I'm changing my mind about the Salem Police Department. By and large, I've believed that Salem has been fortunate to have a well-run department marked by honesty, integrity, and a willingness to admit mistakes.
Sure, the department's actions during this year's Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd were questionable at best and outrageous at worst. Using tear gas and playing nice with armed counter-protesters put chinks in the Police Department's "well-run" reputation.
To me those chinks widened to a crevasse after I read the front page story in today's Statesman Journal by Whitney Woodworth,
"Protester sues city, Salem police for civil rights violations, shooting her in face, chest with rubber bullet." Excerpts:
A young Black woman struck and seriously injured by rubber bullets during a protest in May is suing the City of Salem and the Salem Police Department and accusing officers of violating her civil rights, assaulting her and intentionally targeting Black people with deadly force.
...Salem police drew sharp criticism from community members for using tear gas on the protesters and were accused of showing favoritism toward armed right-wing militias gathered outside downtown businesses.
The allegations made in the lawsuit contrast starkly with an after-action report released by Salem police in the weeks after the protests.
The report said police responded to the crowd with tear gas and "other munitions." The report mentions a female protester was injured after being struck in the head with a brick thrown by another protester but it makes no mention of the rubber bullet injuries reported by McCrae.
...McCrae said she, her sister and riend linked arms and silently knelt at the front of the march.
Suddenly, police sirens blared. McCrae said she turned around to leave but was shot twice with rubber bullets.
"At least one bullet struck her chest and one bullet struck her eye," Brague said in the lawsuit. "SPD Officers intentionally shot Black participants using deadly force in violation of SPD Policy."
The force of the blow caused McCrae to double over in pain holding her eye.
She stumbled a few feet. Her vision was gone, and her ears were ringing. Tear gas stung her uninjured eye.
McCrae fell and passed out.
She said she awoke to the chaos and commotion around her. She heard footsteps rushing toward her.
"I can't see," she told the person.
"That's what you (expletive) get," the unknown man replied.
McCrae said she then became afraid for her safety. Another voice identified themselves as Salem police and helped her to her feet.
"(She) begins crying from fear and pleads, 'please, I don’t want to talk to you'," Brague said in the lawsuit. "One of the Salem PD officers responds and states 'talk or get arrested'."
Brague said McCrae begged the officer to let her leave and find her family, but he refused.
After a medic examined McCrae, she was rushed to the emergency room and was later diagnosed with retinal hemorrhage, macular hole and vitreous hemorrhage.
Contrast those allegations in the lawsuit with what Police Chief Jerry Moore said in a June 24 after-action report to Steve Powers, the City Manager. The following is part of a description of what happened on May 31, the day Eleaqia McCrae was shot by rubber bullets.
At 2158 hours, Lt. VanMeter authorized the use of CS gas and other munitions on the unlawful protestors and those launching items at the officers. LRAD announcements continued to be given. While we are not aware of any injuries to those in the crowd due to police actions, we were able to assist one female protestor who officers witnessed being struck in the head by a brick thrown by another protestor/rioter. After providing medical assistance and ensuring she was safe we had her transported to the hospital via ambulance.
This sure sounds like a Salem Police Department cover-up. There's little or no doubt that McCrae's injuries were caused by rubber bullets. She says that a police officer spoke with her after she was shot in the chest and eye. She was taken to the Salem Hospital Emergency Room.
Yet Chief Moore claimed that he wasn't aware "of any injuries to those in the crowd due to police actions."
Wow. Chief Moore must not have done much investigating before the after-action report was written. Or his police offices lied to him about their not being any injuries to protesters. Or Chief Moore deliberately withheld the rubber bullets injuries from his report.
Whichever possibility is true, it's a big blow to the credibility of the Salem Police Department. Shouldn't the department have contacted the Emergency Room to learn if there were people admitted with injuries caused by the actions of police officers?
They learned about a protester being struck in the head by a brick thrown by another protester. Yet the department was clueless, supposedly, about a protester being shot in the eye and chest by bullets fired by a police officer or officers.
There's no doubt that Chief Moore's after-action report was deeply flawed. The only question is whether this was deliberate or a result of incompetence.
Hopefully we will learn which is true in the course of the lawsuit being adjudicated.