As protests against police violence continued into a third week across the U.S., Deschutes County’s outspoken district attorney, John Hummel, held a press conference Monday afternoon that looked and felt like a protest.

Sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man, while a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, Bend has hosted several large rallies calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality, drawing in some cases more than 1,000 people.

On Monday, about 125 people gathered in the unseasonable cold on a lawn off the Deschutes County Courthouse. They held signs reading, “Racism is a pandemic too,” “I can’t breathe” — a reference to Floyd’s last words — and simply, “Breonna Taylor,” a black woman killed in her home in March by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers. Before Hummel took the lectern, they chanted, “Black lives matter.”

“I’ve learned a lot these last two weeks, and my biggest takeaway is to embrace uncomfortable conversations,” Hummel said. “I guarantee everyone here — and you all know this — that if people hadn’t taken to the streets and if things weren’t broken and fires weren’t started, we would not be getting the change we’re seeing.”

Over an hour, Hummel called for the repeal of the death penalty and Oregon’s Measure 11, which mandates lengthy minimum sentences for serious crimes. He called for an end to police union agreements that prohibit interviewing officers involved in deadly force incidents within 24, 48 or 72 hours, also called “48-hour rules,” and the establishment of a law requiring police to report misconduct.

Just after Hummel began his remarks, Katherine Griffith, a local public defender, interrupted him, saying, “John Hummel, your words are not enough.”

Griffith outlined several complaints with the DA’s office, including saying that Hummel pays lip service to reform while his prosecutors act another way in court, and that he downplays police violence in the media. When Griffith was finished, she walked away with around 15 fellow public defenders.

Members of the crowd shouted questions at Hummel over high winds. They asked about recent allegations by a former prosecutor who left the DA’s office after less than a year and intends to sue for alleged racism and bullying in the office. He was asked why he doesn’t demand the region’s two largest law enforcement agencies, Bend Police Department and Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, employ body cameras.

Earlier in his remarks, Hummel proposed the Oregon Legislature should establish a fund to help local agencies purchase body cameras, among other reforms.

He also pledged to accept no donations from law enforcement unions, law enforcement officers and defense attorneys.

Hummel frequently returned to the theme of “doing better.” For one, he said he can do better communicating with the public, and one way to start is by spreading his reach on social media.

“I know I sound like an old guy when I say I’m going to start a Twitter account,” he said. “Maybe I should be starting a TikTok account.”

Jasmine Wright identified herself as a victim of sexual assault and asked Hummel several pointed questions about her case. She asked why it took more than a year to prosecute her two abusers. She asked why one of them, a man with a criminal record, was offered a generous plea deal, and why the jury in her case consisted of 10 men and two women.

“White men are not being held accountable like black men are,” Wright said to loud applause.

Hummel said he was unfamiliar with Wright’s case but that he would look into it. He pivoted to discuss how the jury system makes it more difficult for people with low-paying jobs to take time off to serve jury duty. Instead, juries are over-represented with working professionals and retirees, making it more difficult for defendants to be judged by a jury of their “peers,” Hummel said.

A former defense attorney and Bend city councilor, Hummel is in his second term as DA. His press conferences are typically attended by only a handful of media representatives and police officers.

“We only had a few days’ notice with this,” he told The Bulletin. “Maybe if we had had a week, we could have got a thousand people to show up.”

Reporter: 541-383-0325,

gandrews@bendbulletin.com

(8) comments

CardiacSpike

Stole this one -

"Sounds like there needs to be body cams in the DA's Office".

Ouch!

Funding Secured

Am I reading a DA equate looting and arson as essential to political progress? This man is lost. And I do hope his cartoon theater performance of investigating LE use of force comes back to bite him too.

Skittish

That's what I am reading. Long story short, this sets a bad precedent and the appearance of the looting and rioting leading to progress has not been established. Before I would make such a statement, would have to have a very, very clear explanation.

Skittish

As a relatively short article I am sure there is much more that could be said. But I didn't get the idea that we have identified the problem adequately. It seems like the point we are at is "Something bad has happened, we can do better, so let's save the world" - could we have some data showing the problem in context so we know what we are doing and if we are actually fixing something if changes are made? More specifically, regarding "police brutality", is this an opinion based purely on anecdotal evidence or do we have evidence, statistics and specific policy changes in mind? To say that citizens are occasionally killed by police action and these occurrences are always controversial is to state the obvious, but what information is there that this is a problem out of control?

To some degree, there probably is a certain level of killings that will occur - some decide to die by cop, become psychotic on drugs or underlying mental health issues, or have violent tendencies etc. Clearly, we need an effective, well funded police force with a high level of morale - despite what has happened, let’s keep things in perspective. Society can not function without an effective police force and legal system. If we can say some officers are bad apples, there are a lot more “bad apples” in the public. Frankly, Hummel as presented here at this point in time, isn’t giving me a good sense of what the problem is, especially in light of The Bulletin editorial over the weekend citing appropriate use of force statistics.

gsr

You're right that Bend is much quieter than many jurisdictions. However the police response to situations that started as traffic violations (Michael T. Jacques, Danielle Nicole Bower) raise questions. People shouldn't die for traffic infractions, or being suspected of passing counterfeit bills. The statistics in other places point to disparities in police community relations.

Important to note that the current demonstrations are not solely about policing but include economic and health issues.

Skittish

To post long posts, I have to use Google docs and then paste. I have lost more than one post. I wish The Bulletin would stop the refreshing as it does make it difficult to comment. I don’t need the pop up to encourage reading another article - I never click on them and as such are only a nuisance. As an aside, my posts are abbreviated, they aren’t very long at all ;).

Public forums like this are great for conveying content, but we lose non-verbal communication and we don’t know each other and thus lack a lot of context. I attempt to compensate by writing a lot. Additionally, I frequently change my mind, so take below as just an opaque view of where I am today. To say that I could be wrong is a matter of when, not if.

Certainly the police shootings here in Bend, and anywhere, can and should raise questions. Whomever the victim is, I want more information about the exact details of what happened if I am going to support changes in policing here in Bend, Minneapolis or nationally. While there may be deadly use of force, I don’t come to any conclusions based on what little information is usually released: video evidence is typically not available. If the victim is black or white, doesn’t make any difference if claims about systematic abuse by police is being claimed. If there is a systematic problem, then I expect those making the claims to provide system level, comprehensive evidence with transparent logical arguments. Relying on purely emotional appeal just doesn’t get me motivated.

In any situation, there are usually multiple explanations and information and facts are needed to differentiate the more likely from the less likely. There is rarely a video and the investigations aren’t released until quite some time later, and even then the results are fitlered, summarized and interpreted. But that doesn’t stop people from immediately rushing to judge based on speculation and incomplete information, which if anything makes me even more cautious about judging the officer’s actions. The basic issue we are struggling with is the need for an effective police force that uses force consistently and proportionally to the unique circumstances - I appreciate this is a dynamic balancing act. To do this, they require appropriate training, selection and community support. If we want the police to do the right thing, we have to do the right thing by them. It is in the news how underfunded the court system is and I am aware the Bend police have considered body cams, which I have always believed were a good idea, but the processing, storage and maintenance costs would compromise other parts of the budget.

I agree that ideally citizens should not die stemming from actions as driving drunk or passing a counterfeit bill - but are such events realistically unavoidable 100% of the time out of the millions of police interactions, how unpredictable people are and unpredictable circumstances? Pursuing the perfection of “100%” is attractive, but can lead to worse outcomes than pursuing excellence. To me there is a big difference between perfection and excellence - pursuit of perfection leads away from excellence.

In my life experience and the choices I have to make, I deal with uncertainty and high consequences for my decisions on a routine basis. Life is messy and there is no avoiding difficult decisions that may not turn out the way we want. But not making a decision will result in even more worse outcomes. Many people overidealize human nature, overestimate our rationality and oversimplify the complexity of the decisions that have to be made. It’s easy to criticize after the fact, from a distance, without all available information. When we are in the thick of something, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

So far as the article above, I don’t know the exact problem we are trying to fix. I work on my own cars enough to know that a simple bad electrical ground can lead to all kinds of weird problems and it is very expensive to fix the wrong problem. Not knowing the exact problem, is itself an additional problem. I can’t get a connection between the proposed solutions, that I have since read on KTVZ, and what we are trying to solve locally - which is not to say there is nothing to fix. This is all wordy, but in essence, for my personality, there is a lack of connection between the problem and the solution. Is Hummel pandering, scared, genuine, incompetent or out to lunch? Perhaps if I were in his position, I would be saying similar things.

The protests I do understand were sparked by the Floyd case, and are about perception of chronic excessive use of force specifically against blacks. I wasn’t aware of the economy or health care as well. I can easily support the protestors, which I believe is the main driver behind current changes. I also believe that the looters are taking advantage of the protests to commit crimes and as such don’t believe that the looting and violence is actually doing anything to foment changes - their motivation is founded in self interest, not the greater good. This is why I absolutely disagree with Hummel. If anything, at least for me, the looting is counterproductive to positive change. I don’t want to support the harm from looting and rioting that is being done in order for good to come out of Floyd’s death. If leaders are being driven to finally make necessary changes that should have been made a long time ago, then they have failed to make difficult decisions for a long time and is poor leadership. But then, why are our leaders avoiding difficult decisions? Do we the public play a role by prematurely and ignorantly rushing to judgement? I can see this as motivating leaders to pursue self preservation.

The world we live in is a system, one thing leads to another in a roundabout way, and we likely all play a role in its dysfunction, so pointing fingers, as justified as we may think we are, may be a bit hypocritical. In other words, we the public may be playing an unidentified, passive or indirect role in the overuse of force by police, and raging isn’t the solution. Looting and rioting are possibly the result of the publics interference with public officials failing to make necessary decisions by making them risk adverse - for example police reform. Risk needs to be actively managed, not avoided - the ol’ failure to plan is plan to fail. There is a lot of chaos in the world, but the more I know how things interact, the more it seems events are not as random or senseless as we think they are. It is impossible for a single individual to see the bigger picture and is why we need in depth, uncensored speech and communication, especially if we disagree

gsr

How do you get such long posts without the page refreshing and having to start over?

BuckeyeDuck

Probably cuts and pastes from another file. I've had my posts erased because I was taking too long to write it

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.