Disturbing behavior by Portland police officer caught on tape

I say all the time, all you have to do to find a good story to write about is walk around downtown Portland for a while.

There have been many times when I have set out on a walk with the specific intention of finding something to write about, but yesterday I was totally caught off guard when I came across a police officer assaulting and threatening three young adults on the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Preble Street.

I’ll post the video below, but here’s the rundown of what led up to me pulling out my camera, from my perspective:

assaultI had just turned right off of Congress and onto Preble Street, and I was startled to hear someone shouting at the top of his lungs. I looked down the hill to Cumberland Ave and I saw three young adults crossing the street while a police officer in a loaded SUV cruiser ordered them to stop as he whipped his vehicle around the turn and onto Preble Street.

The officer looked exceptionally ticked off, and his voice echoed throughout the street as several other people stopped to see what the commotion was. I kept walking down the hill until I was directly across from the scene, wondering how it would shape up.

What had happened was the three had been crossing over Cumberland Ave without permission from the cross walk sign, and for some reason this really upset the officer. He gunned his engine to pull up next to the three unassuming jaywalkers, and when one of them responded to him with indifference it apparently sent him into a rage.

The thing is, I see people ignoring cross walk signs all over town, every day. I personally jaywalk at least a couple of times a day, but I also make an effort not to cross when there are cars coming. I’m not sure if these three were following the same etiquette or not, but I am sure that the officer sped up to scream at them, and nearly sideswiped them in doing so.

I stood across the street watching the scene unfold, wondering if I should pull my camera out and videotape it, but I resisted the urge- at first.

After leaping from his cruiser, the officer aggressively ran up to the three people. There was a white woman, a white man, and a black man, and for whatever reason the officer chose to get in the black man’s face.

The officer demanded that the man display his identification, to which the man responded that he didn’t have any ID on him. Seconds later the officer grabbed the man and threw him violently against the brick building they were standing in front of like a rag doll.

That’s when I pulled out my camera and immediately crossed the street (jaywalking) to videotape the rest of the scene. When the officer saw me approaching he instantly changed his tone, but for the next twelve minutes he still put on quite a show.

The accosted man spends some time rambling in the video, but I took that to be a result of the nervousness and stress that one might feel after being assaulted by an armed police officer. The officer does admit to the physical assault in the footage, but he refers to it as “moving” the man rather than what it actually was, he also had his hand on his taser for a few minutes, which I found disconcerting.

He repeatedly blames the escalated confrontation on the young man’s “attitude”, and never accepts responsibility for his actions, which were entirely to blame for the whole scene.

Here’s the video:

I’d also like to point out that even after I turned off my camera the officer continued to yell after me as I walked away, using a voice meant to mock my intelligence that would offend anyone who advocates for people with mental disabilities.

I’m not sure if the video, lacking footage of the actual physical assault, is enough to warrant punitive action by the Portland Police Department against on the officer in question- but it’s certainly enough to call for a review.

Developments in this story- should there be any- will be updated.


Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.