Thursday, April 20, 2006

Names from my spam filter

Writers struggle thinking up names of characters. Here's a list of names that have recently shown up as senders in my e-mail spam folder:
Calehall U. Candor
Elma Grupps
Maurice Simons
Roselle Baron
Esyllt DeWolf
Rameses Varnum
Rufus Metcalf
Malcolm Ratliff
Hopefullness V. Hysteria

Who knew that spammers were so creative?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

O Give me a home

I always know when the Rose Festival is around the corner when the cops roust homeless people camping underneath the Steel Bridge. With nowhere else to go, homeless folks trudge out to the suburbs or camp in the blackberry bushes on the slopes along the Banfield Freeway. Out of sight, out of mind is our city motto.

Cops don't enjoy this task, they have better things to do with their time, but the city fathers and business interests have decreed that we can't have down and out people with their shopping carts and sleeping bags sullying the image of this fair city. Things might be different this year, though. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that arresting the homeless for "sitting, lying or sleeping in public access areas is unconstitutional." Being homeless is not a crime. What a concept. This has to be a real headache for the Royal Rosarians. What to do with all those homeless folks now?

I did a couple of tours in Diginity Village, a homeless camp, teaching creative writing to the residents. Many had problems of one sort or another, but almost all wanted the chance to make something of their lives. A homeless woman in my class, Laura, told me "don't believe the guys on the freeway onramps saying they want money for food. I've gained 20 pounds here since I moved to Portland standing in one line or another waiting to be fed. What I learned is that everyone is willing to feed the homeless, but they aren't willing to give them a place to stay. There are an estimated 2500 to 3000 homeless people are here in the Portland, maybe 500 more come in the summer when the kids are on the move, but there are only 200 shelter beds total for everyone. Dignity Village hosts another 45 residents and can handle ten more using flop space on the couches. If homeless in Portland and you're a single woman or man, you're pretty much out of luck for finding a safe place to spend the night, ditto for childless couples. Families may find a spot if they're lucky, but if dad's around, he's probably going to end up separated from mom and the kids.

Portland's No Camping ordinance is similar to LA homeless law struck down by the Court of Appeals and may be unenforceable. This year, the Rose Festival may have some unwanted local color (at least unwanted by some), but maybe this is just what is needed to make Portland put some resources into helping the homeless get off the streets.

Monday, April 03, 2006

What a Shocking Development

Recently in Portland, a man under the influence of cocaine was subdued by a police officer wielding a taser. The man subsequently died while being treated by medical personnel. The State Medical Examiner stated that:

"I have come to the conclusion that [Timothy] Grant died of a cocaine overdose with excited delirium and taser application was not a cause of his death," said Oregon State Medical Examiner Karen Gunson. "Would he have died without the taser? Yes, in my opinion."
Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on the use of tasers by law enforcement in the United States pending further research into taser related deaths. The Medical Examiner concluded that Mr. Grant died of cocaine delirium. Cocaine delirium has also been associated with in-custody deaths related to positional asphyxia in which a person might die of asphyxia (or suffication) usually an intense struggle with police.

I'm not a big fan of tasers; their use should be limited, but I don't think that the community can expect police officers to do a dangerous job without allowing them to employ adequate tools. People under the influence of drugs or those with mental illness are at times almost impossible to control. Police officers are taught to use a use of force continuum in effecting an arrest. The continuum is as follows:

a. Officer presence, uniform
b. Verbal Commands [military orders in reality]
c. Control holds - Come-a-longs and wrist locks.
d. OC - pepper spray/mace
e. Batons
g. Deadly force

Control holds and batons are pain compliance techniques. You twist someone's arm or thump them on the fatty part of the thigh with a baton, the person is supposed to do what you want because they want the pain to stop. Pepper spray and tasers hurt, but they're also supposed to incapacitate an individual. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. The more whacked out a person is on drugs or alcohol, the less effective pepper spray may be. The same holds true for a person suffering from mental illness or defect. A person affected by drugs or mental disease may be unusually strong and resistant to pain. A single officer or pair of officers may be physically unable to restrain such a person. If officers are prohibited from using tools such as pepper spray, batons and tasers and their ass is getting kicked, then deadly force may be their last and only option. What an ugly news story that will make.

The use of tasers must be limited by policy and stricter polices are needed than are currently in place. Tasers should not be used on children, the elderly, pregnant women, the disabled, or persons known to have a heart defect. Repeated use should be prohibited except under strictly defined circumstances. Training should be expanded and every instance where a taser has been employed should be reviewed for adherence to policy and procedure.