recent lawsuit filed by Curtis Hooper against multiple Crook and Jefferson County law enforcement personnel claiming abuse and torture while in their custody has generated heated debate.
The initial report of the lawsuit, as well as another more recent Prineville arrest, recently generated a protest in downtown Prineville. In addition, stories in the Central Oregonian related to Hooper’s lawsuit, the protest, and the police report of a May 8, 2011 incident involving Hooper, have all generated heated discussion in the comments section of the Central Oregonian website.
In light of the emotions on both sides of the issue, we felt it appropriate to speak up.
Both the lawsuit filed by Hooper and the police reports of the incidents in question are a matter of public record. It is not the intention of the Central Oregonian to take sides on the issues — except on the opinion page. Rather it is our intent to inform the public regarding what the public record states.
Hooper initially faced charges for 10 offenses associated with the May 8 incident. He pled no contest to three of them, resulting in three convictions — the other seven counts were dismissed. The results of that court case are now a matter of public record.
Based on the police reports of the incident in question, it would appear that the Prineville Police Department stepped into what they had every reason to believe was a tense situation. The report suggests that Hooper was armed, acting erratically, and was putting the safety of others in the house at risk.
The report documents how the police department responded, including the level of force that was used by the police department, as well as why that force was used.
It is not uncommon for the police to be called to potentially dangerous situations. As public servants, they are asked to protect the public safety, often at their own risk. At face value, it would appear that the Hooper arrest and subsequent convictions are an example of such risk.
The case is now in the hands of the court system. It is up to the system to take testimony, look at the facts, evaluate the situation, and then make a determination of what if anything should happen next.
In the meantime, it is not unreasonable to discuss how and when the police use force. Nor is it unreasonable to look at police policy to see if police response can be improved. However, that discussion should remain civil, measured, and constructive. Although we welcome discussion on our website, we have had to pull several posts from the site due to inappropriate language. We believe that all sides would be better served if those participating in the discussion would use civil language rather than resorting to vulgarity and name-calling while trying to make their points. Name-calling and heated protests do nothing to help the situation. Rather they escalate an already-tense situation.
It is important that those on both sides of the issue remain calm while we wait for all the facts to come out. In the meantime, we believe that the police department, as well as the responding officers, should be given the benefit of the doubt.