8/18/2023 News Roundup


<<A grand jury dismissed charges against a Portland police officer involving a fatal shooting in November 2022.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced on Thursday that a grand jury returned a ‘not true’ bill and found the force by Portland officer Chris Sathoff that resulted in the death of Immanuael Jaquez Clark-Johnson, 30, was not criminal under Oregon law.

By DA Schmidt’s request, attorneys from the Oregon Department of Justice joined the DA’s office in presenting the case to the grand jury. The conclusion of the returned bill was sent Wednesday. >>



<<Voters in a conservative enclave within Washington state will decide whether to shutter the county’s only library after staff refused to remove books on race, LGBTQ and sexual topics that some community members objected to.

“Our current library is not serving the needs or interests of the majority of our community,” wrote Jessica Ruffcorn, a mother and small business owner who started the petition to dissolve the Columbia County Rural Library District in Dayton, Washington.

“They are not being good stewards of our tax funds, and it is time to close it down and look at what is most needed in our community and work towards new goals,” Ruffcorn continued in a letter to the editor.

The library would be the first in the country to close over a book dispute, according to the American Library Association.

Columbia County is a rural community of about 4,000 people, nestled in the southeastern side of Washington. Residents voted 70.3% for then-President Trump in 2020 in stark contrast to the state as a whole, which has long been a Democratic stronghold.

The battle over books began last summer after a patron objected to seeing “What’s The T?: The Guide to All Things Trans and/or Nonbinary” in the Dayton Memorial Library. The nonfiction book, geared toward teens ages 14 and up, details numerous sex acts.

Two community members spoke out at that month’s library board meeting, initially objecting to a handful of books about LGBTQ topics or race.

The next month, it was standing room only at the library’s usually sparsely-attended meeting. The library director invited patrons to complete forms requesting reconsideration of materials.

But at an October meeting, the board voted to keep 11 disputed books in the library, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reported.>>

<<Last month, library opponents submitted 163 signatures, enough to get a measure to dissolve the library district on the November ballot.

The library’s previous director — whom Ruffcorn compared on Facebook to a “groomer” — also resigned last month, largely due to the stress from the controversy. The interim director decided to move the whole young adult nonfiction section to the adult nonfiction section. Sexual education books have been further separated, moved to the parenting collection, Crosscut reported.

But Ruffcorn told Fox News that library staff have not moved any “questionable” novels from the young adult section. And while the initial complaints centered around books on race and gender, they’ve now grown to include dozens of novels, like the fantasy series “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas.

“It’s not about LGBT books,” Ruffcorn told Fox News in a written statement. “It’s about highly sexualized books that are downstairs and have been put on display in the children’s section of the library.”

It’s not clear how many of these complaints have been brought to library staff rather than simply circulating among community members. Brigham told Fox News the library has only received formal requests to relocate two books this year.

Attempts to restrict books surged nationwide last year, according to the American Library Association, and Washington is no exception. Attempts to remove books or restrict access to them in libraries have doubled since 2019, and the number of books targeted has increased more than 400%.>>



<<An independent investigator could not substantiate any of the three allegations lodged by a former division chief at Portland Fire & Rescue against former Fire Chief Sara Boone earlier this year, according to a copy of the investigation’s findings obtained by WW.

The report, dated March 14 of this year, finds that all three of the claims made by Division Chief Tim Matthews against Boone, who retired last month, were not backed up by a preponderance of the evidence.

All three allegations, which WW first reported this summer, centered on Boone’s involvement with a fire bureau investigation last year into a close friend of Boone’s, Lisa Reslock, who served as the fire bureau’s deputy chief at the time. (Among other things, Reslock was accused of mocking the idea of employees sharing their personal pronouns before meetings.) Matthews, who ran the investigation, concluded that the fire bureau should fire Reslock, but she retired last fall before an official termination could take place.

Matthews alleged that Boone interfered with the Reslock investigation and retaliated against him for recommending Reslock’s firing. He also alleged Boone had told Reslock to discourage bureau employees from filing complaints after an employee repeatedly used the N-word while quoting a mentally ill client.

The investigation, conducted by the Klein Munsinger law firm, could not substantiate any of Matthews’ claims.

“While Chief Boone allowed her friendship with Deputy Chief Reslock to affect her judgment about the investigation, her actions did not impede the process or the outcome of the investigation,” the report concludes.

It also says Boone’s decision to override Matthews’ recommendation to fire Reslock was “not substantially caused by [Matthews’] oversight of the investigation of Reslock” and instead was because Boone had felt in recent months that Matthews “undermined her authority.”

Matthews was paid $189,000 to resign and drop any legal claim against the city, The Oregonian reported earlier this week.

Though the report is dated March 14, its contents are relevant to issues playing out currently in the fire bureau.

Matthews led the bureau’s Community Health Division, which contains two young programs: Portland Street Response, an unarmed alternative to police response to mental health calls, and the CHAT program, which sends two-person vehicles to low-acuity medical calls to target “frequent flyers” who overuse 911.

Portland Street Response was the brainchild of former City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who lost her reelection bid last fall to a business-minded challenger, Rene Gonzalez. Many within PSR feel that Commissioner Gonzalez is depriving the program of the resources it needs, though Gonzalez has always maintained that he aims to fully fund it. (His office is currently seeking federal funding for PSR.)

According to another fire bureau leader interviewed in the course of the investigation, Boone had become “more protective of both her own authority and of the two largest programs she and Hardesty had spearheaded: PSR and CHAT,” partly because of “the pending substitution of Hardesty, who had appointed Chief Boone, with Gonzalez.”

While the report found the allegations of retaliation unsubstantiated, it warned that Boone’s conduct did, at times, come close to interfering with Matthews’ investigation.

“She expressed her opposition to the duration and outcome of the investigation that put pressure on both [the city’s Bureau of Human Resources] and on Matthews,” the report concludes. “It is concerning that the Chief’s judgment was affected by her friendship. While Chief Boone’s actions were all within her authority, they skated close to the line of interference.”

Boone had asked Matthews in November if he’d like to serve as assistant chief at the bureau. She then put that offer on hold, ostensibly because of a personnel requirement. The report found that Boone’s rescinding of the offer was not a form of retaliation for Matthew’s involvement in the Reslock investigation. But the report did note that Boone’s unhappiness with the outcome of the investigation was “one factor in her mixed motives,” including that Boone “had an outsized and growing defensiveness around her authority, and she deeply resented having her judgments second-guessed by others around her, including but not limited to Matthews.”

Then, in December, Boone decided to move CHAT under her direct authority, essentially taking the program away from Matthews. Matthews alleged this was in retaliation for the Reslock investigation. (Boone reversed her decision to take over CHAT shortly after Matthews told her he would file a retaliation complaint against her.) The report also found this claim to be unsubstantiated.>>



<<After nearly a decade of debate and delays, some Portland police officers will finally begin wearing body cameras starting on Monday.

Until now, Portland had the largest municipal police department in the country without law enforcement body cameras.

About 150 officers with the Portland Police Bureau — from the central precinct and PPB’s Focused Intervention Team, a gun violence reduction group — will use Axon technology for a two-month pilot program.

“Our officers have been wanting these for years,” said Lt. Nathan Sheppard, PPB spokesman. “It’s huge and long overdue and we are very happy for this finally to be happening.”

Per PPB policy, officers are required to turn on their body cameras for every call for service. Beyond that, the cameras automatically turn on in the most crucial moments — when an officer pulls a gun, pulls a taser or turns on vehicle lights.

“The camera activates, it detects a Bluetooth signal, and it also activates every body camera nearby,” said officer David Baer, from the PPB Central Precinct Bike Squad.

Baer said he can’t wait to use the cameras and knows he’ll feel safer with the cameras recording each interaction.

“We have a lot of investigations where video is key – jurors love video and the (District Attorney’s office) loves video,” Baer said. “To be able to (show) video from five different perspectives of what happened, especially with drug investigations we’re currently running … we’re really excited to have these.”

PPB said officers can’t delete, edit or alter recorded video. The system keeps track of who views a video and when they watch it.

“Accountability, obviously, these things are going to be on and they’re going to record everything,” Sheppard said. “I think it’s going to make it safer for officers and safer for the public because everybody is going to know there’s going to be an irrefutable account of what happened.”

After years of disagreements and stalemates, the city and police union finally compromised on a body camera agreement in April.

Under that agreement, officers will be allowed to review video footage before writing a report for minor cases, but not for the bigger events like use of force incidents, shootings, and injuries.

In those cases, officers must give an interview or statement first before watching the video back.>>


<<Following a decade-long debate, the Portland Police Bureau will begin issuing body cameras to its officers – making Portland the last major U.S. city to implement the devices.

The bureau will begin its pilot program next week by giving 150 officers the cameras to wear in the central precinct – including the bike squad and the Focused Intervention Team that responds to calls across the city.

The cameras must be on for every interaction they have with people, and in many instances, the cameras will turn on by themselves. That will happen when an officer pulls a gun or taser out of a holster and when they turn on a vehicle’s lights or sirens. Otherwise, officers are required to turn the devices on themselves.

The body cameras were required by the Department of Justice in a settlement after Portland police officers were found to use excessive force.

However, videos will be subject to the same public records requests processes and laws as other records – meaning videos will be redacted to protect identities.>>


<<Portland Police said the cameras will automatically turn on if an officer’s gun is removed from its holster or if a Taser is deployed.

Officers are required to turn on the cameras for every interaction, except for sexual assault cases.>>

<<Jason Kafoury, a civil rights attorney, said even though it’s a long time coming, now is the best time to implement body-worn cameras.

“It’s taken way too long for Portland police to get body cameras,” Kafoury said. “Video doesn’t lie. From our experience of decades of excessive force cases, police don’t always tell the truth about what happened.”

he cameras are constantly recording. However, the system refreshes every 30 seconds, negating what was just recorded. A full audio and video capture only occurs once the officer manually activates the record function, which Kafoury thinks is problematic.

“It allows the police to say things that they know won’t be recorded and I don’t think that’s fair,” Kafoury said.>>



<<At the end of the 2023 legislative session, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek used her veto power to nix state funding for two studies, totaling $600,000, intended to research the impact of Oregon’s laws prohibiting prostitution. In doing so, she stepped into a centuries-old debate about whether or not the world’s oldest profession can ever be entered into voluntarily — or if it is a legitimate form of work and should instead be decriminalized.

Money for the studies would have come from an appropriations bill, approved by lawmakers, which allocated money to a wide range of initiatives. Among the items the governor did not veto: $220,000 to study how military pensions are taxed, $2,000,000 for Columbia County’s courthouse renovation and $300,000 for an independent audit of land purchases by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

In a written statement explaining her decision, Kotek said she thought the studies should be privately funded. But sex workers and advocates who have been pushing for decriminalization say Kotek initially supported the research then backtracked at the last minute, potentially because suddenly allowing a practice that’s long been illegal is politically fraught in Oregon right now.>>

<<The budget bill approved by lawmakers would have given $100,000 in state money to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission for a study on the advantages and disadvantages of decriminalizing prostitution. The Criminal Justice Commission is a state agency which researches and evaluates criminal justice programs.

Kotek also vetoed a portion of the appropriations bill that provided Oregon Health & Science University $500,000 in state funds for a public health study on the effects of current laws on Oregonians in the sex trade.

Oregon law makes it a class A misdemeanor to offer or engage in sexual conduct in exchange for a fee. If someone charged with prostitution is a trafficking victim, the burden is on the defendant to prove they were being trafficked. Soliciting sex for money, the customer side of the transaction, is also a class A misdemeanor. In 2020, a law took effect protecting sex workers from prosecution if evidence of prostitution only came to light as a result of them reporting a “person felony,” such as sexual abuse or assault.>>



<<The state’s prison system regularly fails women in custody, according to a new report commissioned by lawmakers that also found “an immediate need for the state” to “invest in the women and staff” at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s lone prison for women.

The 229-page report, authored by researchers with the Women’s Justice Institute and the Center for Effective Public Policy, calls on the state and the prison system to make a number of changes. Among those recommendations is training for staff to better meet the needs of the women at the prison, many who have experienced sexual violence, substance abuse or other trauma prior to their incarceration. Other recommendations include improving investigations into sexual assault by hiring a senior officer at the prison solely responsible for overseeing the reporting process and ensuring women feel comfortable coming forward.

Researchers also say Oregon should make it easier for women in custody to communicate with family either remotely or through prison visits, the report states.

Coffee Creek “is a culture in transition,” the report states. Despite the good intentions of some prison leaders and correctional officers, Coffee Creek is chronically understaffed, and corrections staff who do report to work lack training and are overly reliant on punitive measures, such as moving women from one housing unit to another, limiting the amount of time women can spend out of their cells or sending them to segregation.

“The facility leadership and many staff are committed to doing what is needed to improve the facility, and the residents show tremendous resilience despite the challenges they face in their lives and while incarcerated,” researchers wrote. “There is low morale among staff, and the majority of women reported that they do not feel emotionally safe or respected by staff.”

In response, Gov. Tina Kotek announced a panel to meet next month to start implementing the report’s recommendations. Kotek called the report “sobering to read” and also ordered Department of Corrections administrators to identify things they can do immediately to implement findings without costing taxpayers more money.>>

<<The report relied on interviews and written surveys with staff, prison leadership, women in custody as well as women who had spent time at Coffee Creek but are now free. Researchers also spent five days at the Wilsonville prison, observing, reviewing reports and conducting more interviews. The report includes comments from both prison staff and women in custody, who are quoted anonymously. More than 60 percent of the roughly 800 women at the prison completed a survey for researchers.

The Coffee Creek prison had “among the highest number” of reports of sexual harassment and abuse in 2021 “as well the overwhelming majority of ongoing investigations that year.”

Many of those reports were linked to a former prison nurse, Tony Klein.

Last month, Klein was convicted of sexually assaulting nine women at Coffee Creek. He is set to be sentenced in October and faces the possibility of life in prison. The state also paid $1.87 million to settle civil lawsuits related to Klein.

Most residents and staff at Coffee Creek know how to report abuse, but “staff and residents reported concerns about the quality and timeliness of … investigations, as well as the protocols that are used after allegations are brought and during and after an investigation.” Those who report being mistreated by staff or others in custody, are placed in solitary confinement for their protection, the report alleges.>>

<<According to the report, Coffee Creek administrators made some improvements, including adding dozens of cameras and mirrors, privacy barriers in toilet stalls and showers, and windows on some closet doors.

Women also reported struggling to access appropriate clothing sizes, and bras and shoes that fit. People in prison are required to wear a uniform, supplied by the Department of Corrections. In some cases, the ill-fitting clothes cause medical issues.

“We have been defeminized from shoes to clothes,” one woman in custody said.>>



<<Portland police arrested 11 people and recovered 13 stolen vehicles in a car theft operation on Wednesday, according to PPB.

The operation was done through a partnership between Gresham Police and Port of Portland Police, which PPB said allowed officers to look for stolen vehicles that were actively being driven. A Deputy District Attorney from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office was also “present for consultation.”

According to police, they used information shared by members of the Facebook group “PDX Stolen Cars,” which helped them find three of the recovered vehicles.

Along with recovering stolen cars, police served six arrest warrants and seized 2 firearms, they said.>>