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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 22, 2004 5:59 PM. The previous post in this blog was Words of wisdom. The next post in this blog is The Kerry spam continues. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, April 22, 2004

No bill

The Multnomah County grand jury has decided not to indict Portland police officer Jason Sery, who recently shot and killed an unarmed African-American man in a North Portland traffic stop.

It's not surprising. Grand juries rarely indict police officers.

Observers of the Portland scene have been hoping that the aftermath of this police killing would be different from the many others that have gone on before.

It hasn't been.

So far.

Comments (20)

But this also results in a public inquiry if I remember AG Schrunk's words. Maybe it still will be different.

Maybe. But the inquest's scope, by law, is very limited. As I recall, the last time we had one (the infamous "choke hold" case), the jury went beyond the scope of its duties and declared that the officers were criminally negligent. But next to nothing came of it.

Are we surprised? In short: No.

Like you, Jack, we think the outcome was fairly predictable. Now what?

Some day, regular Portlanders will get mad. And it won't be pretty.

Getting mad will only compound the problem. The grand jury is composed of regular folks with regular fears. Fear hightens both the devaluation of the victim and the discretion allowed for the police.

Early education and employment opportunities is the long-term answer. But I see continuing decline on that front.

The grand jury is run by the DA. Even the most objective DA spends every working day working hand-in-hand with the police. It's hard to picture zealous prosecution of even an outlaw cop.

In an officer-involved shooting, perhaps the grand jury should be run by a special prosecutor.

DA Shrunk?

As a happy member of the NoPo community, I am extremely disappointed with this ruling. My sense, from being a witness in front of a grand jury, is that they are steered procedurally into indictments that the DA is in favor of.

This case is in no way a clear cut justifiable shooting. So I get to wear the skin color of the trigger happy coward who is above the law, and my law abiding African-American neighbors get to wear the skin color of the stupid crack-head.

I hope that this doesn't unduly impact our conversations about lawn care, the weather and such.

Let's not forget the part about reaching into your coat when the police say, "Don't do that."

All the police 'bad situation' video-footage I've seen shows a situation going from bad-to-worse in, literally, the blink of an eye. The police have rights, so do their families. First in that list - the right to live and see their families after work.

Most police fatalities occur during 'routine' traffic stops. When the police pull you over, don't put your hand in your pocket. According to the report, that is what Mr. Perez did. Better yet, if you are a man with cocaine on you - don't drive around at odd hours, and act as though you are going for a gun.

I have a lot of sympathy for the officers involved in this incident. I'm sorry Mr. Perez is dead. According to the report cited here, it seems Mr. Perez had more than his fair share in the cause of this incident.

All of you who are angry that "justice wasn't done" -- would you reach into your right pocket twice, "Trying to pull something out" like Perez did in this situation? And if you would, wouldn't you suspect the consequences of this action wouldn't be good?

I've never heard a Cop say they want to end a person's life. They all, however, want to keep theirs.

I think there's some confusion here. The grand jury only investigates criminal charges; today's decision does not mean in any way, shape, or form that the shooting was justified. It simply means that the grand jury did not think that there was enough evidence to put Officer Sery on trial, presumably for manslaughter. There are mental-state issues that would be very difficult to prove in this situation. There is still the police internal investigation, the federal civil rights investigation, and the inquest. *All parties* (aside from the police union) have a strong motivation to get all the facts out and in front of the public. This counteracts everything the police have been trying to do post-Kroeker, so they have that motivation. Obviously the City and the community groups want to know what happened. If you think this is the sign of a coverup, you're wrong. And things are very different in this case than they have been in the past - the inquest and federal civil rights investigation are evidence of that.

When the police pull you over, don't put your hand in your pocket. According to the report, that is what Mr. Perez did.

And so he deserved to be shot dead?

The question of 'justified' is the relevant question here.

The question of 'criminal charges', unfortunately, isn't relevant here. Yes, some 'civil charges' may be levied in this case. But in all good conscience - there is no criminal case here - let it go.

I feel sorry for the family that their police-assaulting, drug-carrying-relative was shot by police when the said felon put his hand in his pocket during a police stop at an odd hour. But feeling sorry for questionable behavior doesn't justify a civil trial.

I understand that, technically, there will be many other trails for the officer(s) in question. That doesn't mean the officer(s) in question are 'yet-to-be-found guilty'. The deceased made some bad decisions at a very bad time.

More trials won't change the outcome of that.

Jack wrote:
"When the police pull you over, don't put your hand in your pocket. According to the report, that is what Mr. Perez did.
And so he deserved to be shot dead?"

Jack - The question isn't about "Did he deserve it?" (which he didn't).

The question is about 'reasonable expectation'. The laws are enforced by humans who make human decisions with human abilities in real-time.

Watch some videos of cops in situations where things went bad (watch the tv morbid-episodes of the show 'COPS', or ask a police friend). You'll see that the majority of cop-is-dead situations are 'routine traffic stops'. You'll also see that things go from 'routine' to 'deadly-for-the-cop' in very, VERY little time.

The question isn't, "Did the deceased 'deserve' it?". The question is, "Under the circumstances, did the deceased act in a way would quickly kill an officer (as previously demonstrated in training)?"

From what was published (per your link), the answer is (unfortunately) 'yes'.

Sorry, "hand in the pocket" isn't grounds to shoot, no matter how many different ways you word it. Until the officers see the gun, they shouldn't shoot. If they can't handle that, they shouldn't be cops.

BTW, the "odd hour" was 6 p.m. on a Sunday.

6pm - My mistake, I thought it was a different hour.

Reaching into the pocket - I've never done that during a police stop. In fact, I've ALWAYS had my ID/license and registration out before the cops leave their car. By the time the officer reaches my door, the window is open, I have my dome light on (if after dark) and my hands are clearly on the steering wheel.

Also, I'm not trying to hide/swallow cocaine (not proven here, but quite possible). Additionally, the police aren't protecting themselves against a proven police attacker and violent felon. And yes - that does make a difference.

I'm not trying to hide/swallow cocaine.

What does that have to do with shooting the guy? We do not have the death penalty for cocaine possession -- yet. And if we do, the accused will be given a day in court before the execution.

Additionally, the police aren't protecting themselves against a proven police attacker and violent felon.

That makes some sense. But without seeing the guy's i.d., did they even know who he was? They probably knew who owned car he was driving -- that was it.

And even assuming that all of what you're pointing to is true, I still say -- no actual gun sighting, no shooting the guy three times in the torso.

In an ideal world, kids aren't shot for brandishing fake guns, either, but it sometimes happens in the real world (less often, thankfully, now that they have orange tips). It seems by not proposing criminal charges that the grand jury thought the deceased did deserve (in the sense that it was justified, not in the sense that it was the appropriate punishment) to be inflicted with deadly force. That the deadly force actually resulted in a death, in this case, is unfortunate.

I think I've come up with a great idea for a new business! Training citizens how to act when pulled over by the police so they don't get shot! Problem is, prospective clients are being killed.

Seriously, is this the lesson to be learned here? NO! We need better training for our police and that's all there is to it. Wouldn't hurt if some of our cops weren't cowards either.

What I'm saying is if cops were trained to approach apparently dangerous situations with more caution, calling for backup and such, then these killings might stop. Aggressive police tactics used by Sery and Macomber is what caused this incident to unfold the way it did. Our police need the training, not the citizens. I shudder to think how many times I may have placed my life in jeapordy simply reaching for my wallet to produce my drivers license at the request of some cop who has just pulled me over. If the cops who pulled me over had been cowards like Sery, I probably would've been shot, and all the cop would've had to say is he thought I was reaching for a weapon, and he feared for his life. How can we as a society support that? How can we view Sery as anything other than a coward when his aggressive tactics cause him to be quick on the trigger simply at the sight of Perez having his hand in his pocket. Might Perez have been reaching for identification at the request of the officers? (Alluring concept for a trigger-happy cop.....pull over suspect, request drivers license, and when suspect reaches into his pocket for the piece of ID he is shot by a cop who says he feared the suspect was reaching for a weapon)

It's apparent to me Sery and his partner had some reason to believe this was more than a routine traffic stop otherwise they wouldn't have drawn their weapons so fast. These officers should've exercised caution in this situation, not aggression. If Perez had've been armed the actions of these officers could've provoked an outright gun battle where innocent bystanders could've been hurt. They had to have known who they were about to deal with. All the more reason for them to have exercised patience and caution, and call for backup. The suspect is ordered to exit the vehicle with his hands in sight, and officers cautiously approach him, search him, and continue with the traffic stop. Had this incident had gone down this way at least Perez might've comprehended the seriousness of what was taking place. Unfortunately, Perez is the one who mistakenly viewed this as a routine traffic stop.

What I find disturbing now is how alot of people seem to dismiss Perez's life in the form of a "good riddance" attitude. As though his past mistakes are justification for what happened. I'm hearing and seeing it everywhere. If he hadn't have had drugs or been responsible for a past that labeled him to the police as a dangerous person he wouldn't have been shot. His past is not justification for being shot. It is justification for the police to exercise extreme caution when dealing with him. Not aggressive behavior during a traffic stop!

Unfortunatly the grand jury had to acquit Sery. They had to make their decision based on a point of law. That law which gives our cops the right to use deadly force simply on the presumption their life or the life of others is in danger. THIS LAW HAS TO BE CHANGED!!!! Lars Larson says that is the same right afforded to every citizen, and a citizen would be acquited during grand jury proceedings as quickly as a cop. I beg to differ. Not surprising though coming from a guy who is legally licensed to carry a firearm (concealed).

In the past year we have had two people killed by the police because they feared for their lives, and both victims were unarmed. The law must be changed to require our police to see evidence of a weapon before they shoot. In the meantime I can think of two cops who should take their scared asses into another line of work. Save being a cop for brave people who are genuinely willing to put their lives on the line for all of us.

One more thing...is it inconceivable that there are some bad cops out there who are shielded from any criminal wrongdoing with a law such as this?

Wait to see the bad guy's weapon? A lot of cops get killed while waiting.

Is the DA going to release the video of the police stop? I assume that the patrol car in question had it's own camera. Am I wrong?

I've never heard of the PPB having videocams in the cars. I doubt that they have them. Maybe if Officer Sery and/or the city are held liable for wrongful death, they'll install them.

Sorry, if the cop doesn't see an actual weapon, or at least something that looks damn like a weapon, he shouldn't be shooting. If they can't handle that risk, they shouldn't be on the force.

Lots of people refuse to take their hands out of their pockets when asked by the police. A scared teenager holding a joint, for instance. That doesn't mean you shoot them.

Don't worry, Scott, the odds of there being serious adverse consequences for this officer dwindle with every passing day. Look for a six-month suspension followed by a nice transfer over to Raleigh Hills.

Couldn't have said it better myself Jack!


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