Portland Police Boast of Torture

Citizen X

“The Rap Sheet is the official monthly publication of the Portland Police Association. The Rap Sheet is the only publication of its kind that represents the interests of the men and women working in law enforcement in Portland.” This is how the Portland police union’s newspaper describes itself.

On the cover of The Rap Sheet’s November, 2008 edition, an article appears that was authored by the Portland Police Association (PPA) President Scott Westerman, entitled “An objective view of the Chasse incident.”

In his article, Westerman claims (among other things) that the media attention of the Chasse case was “misdirected” and that the Chasse family attorney is “posturing himself for financial gain” and “attempting to cloud the issue.” Westerman further attempts to direct responsibility for Chasse’s death from the police to “our degrading mental health system and others in his life.”

However, perhaps even greater insight is provided in another article that also appears on the same Rap Sheet’s front page, “Riding with Rick.” In this article, retired Portland police detective Kent Perry writes about working with his former partner, officer Richard Hegrenes, at North Precinct. Describing events that occurred during the 1970’s, detective Perry seems to fondly recall, and vividly describes, incidents of violence, police brutality and torture.

The fact that the Portland Police Association printed detective Perry’s 1970’s stories of police torture, in 2008, and then put it right next to their article defending themselves in the James Chasse “incident,” speaks volumes.

Both articles can be read on PPA’s web site by going here (document in PDF format): http://www.portlandpoliceassociation.com/rsissues/0811novrs.pdf

In his article, detective Perry boasts that Portland police officers working “The Avenue” (now known as Martin Luther King Blvd in NE Portland) had a “certain panache.” “Only the toughest, meanest, don’t-piss-me-off-or-I’ll-kick-your-ass-into-the-middle-of-next-week cops worked ‘The Avenue,'” Perry writes.

Detective Perry also writes of the intentional torture of suspects using “the once-venerated ‘choke-hold.'”

A choke hold applied “… sometimes to a junkie on the street reluctant to disgorge the dime bag hidden under his tongue,” detective Perry goes on to explain that, “A choke hold was deemed to have been properly administered if, in the process, the subject lost not only consciousness, but all bladder and bowel control as well. I got pretty good at it. Rick [Hegrenes], though, was a virtuoso.”

The use of choke holds was banned by the Portland police after the April 20, 1985 death of 31 year-old Tony Lloyd Stephenson. Mr Stephenson was African-American, an off-duty Fred Meyer security guard. Mr Stephenson had been trying to break-up a fight at the 7-11 located at NE 3rd & Weidler when Portland police officers arrived. Officer Gary Barbour put Mr Stephenson into a choke hold from which he never regained consciousness. Officers neglected to do CPR when they discovered that Mr Stephenson was not breathing and in apparent cardiac arrest, contrary to police General Orders at the time. A later Internal Affairs investigation revealed that officers also mistakenly canceled an ambulance that had been called for Mr Stephenson. He died in the 7-11 parking lot.

After all the pain and division that Mr Stephenson’s death caused the community, it is interesting that, all these years later, the Portland Police Association would print such remorseless remarks about their use of choke holds. Further, the choke hold symptoms that detective Perry describes, “loss of all bladder and bowel control” are actually the symptoms of strangulation.

For law enforcement use, the choke hold was designed to compress the carotid arteries and jugular veins on both sides of the neck, causing brief unconsciousness. Even this was eventually deemed too dangerous for the Portland police to do and the use of choke holds was discontinued after Mr Stephenson’s tragic death. However, loss of all bladder and bowel control occur when someone is being strangled. And clearly, Detective Perry and his partner Richard Hegrenes enjoyed inflicting such strangulation torture on people.

“I can see him yet,” Detective Perry writes, “in my mind’s eye, clinging desperately to the back of some drunken low-life, riding him like a cowboy on a bucking bronco, bouncing off walls, kitchen appliances – parked cars, if we were outside – everybody screaming and yelling until, finally, the hapless dirt-bag collapsed, all the fight gone out of him, pants fouled (fragrantly). Yee-hah!”

The fact that Detective Perry would boast of such things, and that The Rap Sheet would print them now, shows that apparently not much has changed with the Portland Police Bureau even after all these years.

On the Portland police web site, Chief Rosie Sizer writes, “The Portland Police Bureau is made up of men and women who go out each and every day and do an extraordinary job for the citizens of Portland. I’m proud of the work they do and proud to be a part of an organization that serves the community so well.”

Meanwhile, the Portland Police Association is the organization that represents the rank and file police officers, and they printed detective Perry’s glowing story of merciless torture and violence on their own newspaper’s front page. Right next to their defense of what happened to James Chasse. The Rap Sheet offers no apologies or disclaimers for Detective Perry’s callous remarks. This is the legacy that they seem to take pride in. How sad.

Are these current members of the Portland Police Association the same officers that Chief Sizer is so proud of? That serve their community so well?

Who would you believe?