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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Why Perez was stopped

The traffic stop that led to last month's fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American man by white Portland police officers was based on some pretty skinny grounds. As The Oregonian reports, one of the two officers involved testified at the public inquest today as follows:

Macomber and Sery, patrolling in North Portland in a district police call "Area 524," had just cited a gang member for having an open container of alcohol when Macomber said he spotted a white "luxury" car with chrome wheels and tinted windows. There were two men in the car as it moved north on North Oswego Street.

The officers would learn later that Perez was behind the wheel, although neither he nor the car were known to the officers. Sery ran a check of the license plate, and learned the car, a Mitsubishi, was registred to a man in his mid- 40s. Perez was 28.

The car was out of place, Macomber testified. It was on a back street, not a main thoroughfare, and Macomber said it looked like it would cost "about a third of what a home in the area would cost." It seemed likely to him that the car was involved in drug activity, he said. ...

Perez turned into the parking lot of a coin laundry and convenience store in the 7200 block of North Fessenden Street. Macomber pulled in behind him and flipped on his overhead flashing lights.

Perez had used his signal, but only 30 feet before the turn, Macomber said, giving officers the "technical reason" for the stop. The law requires drivers to signal 100 feet before turning.

I thought the Portland police were understaffed and extremely busy. Is this what they do all day?

Comments (12)

Unbelievable. Not just a stop for failing to signal, but one for failing to signal *early* enough. And now the guy's dead.

What's really disheartening is that this is what's going on all the time. Granted, most of the time, they're able to refrain from killing the guy, but this kind of stop in which they "technically" stop you for a completely different reason from the reason they "actually" stop you -- because the reason they actually stop you would be, inconveniently, illegal -- is pretty much standard practice. In fact, that gang member with the open container they had just finished citing? Same thing. Looks like the whole day was one big fishing expedition. As you say, they must not be that busy.


Isn't what Macomber said profiling? Didn't he just admit that the reason he pulled him over was the car he was in is the "kind of car" they associate with drug activity?

I didn't think that cops could do that but I didn't think they could shoot people for no reason either.

I don't have a problem with the cops pulling the car over. That's their job, to look for suspicious activity and investigate. They're the cops, not me, and if they say a fancy car in a poor neighborhood is suspicious, then I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

My problem is with the shooting. Thus far, I don't feel Perez' actions in the car justified shooting him. The cops in Portland just seem a little to trigger happy.

But stopping you because you're driving a fancy car in a poor neighborhood is unconstitutional. It has nothing to do with the benefit of the doubt. It's unconstitutional. Even they don't claim that's constitutional. They know it's unconstitutional, which is why they pretend it's for another reason.

Once you go down the road of, "Well, it's unconstitutional, but I'll look the other way because they're probably right," then you're into the land of general writs and all manner of ugly things. You can't justify an unconstitutional act on policy grounds.

The "fancy car in a poor neighborhood with tinted windows and suspicious behavior" rationale legitimizes this pretextual stop IF you also support treating drug trafficking as a serious crime.

Perez looked and acted like a drug dealer, he was pulled over, he freaked out, a shooting occurred and as it looks like the officers were correct - he was a drug dealer.

Would we really be having this discussion if this guy fit a profile of a kidnapper, behaved the same way when he was pulled over (resulting in a shooting) and it turned out he had some kid in his trunk?

I don't think so.

We would be giving these guys medals and praising their instincts. The problem is that using street smarts and gut instincts to deal with drug trafficking in this manner troubles us.

It doesn't seem to trouble the Lars Larsons of the world though. They have no beef with the drug war. They support harsh penalties for cocaine dealers and kidnappers alike. And they therefore wonder why we should prevent the cops from fighting these "crimes"?

This shooting is a sad symptom of the drug war. Unless we tell our police to stop treating drug dealers as serious criminals, these situations are bound to occur from time to time.

This conversation is long overdue.

I'll thank you not to tell me how I would respond to other situations or why I am troubled by this situation, because respectfully, as to my motivations, you have no idea what you're talking about.

What on earth does it mean to "look like a drug dealer"? What does it mean, in the context of this case, to "act like a drug dealer"? What if instead of being a drug dealer, he had stolen stereos in his trunk? What if he had one stolen camera in his back seat? Can you "act like a guy who's stealing stereos"?

Furthermore, at this point, what Jack's addressing, I think, is the *stop*. And the stop happened before there was any "looking" or "acting" like a drug dealer. There was, it appears, only what the officers cited: A fancy car in a poor neighborhood, driven by someone who didn't appear to be the registered owner. I don't think it has anything to do, for me, with whether I think drug crimes are "serious" or not. You can treat a crime as serious without supporting any unconstitutional manner anyone wants to come up with to address it.

And I just have a really hard time with screaming at a guy to produce ID, and then shooting him because he's digging in his pocket. Not sure how that one works.

I'll thank you to "lighten up".

There will always be a reason to pull someone over in a car. I don't have a problem with this.

Also, I bet a good lawyer could make the argument that "rich car in poor neighborhood" rises to the level of "reasonable suspicion."

And I agree that if Perez had been guilty of kidnapping or rape, there would probably be less protest. Of course there would probably be less protest if Perez were white, but that's an argument for another day.

Justin wrote: "Of course there would probably be less protest if Perez were white, but that's an argument for another day"

If Perez was white he wouldn't have been pulled over. If he had been pulled over, he wouldn't have been shot. Hard to make that argument today or any other day.

Well, if you don't have a problem with anyone in a car being subject to being stopped and pulled over, then that's the disagreement right there, so there's not much more to discuss. I'm not prepared to go there, and that's not the constitution we have, so . . . that's the disagreement. Potato, po-tah-to, I suppose.

At least now I know how far before a turn you're supposed to signal. I'll have to pace it out on the sidewalk then sit in the car and get a sense of how far it is.

According to Lar Larson yesterday, a lot of hardcore drunk drivers know the drill for minimizing contact with the cops when stopped for this kind of traffic rule pretext. Roll down the window 1/4 inch, pass out your license, registration, insurance; don't look at him, don't breathe on him, keep your hands in sight. Give him nothing but the original pretext on which to act.

I'll keep that in mind.

Justin wrote Also, I bet a good lawyer could make the argument that "rich car in poor neighborhood" rises to the level of "reasonable suspicion."

Then if that is reasonable suspicion, run the plates?

Look, what Macomber said they did was absolutly positively AGAINST THE LAW. The more I read and the more I see the sadder it makes me.

The other question I have are about the order that the witnesses were called in. Why Macomber third and Sery right at the end? All the other witnesses seem to be next to each other...if two people were in a car together they testified next to each other? Why not the cops?

Wouldn't it be nice for the jury to hear the cops together, or at least on the same day. It seems to me there is a definate "batting order" and I think they way Mike Shrunk is handling this STINKS


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