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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shoot unarmed man in back? Standard procedure for Portland cops.

It's stunning, really. Maxine Bernstein of the O writes:

Officer Nathan Voeller, a lead defensive tactics instructor, was ready to testify that Portland officers are trained that they're not required to see a gun before using lethal force if the officer believes the suspect poses an immediate risk of death or serious injury. "They are trained they need to be preemptive," Voeller was to testify, according to a trial memorandum filed by Frashour's lawyer.

According to the document, Portland police are taught that if they wait to see a person pull or point a firearm, they won't be able to react fast enough before the suspect fires.

Chamberlain planned to testify that Campbell did not react to Lewton's beanbag shots in a "typical fashion," and "that moving his hands towards or into his waistband while running towards hard cover (a car) was indicative of the intent to pull a handgun."

Officer Ryan Coffey, the bureau's lead defensive tactics instructor, was to testify Portland police are taught not to allow potentially armed suspects to "secure hard cover," the document said. Further, police are taught that suicidal people are "frequently homicidal," the instructors were to testify. Former defensive tactics instructor Todd Engstrom was to point out that Frashour's sole focus as the officer with an AR-15 rifle was to provide "lethal cover."

This really needs to be fixed, and the people running for City Council need to be pressured into make a firm commitment to fix it. We're ashamed to live in a city where this is what goes on.

Comments (34)

This "standard procedure" appears to be nothing more than "hard cover" for police to use when things go wrong.

I occasionally read that Portland’s woes, in a variety of issues, aren't much different than other cities. I wonder if that applies to "officer involved shootings".

Ah yes. The old action/reaction theory. That was the justification given for gunning down the unarmed James Jahar Perez (and many other unarmed victims as well). Between that and the "excited delirium" defense, Bill Lewinski has made a career - and I'm sure a fortune in expert witness fees - out of providing cover for out-of-control cops.

Cops have an inherently more dangerous job than most people. This is reflected in the generous pension they receive, for life, after they retire. One thing that makes their job more dangerous is that they sometimes have to wait and see before using force. If the new standard is "the officer may use deadly force if he or she thinks the individual poses a danger," then that pretty much says "go ahead and kill anyone, at any time, and then tell us you thought they were going to do something." We need to demand more...and, yes, this means that they'll occasionally be placed in more dangerous positions. That's part of being a cop.

Speaking to some retired officers, way off the record and half drunk, the story was put into perspective. Semi quote...

"This was a bad shoot. Everyone knows it was a bad shoot. But no one is going to say that publicly because it would make the job harder."

"There are times when you have to shoot. There are times you can't. Then there's this grey area when you can if you want. Some officers really want to. Take this guy here. He's an aggressive cop. That's why he was part of that detail. And that's why that poor son of a bitch is dead. No other reason."

Change the rules. Please.

Or go back to requiring degrees for police officers. I may be biased (I know I am) but it seems to me a more thoughtful and educated police force would fix a lot of this.

This is complete crap.

If you have an AR-15 rifle already pointed on target with a round in the chamber and safety off, there's no way someone is going to be able to draw a handgun, turn around 180º, aim, and fire with a double-action trigger pull before you apply 6 pounds of pressure with your index finger.

It just isn't going to happen unless you have some seriously slow reflexes.

I see the James Jahar Perez case as very different. Besides being high and having bags of cocaine in his mouth, he was sitting inside a car which -- very easily -- may have provided access to a weapon.

In the Campbell case, a semi-compliant subject -- who's family had already indicated was suicidal and had access to a pistol -- tried to run. Running away is not usually a justification for the use of lethal force.

Reaching down inside a darkened car after being told to put your hands on the wheel is likely to result in lethal force. Given the long history of criminal convictions on Mr. Jahar's record, it was reasonable to assume he was armed.

Plus, Frashour had a scope on the rifle--he absolutely saw what was really going on, better than anyone. "Trigger happy" is putting it way too mildly; lucky for him, he was a cop.

Hopefully, the DOJ will be taking notes on these PPB "training policies" while they're in town.

What a bunch of shameless goons.

Oh, please. "He was high -- he had a record!" The cop knew none of that. Another unnecessary death, caused by driving a nice car while black.

I did a double-take when I read this in the article during breakfast this morning:

Portland officers are trained that they're not required to see a gun before using lethal force if the officer believes the suspect poses an immediate risk of death or serious injury.

It was a WTF moment.

Joe Citizen follows lawful Police commands. Drug dealing thugs don't.

The Po-Po can usually discern who's a regular Joe and who's a potential threat in about 4 seconds of interaction.

You don't have to believe me. Ask a cop.

The fact he was high as a kite ("near lethal dose of cocaine") influenced Jahar-Perez's actions, and the cops reactions. They didn't have to know -- with certainty -- he was high and a career criminal: they knew he was acting like one and they protected themselves accordingly.

Yeah, in 24 seconds from traffic stop to murder, they diagnosed the situation correctly and acted appropriately. You may want to try to sell that shinola somewhere else, but you're wasting bandwidth if you're talking to me.

If you're too scared to do the job of a cop, you shouldn't be a cop.

There's definitely a gray area here. Wait to see a gun . . . or what you think is a gun? What about other lethal force? To others? IMHO, bright lines like "wait until you see a gun," rarely play out neatly in real life.

Bad things are going to happen now and then. I, for one, would rather the occasional noncompliant but unarmed dude(whether drugged-up/crazy/threatening or otherwise refusing police orders) take a bullet than the occasional cop. Cops take bullets even when they don't wait to see a gun. Though there's the occasional bad apple, I'd rather not tie their hands with more rules crafted by one of Adams' policy wonks. Cops deal with messy situations in real life. I oppose Measure 11 mandatory sentencing for similar reasons.

If I ran the circus, I would focus more effort on removing/avoiding the bad apples.

I, for one, would rather the occasional noncompliant but unarmed dude(whether drugged-up/crazy/threatening or otherwise refusing police orders) take a bullet than the occasional cop.

Translation: I don't care if unarmed citizens are gunned down in cold blood as long as the people in charge do it.


If we would stop busting people for drugs, most if not all of this would go away.

But the Trillion dollar question is-

Is there any connection on who controls the drug trade and who has access to the political system?

If the crap that is going on in Mexico and Afghanistan is any indicator, we all know the answer.

Ex-bartender, you forgot "noncompliant." You also forgot the part about "reason to believe the suspect poses an immediate risk of death or serious injury." That's the policy, and I'm good with it. There are others who want to make the cop wait until he sees a gun. I think that's folly.

You, on the other hand, would rather make flippant mischaracterizations of other's opinions. Unfortunate.

I was unaware that being "noncompliant" is cause for execution.

In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not even cause for being arrested on anything more than a "humble" charge without some other violation.

It's the "shoot first, ask questions later" policy. Not good.

"If you're too scared to do the job of a cop, you shouldn't be a cop."

I hear you Jack. I used to do ride alongs with the North Precinct prior to going to law school. I figured I might make a good cop.

But my ride alongs showed me I would not fit in with the culture. Full of panicky small minded control freaks. Just completely unable to handle any kind of chaos or perceived slight. Every little thing taken personally. Fragile little egotists.

I cannot speak for the entire department. My experience was anecdotal at best. But it was enough to turn me off. But it was enough to turn me away.

Curtiss- It's pretty hard to forget the part about  "reason to believe the suspect poses an immediate risk of death or serious injury," when it doesn't appear in your original comment, your quotation marks notwithstanding.

Regardless, I'm not ok with anyone making that determination - as Mister Tee claims they can - within 4 seconds. Or 24. Especially when there is no weapon visible. And especially when real life has proven them in error so many times.

Following this ludicrous action/reaction theory IS indeed a "shoot first, ask questions later" policy. It IS allowing cops to play judge, jury and executioner for such subjective things as non-compliance, which is nothing more than a misdemeanor, if that. 

If you're cool with that, fine. It's not much different than the government now claiming they can detain or even kill a U.S. citizen without facing charges and based solely on conjecture. Curtiss, meet slippery slope.


Are you familiar with the Tueller Drill? Did you know it's an easy skill to learn to draw and ACCURATELY put a bullet on target with a pistol under 1.2 seconds? Closer it can be under a second.

A lot of people just don't understand the force continuum and what it means to give government police powers. There isn't a middle ground: only full or non-compliance to orders. As you can see, the punishment for non-compliance is death.

Some of you may or may not know the Portland Cops have really great rules of engagemnt KILL if you THINK your in danger..

However our Military in Afghanistan has very strict rules of engagement. The actusl posession of a weapon is required, for our Marines or Army guys to fire thier weapons is the rule. If I am wrong please point that out. If the cops here think they have a dangerous job, get in the military where you are sure yo be shot at while in country, and if the TRANSGRESSOR does not have a weapon and you shot or kill said individual, the US Military will send you to a courts Martial and if convicted you get more than a severence check. But, Hey, no one cares. Looks like city hall is happy with these shootings/killings.

look up the rules of engagement for Afghanistan if you question the above. A War zone one needs proof, city of PDX, no one needs proof.

Did you know it's an easy skill to learn to draw and ACCURATELY put a bullet on target with a pistol under 1.2 seconds? Closer it can be under a second.

And yet, this is in direct contradiction to what the police tell us when people ask why they have to shoot to kill rather than just disarm or disable.

No contradiction. Yes, it's just a matter of practice to learn to draw and shoot accurately in a very short time. When you're shooting at a paper target that won't shoot back. When you're calm, in good health, in a good state of mind, not out of breath, or in the dark, etc.

It's another thing entirely when you're facing an armed opponent (or someone who might be), and you're dealing with a huge adrenaline dump. Adrenaline is great for strength and speed--and sucks for fine motor control (like aiming a firearm and gently pulling the trigger, instead of jerking it fast and hard). There's a reason most real world gunfights frequently involve a large number of missed shots at close range, and it's not just lack of training.

It IS possible to grow accustomed to a particular stress and not suffer that adrenaline-fueled response. But I think we can all agree that we don't want our cops getting into gunfights so often that they view it as routine.

Critics always suspected the problem was in the training, going back at least 25 years. I don't believe we ever saw as clear an overall picture of what the training is until this case.

No sensible citizen wants the cops to get hurt, much less killed, in situations like this one.
But these rules of engagement leave so much room for intuition and even psychic powers that the bureau has to raise the bar in hiring so that only people who can fairly handle life and death decisions get to make them.
I am sure most of the officers on the street can be trusted to be careful, to be reluctant and to make the right choice nearly all the time. One reason for my confidence is that the rules are so permissive that if nearly all officers were not smarter than their training many more citizens would be unjustifiably dead.
As for the technical issues of who can shoot first and fastest, I think ex-bartender makes a telling point for this particular case.


I cannot begin to explain how incredibly ignorant your statement was. There are no warning or "disabling" shots, only lethal. That's how I know you have never even touched a firearm, so why did you leave that comment? Would you give advice on launching the space shuttle as well?

My point is someone who is concealing a firearm can look unarmed and then draw and shoot an officer within 1.2 seconds. And the officers don't have the element of surprise, the suspect does.

The problem is the crazy people are on the street when they shouldn't be without a legal guardian. You want Cops to be mental case workers? Fine, this is what you get.


It is often more dangerous to live in the US then to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many places in the US have a higher chance of being killed. Of course you can play around and massage such statistics to say whatever you want.

Just an FYI. No real point being made here.

Pistol person,

Having had experience in when or when not to use deadly force I always had to have proof the other guy actually had a weapon that could reach me, a knife, a wallet, or a cell phone at 8 to 10 yards is no threat. A unarmed person should not be shot like a dog, unless one has that type of mind set. If I were to use the PDX example of shooting on a whim of a threat I would have spent some length of time in a very bad cell.

Excuses for killing unamed people are criminal in nature.

Good luck.

I bet Sgt. Damon Coats has a few thoughts on this vperl.

Have you experienced the anguish of or, the potential use of YOU using deadly force, that some have experienced. Once deadly force is used you cannot take the BULLET back.

The PDX cops need to be held to a higher standard in the use of DEADLY FORCE.


Actually Pistolero, I was raised with firearms, and used to be a pretty good shot, though it's been years since I've picked one up. Used to help my dad make the lead balls that he used in the muzzleloaders he built himself. I even won a trap shooting contest when I was 12.

Since you've obviously missed it, I wasn't commenting on whether I believed shooting to disable was practical or even a possibility. I have no doubt it would be difficult, especially under some conditions. I was merely observing the contradiction that allegedly a criminal can put a bullet accurately on target, while a cop can't. I guess we have different definitions of what "on target" means.

Back on topic, I don't think cops need to get as aggressively involved in a lot of these mental health situations. Police forces have become militarized and the response to many of these crises are so overzealous that they unnecessarily escalate to an inevitably violent end. 

This is particularly evident in the case of Aaron Campbell. Shooting him with bean bags escalated it all. And why? Because he was allegedly "non-compliant." How so? His hands were on his head instead of in the air. Never mind the action/reaction BS, it should have never even reached that point to begin with. 

A woman lost two sons that day because too many cops subscribe to your chilling belief: 
"There isn't a middle ground: only full or non-compliance to orders. As you can see, the punishment for non-compliance is death."

The whole point is that a lot of people don't believe in your version of "what it means to give government police powers." Seems there's some room for interpretation there. Or at least a basis for discussion.

Do you mean Sgt. Damon Coates? The same one who sued because his own department screwed up so bad? Surely you could have come up with a better example than that to make your case for trusting in the police:

OREGON CITY -- Clackamas County commissioners unanimously voted Thursday to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Sgt. Damon Coates, who was shot in the face while responding to a 9-1-1 call involving a mentally ill teenager.

Coates filed the lawsuit two years ago in federal district court, claiming that his civil rights were violated because poorly trained county dispatchers failed to inform him that the 15-year-old Milwaukie boy he was about to pat down might have a weapon. The lawsuit also alleged that the county knowingly used faulty communication equipment and inadequately trained deputies to deal with the mentally ill.

I'm positively stunned at the misinformation and misunderstandings demonstrated by these comments. Thank god Hollywood has prepared you all so well to comment on force issues. I'll check this board the next time I'm unclear on my job.


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