSpotter have not seen decreases in instances of gun violence or increases in case closures, they have, however, recorded increases in police workloads due to the number of alerts dispatchers received about gunshot-like sounds.

ShotSpotter representatives and supporters of the technology in Portland have pointed to the automatic alerts as a benefit over just relying on 911 calls, but Lamb noted that the increase in alerts could overburden the Portland police, who already take an average of 16 minutes to respond to high-priority calls, according to officer Jake Jensen.

Jensen said that if the pilot project moves forward, the Portland police would work with city leaders to develop a way to respond to alerts of gunfire without “degrading response time.”

After multiple hours of negative public comments, town hall attendees began to question whether their input would have an impact on the Mayor’s plan to propose a pilot project to City Council. Multiple commenters took turns asking Howard to explain how members of the public could be sure their negative response was taken seriously and not just as a formality in gathering public engagement on the topic.

“I don’t know how else to respond, other than to say that my sincere effort here tonight is to listen and to learn and to make this process meaningful and to value the input that we are receiving,” Howard said.

“I will do everything that I can to raise those voices. This is not to check a box, I’m here to listen.”

When asked by the Mercury how community members would know if their feedback was taken seriously if the city opted to continue moving forward with the project, Wheeler’s spokesperson Cody Bowman said that Howard had already addressed those questions during the town hall.

PCCEP will include comments from the town hall in a report to the City Council, which city leaders are expected to respond to. The city is currently evaluating technology vendors who could help Portland run the pilot program. Wheeler’s office is expected to announce the top two finalists in the coming weeks.>>


<<Public criticism of Portland’s interest in gunshot detection technology is mounting as city leaders review the proposals of four companies who wish to contract with Portland for a yearlong pilot program.

The Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing, an independent group, held a three-hour-long public hearing on gunshot detection technology Wednesday night.

Nearly every speaker shared concerns about the technology, with many saying that while rising gun violence is a clear problem, gunshot detection technology is not the solution.

In February, ShotSpotter, EAGL Technology, Flock Safety and Twenty20/Acoem responded to Portland’s request for proposals to launch a pilot program.

The Focused Intervention Team Community Oversight Group or FITCOG, a Portland police community oversight group, recommended the technology to city leaders in 2022, and Mayor Ted Wheeler decided to move forward with that recommendation.

Speakers at Wednesday meeting shared concerns over efficacy, privacy, cost, police resources and over-policing specific neighborhoods.

“They’re a waste of taxpayer money, police resources and further the divide between police and communities by putting said communities at additional risk for confrontation with police officers,” said Devin Peters.

Aje Amaechi with nonprofit organization Freedom to Thrive said interest in this technology feels like a misplaced response to gun violence.

“Many people feel powerless right now to curb gun violence. This lack of agency can cause some to seek out just about any solution or any action that makes them feel more in control,” Amaechi said. “This drive to implement gunshot detection technology is clearly based on this emotional panic that makes people want to act right now.”

Amanda Lamb, representing the Oregon Justice Resource Center, said gunshot detection technology is ineffective and would unnecessarily increase the workload of an already overburdened Portland Police Bureau.

“Portland does need long-term, community-centered approaches to addressing our gun violence problem, but what we don’t need is a police surveillance tool that can be used to further victimize the very communities that we’re trying to help,” Lamb said.

As commenters continued to criticize the city’s interest in the technology, PCCEP member Celeste Carey stopped the discussion to ask a direct question of Stephanie Howard, the Director of Community Safety for the Portland mayor’s office.

“It’s abundantly apparent that people do not want this. There is evidence that there are other, much more effective measures,” Carey said. “So the question is, will the council abort this project?”

Howard responded that she is not in a position to make that call.

“I don’t represent the city council, I don’t make recommendations to the city,” she said. “I think this input is critically valued.”

Portland’s dalliance with gunshot detection technology is far from finalized. Howard explained the city is reviewing proposals from the different companies, then will select two finalists.

Once the finalists are selected, Portland will schedule its own public hearings where members of the public can ask direct questions of the interested companies.

A review committee — made up of people from PCCEP, FITCOG, Smart Cities Group, the Office of Equity and Human Rights, the IT Department, PPB, and each of the four council member’s office — will make a decision and present a recommendation to city council for consideration.

Howard told Carey that Portland’s upcoming public hearings will provide another opportunity for valuable community feedback. Carey responded and asked why those hearings are needed.

“What is the point of saying that you will have further input opportunities? We’ve already indicated we don’t want the technology, so a further opportunity for input is … a total disregard,” Carey said.

“I know this is putting you on the hot seat, but unfortunately that is the elephant in the room.”

Howard responded to Carey’s request that she conveys to city council how nearly every speaker at this public hearing voiced opposition to gunshot detection technology.>>



<<Over the past year, crooks have hit Consign Couture’s Washington Square location 19 times, stealing more than $56,000 dollars in merchandise, according to the owner.

After a year in business at Washington Square, Young plans to close her shop at the end of March. She’s not renewing her lease. Consign Couture can’t absorb the losses or pay for security in the same way big retailers can, she said.>>