TODD TACKETT'S NAME went unmentioned last week when the Portland Citizen Review Committee (CRC)—in a potentially controversial vote—found the longtime cop acted rudely last year when he accused a 62-year-old black man of being a pimp, only to let him go with a jaywalking ticket.
But as the Mercury first reported this spring [Hall Monitor, May 8], Tackett was the lead officer named in a complaint filed by Floyd McCorvey, a community volunteer who felt he was disparaged, racially profiled, and improperly searched during a stop at NW 19th and Couch.
Not that the CRC, which handles appeals in police misconduct cases, took it easy on the cop or his also-unmentioned partner, trainee William Green.
The panel voted 4-2 on Wednesday, August 7, that Tackett's commanding officer erred when writing off McCorvey's rudeness complaint as "unproven." And members had extremely harsh words in the face of an investigation that found both Tackett and Green mixed up on several key details and that Tackett had also taken McCorvey's unused medical pot pipe and thrown it away without providing a receipt.
"It saddens me this particular officer would be put in a position of training our new and upcoming officers," said CRC member Rochelle Silver, "when he doesn't recognize what it is he's doing until you have to tell him what he's doing."
Little did the CRC realize, however, that Tackett was also about to get some good news. According to a promotion list made public the next morning, on Thursday, August 8, Tackett was one of 10 cops about to be bumped to sergeant. In fact, at a ceremony that afternoon, he was highlighted for, among other traits, his courteousness.
"Typical," Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch said of the promotion.
The raw details of McCorvey's complaint have already been aired. He said Tackett and Green accosted him asked him if a nearby black woman he didn't know was his "whore," had him put his hands on his head, searched him, confiscated his pot pipe, mocked the Central City Concern apartment where he lives, and then let him go with the jaywalking citation. (A judge later convicted McCorvey of jaywalking.)
But testimony during McCorvey's hearing revealed new and distressing information.
• Tackett and Green disagreed on whether they saw McCorvey jaywalk before or after they saw him talking to the nearby woman. In talking to investigators, Tackett said jaywalking was the reason he stopped McCorvey, which his boss, Lieutenant Mike Fort, called a legitimate pretext to investigate someone for prostitution in a high-vice area. McCorvey says he was just saying hello to a stranger after getting off the bus.
• The officers also disagreed on whether McCorvey's pot pipe was clean. Tackett said it was clean but pocketed it anyway before smashing it and failing to catalog it. Tackett also said it was a crack pipe. Green said it was dirty.
• The cops also couldn't agree on a description of the woman McCorvey spoke with. Tackett said he thought she was white and a known prostitute, and therefore decided it was reasonable to ask McCorvey if he was a pimp (but not, tellingly, a john). Green and McCorvey both said the woman was black. ("Deep, dark chocolate," McCorvey said at the August 7 hearing.) Meaning she clearly wasn't the woman Tackett mentioned to investigators when defending his actions.
"How is it you gave so much credibility to these officers who couldn't get the story straight?" Silver asked Fort, Tackett's superior.
"I guess I don't agree they didn't get the story straight," he said.
The subtext, however, was clear for CRC members and citizens at the hearing who said a white man McCorvey's age likely wouldn't have faced the same line of questioning—whether he might be a crackhead and a pimp. Members said it didn't matter whether Tackett meant to offend McCorvey or not.
"If they'd have been in the same situation," former state lawmaker Barbara Ross said while pointing to the three white men sitting on the CRC, "I don't believe these same officers would be saying you're a pimp and that's your woman who's working for you."
Tackett's had at least one other blemish on his record. He was one of four cops accused of roughing up Sir Millage, a severely autistic 15-year-old, outside Union Station in 2006. Millage was struck approximately seven times with a baton and Tasered at least 13 times. ["Double Jeopardy," News, March 15, 2007]. A judge later found against the city and ordered a $37,000 payment to Millage's guardian.
It's now up to Chief Mike Reese's office to decide whether it will agree with the CRC and modify the finding against Tackett. If Reese disagrees, Reese's office, the CRC, and the city's Independent Police Review Division will meet in a conference committee. If there's still no agreement, McCorvey could take the case to the Portland City Council. He probably will.
"Do you know how many people have gone through this but didn't fight?" he says. "Get up off your duff and report the little things. They lead to majors."