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U.S. Constitution
See other U.S. Constitution Articles

Title: Portland Police Review Board Says It's OK For Officers To Lie To Get Someone To Stop Filming Them
Source: TechDirt
URL Source: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/2 ... one-to-stop-filming-them.shtml
Published: Oct 16, 2019
Author: Tim Cushing
Post Date: 2019-10-20 17:28:52 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 186

from the police-lie dept

The Portland Police Department's Review Board -- a board composed almost completely of police and government officials -- concluded it's OK for a cop to lie about the law to shut down recordings.

Police officers seem to struggle the most when it comes to understanding the rights and protections given to citizens. For years, officers have abused any number of inapplicable laws to arrest citizens who recorded them. When laws and policies were changed in response to court decisions, the abuse of laws continued. The only thing that changed were department policies, which some officers just decided to ignore.

This hasn't always worked out well for officers, who often end up in court with their immunity stripped. Those that don't progress as far as the federal court system, however, are left in the hands of local complaint review boards. Even when the board is more independent than Portland's, board recommendations for punishment are often ignored in favor of minimal or no discipline.

This case, covered by The Oregonian following the release of Police Review Board records, shows an officer knowingly lied about the law and got away with it.

The bureau’s Police Review Board found Sgt. Erin Smith didn’t knowingly violate the police directive on truthfulness.

Not even with the lying?

The sergeant acknowledged he misrepresented the law to get Kerensa to stop videotaping him during a Nov. 30, 2016, demonstration in front of fuel storage facilities in Northwest Portland over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Smith admitted to falsely telling Kerensa that he didn't have the right to film officers and threatened Kerensa that he could be arrested if he didn’t stop.

So, how does an officer lie without violating a policy directive on "truthfulness?" As it turns out, there are a few convenient exceptions to this directive. First, officers are allowed to use deception for "legitimate law enforcement purposes." But telling someone the law forbade them from filming cops isn't a "legitimate law enforcement purpose."

That's the conclusion Portland PD Police Chief Danielle Outlaw (yes, that's her real name) reached. But she said this was more an issue of performance than a truthfulness violation because the officer admitted to lying about the law. Half-credit, I guess. The officer's direct supervisor was even more charitable.

Smith’s supervisor, Traffic Capt. Stephanie Lourenco, found Smith’s deception was permitted under an exception in the policy that says deception is permitted when “necessary to protect the physical safety’’ of an officer.

Lourenco did not explain how a passive recording threatened the officer's safety. The generous application of the deception exception encourages officers to invoke it any time they lie to citizens to get them to comply with unlawful orders. Good times. Thank god the PD is engaged in some form of oversight. Otherwise, we might be subjected to even stupider rationalizations...

[Board members] argued that Smith didn’t knowingly violate the directive and that “deception’’ is an acceptable de-escalation tactic.

Even assuming this was the sort of situation that necessitated a de-escalation, how does lying to people result in calmer interactions? Feeding a line of bullshit to a citizen who knows it's bullshit isn't going to nudge anything towards a more peaceful resolution. Making it a practice to lie to citizens just because you know multiple exceptions allow you to doesn't do anything to improve officers' relationships with the people they serve.

Fortunately, this exoneration got a second pass from the city's far more independent Citizen Review Committee, which was thoroughly unimpressed with the PRB's logic. Chief Outlaw agreed to take a second look at the case the PRB had refused to act on. But in the end, lying to citizens about their right to record is only worth about one day's pay. Cops willing to spin the Wheel O' Accountability may find it pays off more often than not, especially when the PRB is willing to make almost any excuse for an officer's bad behavior.

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