d5414c27-e32a-4bf6-95be-30470af028e7Sunday, July 10th, 2016
Waterfront Park Police Memorial – Portland, OR

 

DSC_0025Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association

I am honored to have this opportunity to join you in paying respect to the five heroes that where killed in Dallas. By standing here today, we honor their memories as we grieve with their families, loved ones, and comrades. These brave officers gave the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens they served. They gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect citizens regardless of their race, creed, color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. They showed courage when most would have fled. They showed resolve when most would have behaved irrationally. And they showed dignity when most would have shown depravity.

IMG_1713As we grieve we must not let anger, hostility, or hopelessness cloud the memories of the five heroes who lost their lives. They lived their lives in service to others knowing fully, as we all do, the potential dangers that we face as police officers. This is not a time to take the, us and them mentality but to build on the relationships, partnerships, and trust that we have built in the communities we serve. Because it is all of us that have to get through these dark days together.

DSC_0002The communities of the nation need us and we need them. We must honor the memories of our five fallen brothers by continuing to do the work in our communities we serve. Just looking at the out pouring of support and love that we’ve experienced since the tragedy in Dallas proves that the dedication, compassion, hard work, and professionalism in law enforcement nationwide is turning the tide. The tide of anti- police sentiment, the tide of the, us and them mentality, and the tide of distrust. We must all join the conversation of how we better collaborate on issues that threaten our very existence.

IMG_1716As we gather here today with the Memorial behind me, we not only honor our fallen comrades we honor their families, the survivors. They were there on the long tough shifts that were worked on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, weekends, and many other special times. They were there to be the calm voice on the tough days and to share in the joy of achievement. And you were there for that final shift, for that knock at the door when reality set in that you loved one had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Let us not ever forget the heroic acts of all the Dallas Police Officers in the face of danger as they protected their City, their citizens, and their fellow officers. Let us not forget our five heroes who gave their lives to protect others, because now and forever there is a part of them in each one of us.
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Will Aitchison, Attorney
Public Safety Labor Group

Begin with story of personal journey. I was hired by the PPA in 1979. I was a young lawyer in my late 20’s, and had no prior exposure to police. In the 37 years since then, I have come to know thousands of law enforcement officers from all over country.

DSC_0008I have come to view, with almost awe, the difficult nature of a police officer’s job. I have come to appreciate.

  • How police have to deal with the most difficult of us in the most difficult times in their lives.
  • How we expect our officers to enforce our laws for us, to be there the minute we want them, to be mental health counselors, role models, and parental figures, and to shield us from danger.
  • How we demand that officers put themselves into harm’s way to protect us and to protect our liberties.

I have on many occasions tried to picture myself doing a police officer’s job. How I would respond if I were all alone, on a dimly-lit street, stopping a car for a traffic violation and watching as the drive made a quick, furtive move. How I would respond if I were called upon to subdue an unwilling suspect. I have come to think that I could never do the job that we as a society demand our officers do every day.

I have also come to have enormous respect for officers as people. Every day, every hour, every minute, some officer in this country is reaching out to a citizen, making sure a homeless person has shoes, that a victim of domestic violence has shelter, that the kids of a family in poverty have food on the table. They do this without any thought of recognition, but because it is the right thing to do.

I have listened for hours and hours as officers talked about their jobs, how they were in the profession out of a desire to help others. How they didn’t see things in black and white terms, but understood on a first-hand basis the nuances of our complicated society.

I have responded to officer-involved shootings and seen the reactions of officers who have just been through the worst moments of their lives. Who never, ever wanted to use their firearms, but who were put into a position where there was no other choice. I think now of consoling a Portland officer, unconsolably weeping in my arms. Days from his planned retirement, he had to use deadly force to save an innocent citizen from certain death. He understood at one level that what he had to do was necessary, but was overcome with the immensity of it.

None of these basics have changed in the last 37 years. There is no better illustration than as we watched as Dallas officers ran towards the gunshots on July 7, just as officers and firefighters ran towards the World Trade Center on September 11.

But much has changed over that time.

  • Policing has become a true profession, with more and more expected of officers.
  • In a society where video proliferates, we have become a nation of experts, ready to make instant judgments on an officer’s conduct on the basis of a three-second video.
  • We’ve become a society where facts matter less than impressions. Where though it is obvious to anyone who has been involved in policing for any length of time that deadly force use has sharply declined, we believe as a society that exactly the opposite has occurred. I used to respond to more Portland deadly force incidents in a year than occur over a four-year span today.
  • Officers are exposed to all sorts of new threats. What we’ve seen in Dallas and elsewhere in the last week is the most obvious. But every significant on-the-job action by officers is scrutinized for disciplinary sanctions, criminal prosecution at the federal and state level, civil lawsuits, and, of course, the microscopic and often tilted lens of the media.
  • We also simply cannot recruit young women and men into the profession. All over the country, police recruit positions are sitting vacant as individuals who in another time would have chosen to become officers are deciding that they simply do not want to expose themselves and their families to the realities of modern-day policing.

There’s no easy solution to any of this. But it must start with dialogue. Our citizens and our police must be willing to sit down with each other, anywhere and everywhere, and share their perspectives. Police have to do a better job of explaining who they are, what they do, and why they do it. And as a society, we have to come to understand that if we place officers into the middle of the most highly-armed public in the world today, and expect them to make, no demand that they make split-second life-and-death decisions, that it is our job not to excoriate and brand them for reasonable decisions, decisions we would never want to make ourselves.

We must start by trying to change the national conversation. That begins with each of us, every day.

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