Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Love My Town! - Police relations edition

There's a new lawyer in Portland, Eric Bryant. I don't know much about the man, but there's no doubt he's got a serious pair, and they're at least 60% brass by volume. Back in March he was in Northwest 21st Avenue in Portland. It's a street full of upscale stores, trendy people and narrow streets that don't quite accommodate the traffic.

A police officer park his squad car illegally in front of a restaurant and went in. He ordered his meal, sat around and watched the game on TV. He wasn't arresting anyone. He wasn't investigating a crime. He just wanted lunch at that particular diner and parked in a forbidden space.

Most people would have looked, curled a lip and thought "He's a cop. Whatcha gonna do, call a cop to give him a ticket?" Mr. Bryant showed more courage than good sense. He talked to the officer and said he was parked illegally. According to the first news story on the incident the cop replied that he wasn't doing anything wrong and asked "If someone broke into your house, would you rather have the police be able to park in front of your house or have to park three blocks away and walk there?"

Nobody's suggesting that the officer was investigating a crime or making an arrest. Nobody is suggesting that Mr. Bryant didn't talk to him and ask him to move the car. He then ticketed the cop for parking illegally and cited the statute under which he did so and the authority he had as a citizen to issue the citation (ORS 153.058 for those who are interested). All that study to pass the Bar Exam has paid off.

After the Mercury reported on the events KATU covered the story. The AP has picked up the story. Now it's making the rounds of that series of tubes we call the Intrawebs. 

I talked to Eric Bryant today. He says that the city has lawyered up. A local attorney has offered to help him defend his interests in whatever falls out. The State is showing an interest. And there's various litigation that he can't really talk about in the near future. He's confident that the ticket will stand. The official PD denials and excuses are pretty lame. "Officers need to stay near their cars so they can respond to emergencies" doesn't hold water in the face of questions like "Weren't there any other restaurants he could have parked near legally?" 

Fighting City Hall by yourself is tough at the best of times. If you knock a cop out of his comfortable immunity to the rules that govern the herd it's even worse. If you make them look foolish and ride the pipe the same as mere "civilians" you're opening yourself up for a world of hurt. I expect every aspect of Mr. Bryant's life will be a matter of intense interest to the Portland Police Bureau for a few years to come. Best of British luck to him. He'll need it.

Me? I'll buy the man a drink.


Anonymous said...

"I expect every aspect of Mr. Bryant's life will be a matter of intense interest to the Portland Police Bureau for a few years to come. Best of British luck to him. He'll need it."

That may or may not be true, depending on the jurisdiction. In many jurisdictions the man would be left severely alone.

I'm reminded of the Brett Darrow case. I suspect that car cams for civilians may become a growth industry.

Dan Gambiera said...

Filming the police is already illegal in some jurisdictions. I expect that to increase as well.

the colonel said...

This dude is in for a tough time. I have the same name, and my email address is one letter off from his, so I get some of his hate mail. Given what I've gotten, I figure he's gotta quite a bit.