by David McElroy
When armed men attacked Dan Halsted in the dark of night as he walked home in a safe neighborhood of Portland, Ore., he ran screaming for someone to call police. What he didn’t know is that his attackers were police officers — who tased him in the back five times and beat him.
Police were in the area looking for someone who had spray-painted graffiti on a nearby building. Halsted just happened to be walking by, so police attacked him instead.
“I was walking home and all of a sudden a flashlight came on in my eyes and I stopped, and I heard a voice say, ‘Get him!’” Halsted told Portland television station KATU. “And I heard footsteps coming at me, so I turned and I ran. I didn’t know what was going on. I was screaming to call the police the whole time, and I didn’t realize this was the police because they never identified themselves at all.”
In the arrest report, the officer made up a story about Halsted running down the street with a couple of other people. In reality, he had been in a restaurant with other people. He was never charged with any crime, but the city didn’t want to compensate him for the attack. So after four years, he finally sued.
Even at trial, the city’s dishonesty continued, according to KATU News:
During the trial, the city’s attorney tried to use Halsted’s classic kung fu film collection against him, saying it proved he was violent. But Halsted is a film collector who works at the Hollywood Theater and said the whole thing completely changed his trust in police and how they use force.
A jury agreed that police used excessive force and said the city should pay. The Portland City Council has approved a quarter-million-dollar settlement, but Halsted said he’s lost his trust for police.
“I was tased five times, and I was just walking home,” he said. “Obviously, something needs to be done about that.”
The truth, though, is that nothing will be done about this. One report I read said that the officer who attacked Halsted is still on the police force — and I’d be shocked if that weren’t the case. Officers are almost never held accountable for things such as this, even when there’s proof they were in the wrong.
And here’s a final point. The implication is that this treatment would have been perfectly acceptable if this guy had been the graffiti suspect. Is this the way we want police to treat suspects? Shooting them in the back with Tasers and beating them up?
I grew up being taught to have respect for police, but I don’t feel that way anymore. My dealings with police have led me to feel suspicious and nervous. These are the people whose salaries my taxes pay. They’re supposed to be serving and protecting me. Instead, they’ve become bullying intimidators in too many cases. They’re out of control. The entire police culture needs to change.