Portland Police Review Board Says It's OK For Officers To Lie To Get Someone To Stop Filming Them

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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Comments on “Portland Police Review Board Says It's OK For Officers To Lie To Get Someone To Stop Filming Them”

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Jeren says:

Re: Re:

Peaceful protest only works so long as the other side isn’t willing to just use force to shut you up.

Cops and politicians insist that force "is never the answer" for everyone but themselves for this very reason: the longer they can keep people believing this, the longer they get to escalate their abuses unimpeded… and the more difficult and dangerous for their victims to mount any reasonable rebellion once they’re finally brought over the brink.

US cops aren’t militarizing with whimsical intentions here.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Koby (profile) says:

I Wonder

Knowing that police are deliberately lying to the public, I wonder if someone could beat a disorderly conduct charge on the basis that, instead of following a police officer’s orders, they disobeyed because police commands are known to be untruthful? "Yeah, the police ordered everyone to leave the area immediately or face arrest, but I figured they were just making s*** up again."

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I Wonder

Problem is, "police" is a misnomer: most of the justice system as a whole is a treasonous cancer.

This is how even when it’s found and proven in court that the officers are lying through their teeth, the very testimony (whether words or planted evidence) discovered to be utter bullshit can STILL have you declared guilty.

As long as "I thought I was fearing for my life" is only used by the criminals instead of by their victims, the criminals will keep on deciding what rules apply to whom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Watching a lot of YouTube videos, YES the police will flat out LIE to you to get you to do anything they want you to do!!! Can’t Record them, LIE. A passenger in a car that got pulled over and they ask for your ID also and LIE telling you that you have to also show it, LIE, LIE, LIE. It goes on and on.

Know your rights and use them!!! Never just let them search your car. Doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide. You have rights. NEVER, EVER talk to the police. Check out this video, as they tell you don’t ever talk to the police and this is coming from the police!!! Watch Part one followed by part 2. You’ll learn a lot.


This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'It's good to be blue'

When you’ve got supposed ‘review’ boards stating that it is absolutely acceptable for police to lie about the law, then it’s hardly a wonder that people wouldn’t trust them, and would be utter fools to do so.

Also, funny thing, but if a doctor was to lie to a patient I’m pretty sure that would get them sued, and rightly so, yet once again police are given beyond silk-glove treatment because the alternative would require holding them accountable for their own actions, and we can’t have that now can we?

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Re: 'It's good to be blue'

Really interesting that best practices for cops seems to range from "be ignorant of the laws you’re enforcing for max qualified immunity" to "yeah, you can lie about the laws you’re enforcing if you want." Hard to imagine another profession where this guidance would be remotely acceptable.

Shrub Nutz says:

Passing laws to make unlawful lawful

During the first Bush administration our daily newspaper of the day reported (so-called) congress passed legislation to allow gov "authorities" to experiment on people, cities, et al (i.e., everything) to make all unlawful activities "lawful." To legalize what they had been doing all along (anything they want for any reason).

Not a word since in out newspaper or anywhere else.

Clue: when the police don’t know the law and also lie about the law, there are no police, only a gang and a multi-tired so-called justice (just ice) system.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

A Defense attorneys dream statement

If I were a defense attorney and any portland police were testifying against my client, I would be sure to bring up the fact that portland allows their officers to lie as the basis for why no testimony from this witness should be listened to be given any credibility. They have ruined their own reputation for the short term "benefit" of stopping a legal recording.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

You think telling a lie to somebody on the street is the same as giving testimony in court? Did you actually read the article? Where does it say the Portland Police have a policy of allowing their officers to lie during sworn testimony, or anything even remotely like that?

Dari (profile) says:

Re: Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

"You think telling a lie to somebody on the street is the same as giving testimony in court?"

Good point, while cops regularly lie under oath in a court of law with complete impunity in the rare event they are caught (they even have a cute name for that it’s so common: testilying), they have not made it official written policy. It’s just understood that a police officers job is to make up any lie they can to secure a conviction. I think it falls under the same "blue code" that covers police never reporting on each other when commit crimes.

Dari (profile) says:

Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

"If I were a defense attorney and any portland police were testifying against my client, I would be sure to bring up the fact that portland allows their officers to lie as the basis for why no testimony from this witness should be listened to be given any credibile"

The trouble with your logic is it assumes you have some third party you can appeal to within in criminal system to get the facts to a jury. That the prosecutors and judges (who are generally ex-prosecutors) do more than protect and enable corruption within the police.

Before a trial begins, you would submit a request to mention this fact (that cops lie) in a motion called "in limine’" The prosecutor would call to have that excluded as "irrelevant to the case," the judge with an eye on their police union voters would reflexively uphold that request and prohibit you from mentioning this at trial.

People wrongly believe trials are about justice and fact finding. They are simply a way to ensure the jury only hears the 10% of the facts that supports they police view while actively exclude any fact that contradicts it and might prevent a conviction. Juries generally walk out of a trial with such a skewed version of the facts that they actually know less than when the came in since they now believe a lot of things that simply weren’t to in order to ensure a conviction.

While police have qualified immunity, judges and prosecutors have ABSOLUTE immunity. They may perhaps be the only people in the system that are even bigger habitual liars than the police they are are sworn to shield from public accountability.

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