Two new federal civil-rights lawsuits accuse Portland police of disrespecting two things Portlanders hold very dear—independent media and breasts.
In separate lawsuits filed four days apart in U.S. District Court in Portland, an activist-journalist accuses a Portland police officer of throwing him to the ground for videotaping a demonstration. And a former Portland police cadet claims she was forced to wear extra layers of clothing to conceal her nipples during basic training.
Portland police, the city attorney's office and the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training all declined to comment on the lawsuits, citing policies against discussing pending litigation.
Carey Klein, a 48-year-old freelance Web designer from Southeast Portland, has been filming police at demonstrations for six years, posting the footage at indy-media.org and other websites under the name "Deva."
Klein claims he's caught cops on camera several times abusing protesters and bystanders. He also says he's been singled out by police officers who "have been belligerent or have threatened me with arrest if I didn't put the camera away."
On Jan. 31, 2006, Klein was taping a demonstration against President Bush in which about 50 people marched from downtown across the Broadway Bridge to Lloyd Center. Klein claims a Portland policeman threw him to the ground in the mall's parking garage. The lawsuit names Officer Mark Zylawy. But Klein's attorney, Benjamin Haile, says information learned after the suit was filed raises the prospect that another officer pushed Klein.
Klein says he did nothing wrong. Mall security told him to leave, he says, and then he was shoved from behind. He says he held onto his camera the whole time.
Haile gave WW this footage from Klein's camera:
In the lawsuit filed July 26, Klein says he suffered minor injuries to his elbow, neck, hip and shoulder. The lawsuit seeks $12,788, plus interest, for Klein's pain and medical bills, as well as "anxiety, distress and loss of dignity." Klein says his injuries have healed, but memories of the incident still make him nervous when he films demonstrations.
"Fear of the police, that's a very haunting and serious fear, especially for someone whose mission in life is to confront police and try to hold them accountable," says Haile.
Haile says he offered to settle the suit for $5,500, but the city wouldn't go over $200. "He's not going to get an apology," Haile says. "The only thing that he has a chance of getting here is some money."
The second suit was filed July 30 by Nicole Whitley against the city and the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. The department runs the Oregon Public Safety Academy, which trains cops, prison guards and firefighters.
As a probationary Portland officer, Whitley attended basic training at the academy's old location in Monmouth from January to March 2006, before it moved to its present location in Salem in June 2006.
According to the lawsuit, two male trainers at DPSST, Lt. Raymond Rau and Sgt. Daryl Tate, called Whitley in for a meeting Feb. 1, 2006. Rau allegedly told Whitley her nipples had been showing through her uniform during training the previous day, and asked her what sort of bra she'd been wearing. She told him it was a sports bra. He told her to wear a coat and extra layers of clothing during training.
Whitley's lawsuit says she had undergone a breast reduction for medical reasons, and as a result had "no control over the nerves in question." According to the lawsuit, Whitley was hot and uncomfortable in the extra clothes and felt "self-conscious in having to dress differently than her colleagues."
In addition, the lawsuit says students and trainers at the academy "questioned her suitability as a police officer due to her physical appearance."
According to the lawsuit, Whitley complained to her bosses at the Portland Police Bureau that she felt singled out. She suffered a knee injury Feb. 6 and filed for workers' compensation. On Feb. 10, according to the lawsuit, her teachers told her that she was underperforming and threatened to expel her.
The lawsuit claims this was the first time she'd ever received negative feedback about her performance. Nevertheless, she was the only member of her class not to graduate, even though other students had discipline problems.
Whitley could not be reached and her attorney, Katelyn Oldham, declined to comment. The lawsuit claims Whitley was discriminated against because of her gender and her injury. It claims the City of Portland has a "custom, policy or practice" of terminating recruits if they complain, and seeks unspecified damages for violating Whitley's civil rights.