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.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, civil liberties, filming police, lies, police, portland, portland police, portland police review board, recording police


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  • identicon
    grumbles, 16 Oct 2019 @ 4:04pm

    Increasingly cops only understand force.

    They will come to regret that. Being the biggest gang on the block only goes so far.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jeren, 17 Oct 2019 @ 12:41am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeDetroit (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 4:36am

      Increasingly?

      "Increasingly cops only understand force." This is hardly anything new. What's new (at least historically) is they are getting caught in the act. But only in rare cases do they get punished for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:45am

      Re:

      Unless you are actually on the righthand side of GOD, threats to police only go so far!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bhull242 (profile), 16 Oct 2019 @ 4:07pm

    Chief Outlaw

    Police Chief Danielle Outlaw (yes, that's her real name)

    Well, that’s an unfortunate name for a police chief.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2019 @ 4:15pm

    Oh look....another example of law enforcement acting less like Adam-12 and more like the Shield.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 16 Oct 2019 @ 4:54pm

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2019 @ 5:37pm

    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.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 16 Oct 2019 @ 5:51pm

    Next, they will arrest people that don't believe their lies and they will get away with false arrests because, only blue matters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce, 17 Oct 2019 @ 7:04am

      Re:

      They already do this. And they can charge you with "resisting", which as it turns out is anytime you survive despite them screaming "stop resisting" over and over as they mangle your body with potentially permanent damage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 8:53am

        Re: Re:

        And the resulting lawsuit would be indefensible. Law enforcement power trips have become very expensive for taxpayers. But a single taxpayer gets to "win the police brutality lottery" every so often.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    A Guy, 16 Oct 2019 @ 6:06pm

    A journalist should just sue the department over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 16 Oct 2019 @ 6:20pm

    Policing 101 at the academy--How To Lie Convincingly (nothing to see here, move along)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Oct 2019 @ 6:37pm

    '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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 8:11am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        anonymous, 17 Oct 2019 @ 10:55am

        Re: Re: 'It's good to be blue'

        Shh... Don't let trump see this.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2019 @ 4:30pm

        Re: Re: 'It's good to be blue'

        Blue is making a mockery of justice department as if it wasn't obvious to every American citizen. It is the most transparent of any of the corporations.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2019 @ 7:19pm

    Remember, Jerry. It's not a lie if YOU believe it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonyCog, 17 Oct 2019 @ 2:07am

    You can sure bet this does not work in reverse. This is what happened in Nazi Germany, only the court system backed it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 5:45am

      'You can't arrest me, some law I can't recall prohibits that.'

      Balderdash, I'm sure they'd be equally in favor of members of the public lying to police, and would never apply the 'lies are okay' only to one side of the equation in a display of gross hypocrisy. /s

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shrub Nutz, 17 Oct 2019 @ 5:10am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 5:15am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 7:17am

      Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

      Hmmm....you could be on to something there. If nothing else, it would put the PD on the defensive anytime an officer had to testify.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:14am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 5:57pm

        Re: Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

        Defense, "Officer, have you ever told a lie while performing your sworn duties?"

        Goes towards impeaching the credibility of the witness.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2019 @ 8:10am

          Re: Re: Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

          Defense, "Officer, have you ever told a lie while performing your sworn duties?"

          Prosecutor: Objection!

          Judge: Sustained.

          That's how it works.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2019 @ 11:15am

          Re: Re: Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

          Officer: "Not while giving sworn testimony, under oath, in a court of law."

          Done. You really think this is some kind of "gotcha!" question for the cops? lol

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Dari (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 5:11am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dari (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 5:06am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        A Guy, 18 Oct 2019 @ 5:17am

        Re: Re: A Defense attorneys dream statement

        Prosecutors and judges can be tried for civil rights violations and corruption just like the police.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 5:53am

    It should work both ways

    Citizens should be able to lie to get out of whatever they just got pulled over for. (if they can't record)

    Seems fair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 6:46am

    Citizens should hide the fact they are recording

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 6:54am

    Again...

    How many times does it need repeating: NEVER TRUST A LEO.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 8:05am

    deception is permitted when “necessary to protect the physical safety’’ of an officer.

    I guess we need to hire fewer Amish cops who believe that recording their public service endangers their souls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:52am

    Rule of Thumb

    Its a real good idea to be at least TEN MILES away from cops at all times!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 12:28pm

      Re: Rule of Thumb

      Its a real good idea to be at least TEN MILES away from cops at all times!

      And 100 miles from any national border, lest you loose your rights.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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