Killer cop back on the job in Portland

January 12, 2016

Paul Dean reports from Portland, Oregon, on the latest injustice faced by the ongoing struggle to hold police accountable for the murder of Aaron Campbell.

THE FESTERING sore of police racism and deadly violence in Portland, Oregon, was reopened on December 30 when the Oregon Court of Appeals instructed the Portland City Council to reinstate Ron Frashour, the police officer who shot and killed Aaron Campbell almost six years ago.

On January 29, 2010, police responded to a 911 call from Aaron's girlfriend, who believed that he was suicidal after the death of his brother earlier in the day. The cops arrived at her apartment armed to the teeth, with snipers, bean-bag guns and dogs deployed.

Aaron wasn't a threat to the police or anyone. He was following police instructions and walking out of the house backward, unarmed with his hands on his head, when Frashour shot him in the back with a rifle.

Community activists, led by the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA), launched a campaign to get Frashour off the streets and out of the police force. A grand jury cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, but he was eventually fired in November 2010 for not following police bureau policies and procedures. The city was forced to pay out $1.2 million in damages to Campbell's family.

Protesting the reinstatement of Ron Frashour in Portland
Protesting the reinstatement of Ron Frashour in Portland (K. Kendall)

In 2012, the Oregon Employment Relations Board ruled that the city had to reinstate Frashour, arguing that his actions were in line with police bureau training. In December 2015, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the ruling reinstating Frashour.

FRASHOUR'S REINSTATEMENT is a sickening insult to the people of Portland, particularly the Black community, which has suffered a number of abuses and killings at the hands of the police. The possibility of having an armed Frashour back on the streets of Portland is too much for many in the community.

At a press conference organized by the AMA in front of Portland City Hall on December 31, Rev. T. Allen Bethel described the long history of disregard for non-white people in the U.S. that has been perpetuated by the courts and city hall.

Bethel finished by saying that Frashour, have been forced on the people of Portland by a state appeals court, should be put in an office where he has absolutely no contact with the public.

Kate Lore, a social justice minister with the First Unitarian Church of Portland, read a short statement from Campbell's mother addressed to Frashour:

You shot my unarmed son in the back. You said you were frightened for your safety, so you killed him...Not once have you shown remorse for your actions...The community doesn't need people like you on the police force who act and think later. You are a liability, you don't value other people's lives and putting you back on the street is a big mistake.

Portland NAACP President Jo Ann Hardesty talked about the other police officers who have committed brutal act and are still patrolling the streets of Portland--like the two who handcuffed a 9-year-old girl, took her to the police station in a squad car, fingerprinted her and then told her mother to get on the bus and pick her up.

Hardesty pointed out that all of the other officers involved in the killing of Aaron are still walking their beats. She asked why the current mayor, Charlie Hales, hasn't appealed this decision, saying, "It can't be because of the costs because they've already paid a lot of money to Chicago people to look over the Portland police bureau to see if they are reforming. Why are they just buckling and allowing this guy to come back on the force? We should be fearful when any of these named officers turn up on our doorsteps."

If you have a mental health emergency, never call the police, Hardesty added, because all too often that ends in deadly results.

Community activists will be keeping a close eye on Frashour and the behavior of other cops, who over the past year have come into conflict with the Black Lives Matter movement. And the city and police can be assured we will always be out on the streets to protest injustice wherever it rears its ugly head.

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