Rent-a-Cops Run Wild!

More Complaints Against Private Police

By Matt Davis
Portland Mercury
Sept 13 2007
Original story here

Four more issues arose last week that are likely to further erode public confidence in Portland Patrol, Inc. (PPI)-the private rent-a-cop firm which contracts with the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) to conduct "order maintenance" in the downtown core.

First: 47-year-old Robert Oliver was picking cans out of one of four trashcans at NW 11th and Couch on Wednesday, September 5, between 5 and 5:30 pm, when he alleges a PPI officer told him, "We're not allowing you to do that in my area. The businesses own these cans and we're not allowing you to get into them."

Oliver relies on a daily income from collecting cans. He says he asked the PPI officer for his business card because he wanted to make a complaint, which the officer is supposed to provide as part of a new complaint procedure but the PPI officer refused. City Attorney David Woboril says the trashcans "appear to us to be City of Portland trash receptacles." 

Second: 32-year-old Jasun Wurster, a Portland State political science student, says PPI officer Adrian Page intimidated him in Waterfront Park on September 5. When Wurster decided to film Page carrying out a park exclusion on his cell phone, the officer allegedly confronted him. 

"Don't you have anything else better to do?" Page allegedly asked Wurster.

Third: Marcus Griffith, 26, a psychology student at Clark College in Vancouver, says he filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau against PPI last Friday, September 7, for enforcing the sit-lie ordinance on August 29, a day before official enforcement was supposed to begin.

Griffith says he was eating a burrito on the sidewalk on Yamhill near Pioneer Square, when a PPI officer "told me to move on" he says. When Griffith asked for a business card, the officer told him to "go fuck [him]self" twice, he alleges.

Fourth, and lastly: City code says private security guards riding a bicycle on the sidewalk need to carry an identification card issued by the police bureau, proving the rider has completed a training course in the use of a bicycle for security patrol.

Bike attorney Mark Ginsberg says no such course exists and wonders why the Portland Police Bureau haven't been arresting rent-a-cops. But it turns out PPI officers are being trained to ride on the sidewalks by the police bureau's own training division, according to Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz.

The PBA has repeatedly described its rent-a-cops as being just like regular, concerned citizens, working for a private business-as justification for the lack of public oversight for the firm. But this latest development means they are regular citizens with blue uniforms, guns, and police training at the taxpayers' expense, and still, no public oversight.

The PBA, the mayor's office, and PPI refused comment.


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