6/22/2023 News Roundup


<<Portland Street Response is both widely popular and politically embattled, thanks to a city commissioner, Rene Gonzalez, who’s reducing its funding and a firefighters’ union that remains unfriendly to it (“Flame War,” WW, May 31). But the dispute over involuntary holds shows other tensions that threaten the program’s long-term prospects.

WW reviewed correspondence within PSR and between program leaders and the county since the spring of 2021. What emerged were two themes.

First, the clinicians who work for the program are divided on whether they should be performing such holds. Some don’t like the optics of working with police to effect what amounts to an arrest. Others argue such holds are sometimes necessary to help the most fragile clients.

“PSR has two camps,” wrote a former supervisor in the program during a recent exit interview obtained by WW. “Those who see themselves as Mobile Crisis Responders and those who see themselves as activists for the houseless community.”

Second, county officials appear skeptical that the newest arrivals on the scene can be trusted to perform work that county employees and contractors have handled for decades. PSR is stepping into the business of social services that the county runs—and the correspondence reviewed by WW suggests some county officials view the program’s role as incompatible with custody holds.

The stakes in this turf war are high. The number of people unable to adequately care for themselves and acting erratically on Portland’s streets raises the question whether more civil commitments should be taking place.>>

<<Project Respond, a decades-old mobile crisis unit partly funded by the county, performed 435 holds last year and has performed 292 holds so far this year.>>

<<As soon as a hold is written and the person is transported to the hospital, a five-day clock begins for a county investigatory team to determine whether they want to bring a case to a judge, who rules if a civil commitment is warranted. Once the person arrives at the hospital, they’re psychiatrically evaluated. If they meet the criteria for being held, they stay until the county’s investigation is complete. If they fail to meet criteria, they’re released. Police can write similar “peace officer holds,” but are sometimes more conservative when writing them.

Urban, in her April 2021 email, wrote to Burek that police officers “generally have a more black-and-white assessment of a situation since they are not trained mental health professionals” and that when Portland Street Response has called cops for assistance before, they are “not willing to write a hold because they felt they did not have enough, as the risk was not as explicit as they would need in order to justify it.”

In 2021, Burek urged the county to grant PSR permission to write holds.>>

<<Ryan Gillespie, deputy chief of the division of Portland Fire & Rescue that oversees PSR, says the program has dropped the matter—and hasn’t asked the county for permission to perform holds since the end of 2021.>>

<<But as recently as November 2022, PSR workers were being trained on hold criteria, even though they can’t perform them. And the possibility was once again floated in Portland State University’s December 2022 review of the program, which noted that some officers within the Portland Police Bureau “said that PSR’s values to police would expand considerably if PSR could authorize holds.”

Other officers, the report noted, were less confident.

Police Bureau personnel “warned of a slippery slope that could cast PSR too much into an enforcement role,” the report read, “which is antithetical to their philosophy and purpose.”>>



<<Rapid Response Bio Clean–a company contracted by the city of Portland to clean up and remove homeless camp sites–has been ordered to pay for items taken from an encampment during a sweep in 2020 that were never stored properly or returned to the owner.

Rapid Response is the primary contractor the city uses to clean and remove homeless camp sites.

On June 13, an arbitrator ruled in favor of Lynette Snook, who filed a lawsuit against Rapid Response in 2022. Arbitrators are assigned to review court cases which ask for less than $50,000 in damages.

Snook’s complaint stemmed from a sweep in November 2020, when Snook, her partner, and roughly half a dozen other people living near each other in St. Johns, were scrambling to sort and secure their valuables, as a Rapid Response crew arrived to clear the area. At the time, Snook and her partner were living out of a car and travel trailer.

After multiple items were hauled away, Snook noticed a number of essential and valuable possessions were gone. >>

<<By law, companies hired to sweep or dispose of homeless sites are required to bag, label, and store any personal belongings of value at a warehouse for 30 days, where the owner can retrieve them.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Snook said a Rapid Response crew threw away a mobile shower, a portable toilet, propane stove, clothing, boots, cookware, silverware, two brooms, an extension grabber, and two commercial grade, five-gallon sprayers, among other items.

“They retrieved absolutely nothing. Everything went in the trash,” Snook said.

After unsuccessful attempts to get her items back from Rapid Response, Snook got an attorney, with the help of a few volunteer homeless advocates.

Mimi German is one of those advocates. She observed the sweep that day, documenting with video and photos. German estimates she’s observed about 50 sweeps of encampments from 2021 to 2022. She noted she “rarely sees” companies following protocols for bagging personal belongings.>>

Fuller noted Snook’s case isn’t the first instance of Rapid Response failing to follow protocols regarding storage of personal property, but it’s the first time a suit against the company has come to full fruition.

In 2021, Fuller worked with other legal organizations on a class action lawsuit against the city of Portland, after Fuller placed tracking devices on items confiscated from homeless encampments that went straight to a landfill.

In that case, attorneys alleged the city’s contractors, including Rapid Response, “have a pattern, practice, and custom of systematically ignoring the requirements of [state law], depriving plaintiffs and other similarly situated homeless people of liberty and property without due process.”

The city later settled with the plaintiffs in that case.

In Snook’s case, attorney and arbitrator Chris Davis said Rapid Response employees testified that they followed the city’s mandatory storage policy, noting they asked residents of the camp what items to discard and were directed to trash.

Still, some of the items thrown away that day, including shoes and tools, are explicitly listed in the city’s policy for mandatory storage, regardless of condition.

Davis ordered Rapid Response to pay Snook $409 for the tools taken that were never properly stored for her retrieval. Snook is also entitled to reimbursement for any attorney’s fees paid. >>


<<Deschutes County commissioners are weighing a plan to remove homeless people from city- and county-owned land north of Bend that could cost the county as much as $300,000.

The plan emerged after the county cited a 50-acre plot of land it owns for violations of health and safety standards in March. Now, that code violation has permeated neighboring city-owned land, teeing up the potential for a mass sweep of up to 200 homeless people.>>



<<In the United States, immigrant victims of certain crimes can be granted special visas preventing them from deportation. Called “U visas,” these federal certificates first require a signoff from local law enforcement to confirm that the applicant is a victim of one of 28 qualifying violent crimes and has been helpful to law enforcement.

In Portland, police have been uniquely resistant to granting that approval to eligible immigrants without legal residency.

According to a report by the city ombudsman’s office released Wednesday, Portland police rejected more than half of all U visa requests in 2021 and the first half of 2022. This is much higher than the average rejection rate for all Oregon police departments.

The Police Bureau’s actions “threatened to undermine its mission to solve crime and protect the community,” the report said. “They also conflicted with the City’s policy of making Portland a welcoming and safe place for immigrants and, more broadly, with the City’s equity goals.”

Of the 200 U visa applications they reviewed, the ombudsman staff identified 53 that appeared to meet the program’s qualifications.

“As a result of these systemic failures, more than four dozen undocumented immigrant crime victims and their family members were denied the opportunity to apply for visas for which they may have been eligible,” the report reads.

It’s unknown how many of those applicants have been deported since reaching out to the Police Bureau for help.>>

<<Portland didn’t see this dip in U visa approval rates until recently. In 2020, the Police Bureau approved 89% of all U visa applications — 15% higher than the state average among other police agencies. But by 2021, Portland was approving just 48% of all U visas — nearly 30% below the state average.

The ombudsman’s report based this decline on a few factors, including a high turnover among police leadership since 2020. Six different police staff have overseen U visa requests since 2020, which could have led to inconsistent training. The report also found that wording about the purpose of the U visa program was cut from the Police Bureau’s U visa policy in 2018, and the policy is still missing key legal details.

The report went further to suggest the Police Bureau might be insufficiently trained on handling domestic violence cases, since many rejected applications centered on what appeared to be valid domestic violence allegations. It also noted that the bureau was inconsistent in using fluent interpreters to communicate with crime victims.

“In one case, a crime victim told us that the officer who claimed fluency in Spanish did not appear to understand her,” the report reads.

“The Bureau may have rejected some U visa applications pertaining to situations where the responding officer did not fully understand the crime victim.”

The Police Bureau rejected a few of these characterizations in its response to the ombudsman’s report. Police Chief Chuck Lovell wrote that the bureau’s U visa policy is identical to a sample policy provided by the Oregon Department of Justice. He also noted that Portland officers were last trained on U visa applications in 2018, but police leaders have been unable to find similar training opportunities recently. Lovell said the bureau plans to offer this training again this year.

Lovell said his staff reviewed 49 of the rejected applications the ombudsman’s office identified and approved three. He said the bureau would reconsider the other 46 rejected applications if applicants had new information to add to their case.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who oversees the Police Bureau, applauded the bureau for agreeing to reconsider applicants if alleged victims offer new information.

“As your report notes, ensuring that Portland is an inclusive and welcoming place for immigrants is an important value of my administration,” wrote Wheeler.>>


<<The Portland Police Bureau refused to certify paperwork for three dozen immigrants who were eligible for special temporary visas given to crime victims, the city ombudsman says in a report released today.

Federal guidelines say local agencies are not responsible for determining eligibility for an immigration status, but Oregon law requires them to certify applications. It’s generally a rubber stamp.

The Portland Police Bureau, like many other agencies, had approved 90% of the applications in recent years.

But that rate dropped to under 50% in 2021. An investigation by the city ombudsman concluded why: high turnover among cops reviewing the applications, and a lack of training.>>



<<Last week, Portland police arrested a man they say was dealing methamphetamine and fentanyl on a downtown corner. But the crime prosecutors charged him with had nothing to do with illicit drugs.

Instead, they charged him with a different felony: practicing medicine without a license.

On June 14, Officer Eli Arnold watched 31-year-old John Baker Jr. pull up to the corner of Southwest 9th Avenue and Washington Street and pull out a bag containing meth. “People milling about approached him eagerly in a manner consistent with street drug transactions,” noted a probable cause affidavit later filed by prosecutors.

But when Arnold arrested Baker, he had only 2.1 grams of meth—and no cash. “At Baker’s foot was a single fentanyl pill that had likely been dropped by Baker” upon seeing the officer, wrote deputy district attorney Eric Pickard. “Two blue pills which tested presumptive positive for fentanyl were also recovered. Both pills were stamped with the letter M in an attempt to falsely portray the pills as legitimate medication.”

When asked if he was dealing, Baker nodded, but then said “he really was just helping people out” who were experiencing withdrawals, according to the affidavit.

Baker admitted having no medical license. Hence, the surprising charge.>>

<<This isn’t the first time Multnomah County prosecutors have used unconventional charges against downtown drug dealers. Beginning this year, they’ve started levying trademark counterfeiting charges against dealers selling “blues,” the fentanyl pills stamped to look like legitimate OxyContin manufactured by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.>>



<<A 58-year-old man awaiting trial for allegedly burglarizing homes in the Piedmont neighborhood died of unspecified causes while in the custody of the Multnomah County Detention Center, officials with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

Martin Todd Franklin faced charges of burglary, robbery and unlawful use of a weapon after allegedly burglarizing a home on North Mississippi Avenue and another home on North Houghton Street in August, according to court records.

Franklin was considered a flight risk and was held at the detention center without bail, according to court records. Franklin had multiple convictions for felony robbery dating back to 1987.

Police say Franklin was found unresponsive in his cell around 8 a.m. Friday, and was pronounced dead at the scene after life saving efforts were made by deputies and medical staff at the detention center.

Franklin’s cause of death will be determined by the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office, and the sheriff’s office also said it is conducting an investigation.>>



<<On Tuesday an unanimous vote by the Clark County Council approved the sheriff offices’ worn camera program.

The vote authorized the County Manager to sign a five year contract with Axon Enterprises that will provide body-worn cameras, vehicle cameras, and updated taser products to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

The vote also approved a supplemental budget to add staff to the CCSO, the county Information Technology Department, and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The CCSO has been told to expect deliveries of the worn cameras and taser products by late summer of 2023 and vehicle equipment by fall or winter of 2023.

Deputies will be trained for the equipment in a phased process.

The sheriff’s office hopes to have the deployment of the new equipment completed by next summer.>>



<<A former federal police officer from Roseburg, Oregon was sentenced to prison this week for placing hidden cameras to record sexually explicit images and videos of children, according to the Justice Department.

Robert Wayne Roady, 50, was sentenced to 168 months in federal prison and 10 years’ supervised release.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint about Roady’s behavior in October 2020 and started an investigation. Later, Roady acknowledged concealing the cameras.

According to court documents, Roady admitted to hiding a camera in the bedroom of a 14-year-old girl. Later, two more 14-year-old female victims were found and evidence was seized.

A federal grand jury in Eugene returned an indictment against Roady on November 5, 2020, accusing him of attempted sexual exploitation of a child. Roady entered a plea of guilty on March 1, 2023, to a single-count criminal count of attempted transportation of child pornography.>>


<<A former Veterans Affairs police officer has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for repeatedly aiming hidden cameras at a shower and bedrooms in a home to capture sexually explicit photos and videos of children.

Robert Wayne Roady, 50, of Roseburg admitted to hiding the cameras after he was confronted by Douglas County sheriff’s investigators who were tipped off in October 2020, according to federal prosecutors.

Roady pleaded guilty to one count of attempted transportation of child pornography.>>