Does This Make You Feel Safe?

It was a weekday morning at the Sunset Transit Center. I took the steps from the boarding platform to street level two at a time, slowed to a walk and then slowed again when I saw all the cops. Three stood on the steps to the bridge over Highway 26, facing and watching some other cops messing around. The interesting activity was taking place a few paces away from the stairway where the parking garage begins. It took a moment to grasp the scene.

Two cops were standing behind a man seated on the concrete. The man’s legs were stuck straight out in front of him. His hands were cuffed behind his back. There was a cop hand on each shoulder and a cop knee on each side of his back. In other words, a perpetrator was being immobilized as part of an arrest. He must have resisted arrest, or why the heavy force? But he looked about as strong as your average wasted junkie and positively breakable under the control of the two cops.

Another cop, squatting in front of the perp, was going through one of those filmy white supermarket bags that biodegrade while you wait. A transparent baggy lay on the concrete nearby. From 10 yards away it looked to contain a handful or two of white powder.

Another cop was snapping pictures of the perp, the bag, the scene. He was framing the shots with painstaking care.

A Beaverton police van marked with the word “Sergeant” was parked nearby.

I had stopped near the cops on the bridge. Now I walked softly around the arrest area. I think it’s good to let cops making an arrest know that a citizen is watching. Keeps them honest. I don’t want a cop getting nervous or adding my name to a report, though, so without acting creepy, I crept over to a vantage point from where I could see the bad guy’s face.

He was a wiry young man with Mediterranean features and long, long black hair. Terrorist material, if you’re profiling, except that all the terror here had been struck into his heart and showed on his face.

I had seen what there was to see and restarted the trek towards my job when yet another cop strode from the vicinity of the van over to the alleged criminal. He wore blue latex gloves, a fashion statement, I suddenly noticed, being made by all the cops. His busy blue fingers fiddled with an arrangement of fabric or plastic — something that unfolded and which he fitted over the perpetrator’s head.

Before I could angle for a better look, a helmet followed the collar. The blue fingers fiddled some more, attaching the one to the other.

The helmet encased the prisoner’s head completely, clearly meant for restraint, not protection, a little prison cell in itself. It had the gracious styling of a medieval torture device. The man’s eyes peeked out, an untrained astronaut.

© Nick O’Connor: If you had been commuting an hour each way every weekday between Northeast Portland and the Sunset Transit Center at the border of Portland and Beaverton for two years and occasionally woke up, dislodged an earbud, or spoke to a fellow rider, you would have a few stories to tell, too. Nick blogs at Sardines Are Only Packed Once.

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10 Responses to Does This Make You Feel Safe?

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    Welcome to Beaverton. Now pick up that can!

  2. al m says:

    Doesn’t make me feel safe, makes me feel like I am living in the modern version of Nazi Germany.

  3. Nopo says:

    My guess is that the police know much more about this guy than we do from 5 minutes of observations from a distance. I know that police will put head restraints or masks on people when they have a history of being spitters. I wouldn’t want some tweaker, who shares needles and what not spitting in my eyes or mouth. It happens quite a bit… If this were nazi Germany, he would have been beat to a bloody pulp, face down on the street, not being restrained, and hooded.

    • Nick says:

      Point well taken. Kid maybe had a weapon, too. Could be on the FBI “Most Wanted” list, for all we know. And yes, comparisons with Nazis are inflammatory. All worth taking into account.

      Still, the scene was surreal. Six or eight cops taking down one scrawny kid. It did appear they were very carefully NOT using excessive force. But, I think unfortunately, there’s probably no rule against using excessive intimidation, or humiliation short of actual abuse.

  4. Michael says:

    Thank you Nopo. A voice of reason.

  5. al m says:

    “If this were nazi Germany, he would have been beat to a bloody pulp, face down on the street, not being restrained, and hooded.”

    I believe it started with hoods and chains and ended with being beaten to a pulp and concentration camps.

    We don’t know what that guy did or didn’t, but a helmet? Come on.

    Better start watching Alex Jones and start seeing the reality around us.

    I’m 58 years old and have NEVER EVER seen what was described in this article.

    All the cops at the BTC are dressed in flak jackets and riot gear!

    For fare evaders? GIMME A BREAK WILL YA!

  6. al m says:

    And I salute the writer of this article for having the courage to stick around and bear witness to what was going on!

  7. al m says:


    President Barack Obama has signed into law a $662 billion military spending bill that authorizes the government to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. In a signing statement attached to the bill, Obama said he was signing the bill even though he had “serious reservations” with parts of the bill dealing with detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Sections of the bill were opposed by key members of the Obama administration including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Human rights groups assailed Obama for backing down on his initial threat to veto the legislation. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said, “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.”

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