In this Blog category you will find articles about protecting the health and safety of people who live and work in Oregon. Personal Injury at work and Insurance Liability Claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.

Eugene Social Worker Seeks Help for Mentally Unstable Son, is Met with Violence

All across the country people are waking up to the issue of excessive use of force by police. Several instances of overt police violence have made headlines, with many encounters ending in preventable deaths. Although excessive use of force may violate the Fourth Amendment, victims of excessive police force may only pursue civil charges against arresting officers and possibly the municipality that employs them. Though the officers may have done wrong, they generally do not face criminal charges for using excessive force when placing a person under arrest. A victim’s only hope for justice is to seek damages in the form of a civil lawsuit.

Locally, police have been accused of using excessive force right here in Oregon. Two years ago in south Eugene, a mother panicked and called a non-emergency hotline in the hopes of receiving help from a crisis intervention team when her son experienced a psychotic break. What happened next led to a civil battle between Eugene law enforcement officers and the family they failed after an encounter with a mentally ill teenager went horribly wrong.

Insufficient Support for Mentally Ill Prompts Police Use of Force

Unable to control her son, Ayisha Elliott called a non-emergency crisis intervention hotline to receive support. Quinton Richardson-Brown was in the grip of a psychiatric episode. Expecting a group of personnel to help her access the appropriate services, four police officers arrived at her door. To say they were of little help is an understatement.

“Instead, the police came and beat the hell out of both of them.” Attorney Brian Michael described the scene to the jury in U.S. District Court when making his opening statement. When police walked in, he said, Elliott’s son, a 19-year-old university student when the episode took place, was handcuffed when officer Matthew Stropko used a stun gun to subdue him. When the gun failed to take effect, the officer used his fist to strike him in the face.

Ms. Elliott also claimed to be a victim of excessive use of force. She had sustained injuries after being thrown to the ground on her deck by Eugene police Sgt. Bill Solesbee, who jumped on her back and shoved her head into the floor. Elliott, a caseworker for the Department of Human Services, was later arrested

By |November 22nd, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

5 Things Portlanders Should Know about Forest Fires

Although the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge made for depressing headlines, it’s important to understand fire’s role in the forest’s life cycle. Fire is a crucial component that helps forests regrow greener and stronger than before. Our forests actually rely heavily on the occasional natural or manmade fire to renew themselves.

It goes without saying that watching coverage of the Gorge burning for days on end was difficult to bear. Many of us who relish nature hikes in our beloved public lands were heartbroken to see vast swaths of trees burned beyond recognition and smoke clouding the atmosphere for miles. The Eagle Creek fire certainly was a serious and life-threatening event; it even rained ash in the nearby city of Portland. The air quality was polluted for several days following the incident, and many people living in surrounding towns were evacuated.

How Wildfires Benefit Our Forests

Firefighters risked their lives to control the fire to protect people and property in communities nearby. It makes sense to show concern and fear over a major forest fire that grew to torch tens of thousands of acres. Yet, media coverage and politicians frequently take advantage of such events to push anti-environmental agendas, blowing their descriptions of the forest out of proportion. Even Lt. Damon Simmons of the Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau responded to The Oregonian that the forest is not the charred wasteland the media tried to portray. “The gorge still looks like the gorge. It’s not a blackened, destroyed no-man’s land.”

This is partially due to the fact that the fire burned in a healthy mosaic pattern. Several plant species that thrive in the forests of the Pacific Northwest rely on fire to regenerate and grow. Forest fires prepare the soil for seeding by creating an open seedbed, which makes nutrients more available for uptake. One of fire’s most important effects is that it often kills invasive species that compete with native plants.

Fires that burn in this pattern burn hot in some areas, killing off most of the trees, while other areas burn lightly or not at all. Heavily burned areas can initially be difficult to look at, but in time these areas produce some of the beauty we see today. These

By |November 2nd, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Top 5 Portland Neighborhoods to Avoid Trick-or-Treat

The evidence that Portland is one of America’s favorite cities is conspicuously reflected in its soaring housing costs and influx of non-native Oregonians. For several consecutive years, Portland has ranked as one of the top cities to live in the United States. As with any densely populated city, there are some neighborhoods that should be avoided after sundown.

GoLocalPDX News analyzed 5 years’ worth of data from the City of Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation to create a list of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Portland. They considered the number of police and fire reports, and ODOT’s ranking of the city’s 60 most dangerous intersections to compile this list. On Halloween night, steer clear of these 5 neighborhoods, if you can.

Hazelwood

Halfway between the heart of Portland and Gresham lies Hazelwood, a neighborhood in which there are consistent reports of criminal activity. In the 5-year period, there were over 10,000 police incidents and almost 500 fire calls. The Gateway Transit Center is considered the most dangerous in Portland, with many crimes taking place near this stop. In 2009, there were more rapes and murders in Hazelwood than in any other neighborhood in the city. 122nd Ave. and SE Stark is considered the most dangerous intersection in Hazelwood.

Lents

Divided by I-205 and just south of US 26/ SE Powell Blvd is Lents. The Lents neighborhood had just under 7,000 police incidents and over 400 fire calls in the five-year period. The Eastport Plaza Shopping Center, which houses a Walmart Supercenter, is regarded as the neighborhood’s most active crime corner.

Powellhurst-Gilbert

Hugging Lents on its north-east corner is the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood in East Portland. This neighborhood had 6,025 police incidents and 394 fire calls. One-hundred seventy-one accidents were reported at the intersection of SE 82nd Ave. and SE Powell.

Centennial

Slightly northeast from Powellhurst-Gilbert is the Centennial neighborhood, which experienced 5,568 police incidents and 254 fire calls.

Montavilla

Just west of Centennial is Montavilla. This neighborhood had 3,695 police incidents and 229 fire calls in the five-year span.

5 Halloween Safety Tips

Besides avoiding certain parts of town, there are many ways to keep your children safe during their once-a-year trick-or-treat endeavor. Keep these simple tips in mind.

Plan

By |October 25th, 2017|Auto Accidents, Misc, Protecting Oregonians|

Fire Damaged Gorge Soil Increases Landslide Danger

Debris Flow

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Oregonians welcomed rain in late September 2017, after the Columbia River Gorge Eagle Creek fire scorched large sections of forest, consuming 48,831 acres, destroying homes and forcing evacuations, landslides posed a new threat to the area.

The Eagle Creek fire carried smoke and ash across the Portland area to the western boundaries of Washington County, until an unusually hot, dry summer gave way to cooling fall temperatures and moist conditions. Although heavy rain in October was a welcome relief, it created a new danger of landslides and flash floods in the Gorge.

Gorge Geologic History Reveals Landslide Vulnerability

Bill Burns, engineering geologist with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), predicted high risk for landslides throughout fall and winter and for several years to come. Compiling information from historic records and looking at landslides through aerial LIDAR images that reveal contours of past landslides in the area on the Oregon side of the River, Burns found evidence of 286 recent, historic, and prehistoric landslides that had traveled over a mile. The aerial images showed areas of the Gorge already susceptible to landslides overlapping with areas of the Eagle Creek fire, indicating where landslides will be more likely to occur in the future.

“We can’t predict when and where the next landslide events will occur,” Burns said. “But by improving information about existing landslide locations, we better understand what areas might be hazardous during storm events, or where taking action to reduce risk is a good idea.”

When Is a Landslide a Debris Flow?

When fire strips away trees, shrubs and grasses, water can infiltrate the ground, making it more prone to sliding. Ground movement can be expected after landslides, causing surface erosion first, followed by rock falls, and then debris flows.

A debris flow is an extremely destructive landslide that moves faster than a person can run. During a debris flow, masses of rock and earth saturated with water create a flowing river of mud that can travel suddenly with no warning, at avalanche speeds for a mile or more, growing in size as it picks up trees, boulders, cars and other materials.

Areas below steep slopes in canyons and near the mouths of canyons are especially hazardous for landslides and debris flows. The most dangerous places are:

  • Canyon bottoms, stream channels, and areas of rock and soil accumulation at the outlets of
By |October 21st, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Tougher Distracted Driving Laws Take Effect

Beginning October first, Oregonians can expect police to pay closer attention to their habits behind the wheel. On that day, the state’s new, fortified distracted driving law will have taken effect. The new law makes it easier for distracted drivers to get pulled over by police, who can now issue citations to anyone holding any electronic device. The new law seeks to address gaping loopholes in the old law, which let people use their digital devices for everything except talking and texting. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce instances of auto accidents caused by distracted driving.

Distracted Driving More Dangerous than DUII?

While tough DUI laws across all 50 states have caused the DUI accident and fatality rates to go down, weak or no laws targeting distracted driving have allowed the rate of distracted driving accidents and fatalities to climb. As technology becomes ever more enthralling and commutes ever more drudging, our inclination to use technology as a distraction strengthens. As a result, more people than ever are driving distractedly by using technology at times that make them a hazard to be on the road.

Distracted driving often manifests in the form of texting while driving, which some claim is as or more dangerous than drunk driving. From 2002 to 2014, drunk driving fatalities dropped by 25%. This decline can be attributed to an increase in awareness of the dangers of drunk driving as well as tough penalties for DUI. In the same time frame, however, fatalities caused by distracted driving accidents shot up from 2,600 deaths in 2002 to 3,331 in 2011.

How does Oregon’s New Law Protect Drivers?

Under Oregon’s old cell phone law, drivers could not communicate via cell phone. As it turned out, it was difficult for cops to know just when someone was texting or placing a call when they saw a driver holding a phone.

At one point, an officer stopped a woman who was using her phone behind the wheel. He smelled alcohol and suspected she was under the influence. He then conducted field sobriety tests and arrested her for DUII. An Oregon Court of Appeals judge ruled that since the officer didn’t see the woman physically communicating on her phone, he did not have probable cause to make the stop. Thus, all the evidence obtained from the stop was suppressed. This made it difficult for police to enforce

By |October 2nd, 2017|Auto Accidents, Distracted Driving, Protecting Oregonians|

Firefighters Save Historic Multnomah Falls Lodge

Since an adolescent in the running for the 2017 Darwin Award ignited the Eagle Creek fire, tenacious firefighters have worked tirelessly to contain the flames that continue to destroy vast swaths of the Columbia River Gorge’s natural beauty. One landmark, in particular, was at risk of destruction and may not have survived the flames had it not been for their bravery and quick thinking.

Oregon State Fire Marshal Structural Team Saves Historic Lodge

Thanks to a resilient team of structural firefighters, the iconic Multnomah Falls Lodge was spared from the hungry flames of the Eagle Creek fire as they enveloped one of Oregon’s most scenic waterfalls. It took just two days for the fire to spread to the region from its point of origin near Punch Bowl Falls. The fire soon posed a threat to the lodge as firefighters braced for battle.

The fire ripped across the ridge atop the falls and blazed downward toward the rigid stone structure. As trees plummeted, temperatures surged. All the firefighters on duty had just one goal: save the lodge.

A team of water tenders managed to keep the lodge damp as the fire storm progressed. Fire crews used hose lines to protect the lodge from heat as large trees torched. The battle lasted overnight, but the lodge came out unscathed.

Preparing for Battle

As the stench of thick smoke filled his nostrils and burned his eyes, Rick Buck knew the lodge was in danger. The proprietor of the historic structure evacuated the lodge as fire crews arrived to fend off the flames. Lance Lighty with the Eugene Springfield Fire Battalion was called in to lead the crew. After a hectic holiday weekend, he had influenced the shutdown of I-84 while working with ODOT. He had witnessed first-hand 30-MPH gusts catalyze flames and smoke through the dense forest of the Gorge during an extremely dry summer. As the flames skirted the state’s highest waterfall, Lighty recognized the importance of the lodge and was determined to save it at all costs.

 

He and his staff knew that plenty of firefighters would be needed to have a shot at victory. They needed to find a way to moisten the area around the lodge and the roof from above, as it was too late to remove

By |September 22nd, 2017|Personal Injury, Protecting Oregonians|

Can Bridge City Survive the Big Quake?

Burnside Hawthorne Bridges

Portland Oregon, at the confluence of two rivers with a population of over 600,000, is a bridge-dependent city. Each of its thirteen bridges spanning the Willamette River are vital to keeping transportation flowing. In 2011, the city of Portland began to prepare for the inevitability of destruction from a predicted major earthquake without any usable bridges.

Major Quake Destruction Predicted for Portland

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries sees 1 in 3 odds of Oregon experiencing a magnitude 8 or 9 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake sometime within the next 50 years. The last Oregon quake of that strength was in 1700, with a magnitude of 8.7 to 9.2. Today, a quake of that strength would be enough to destroy buildings and roads, take down power lines, block streets, rupture gas lines, and break water and sewer lines, causing many areas to be uninhabitable.

In that scenario, the State of Oregon predicts pockets of isolation where people may be stranded due to broken transportation infrastructure for 72 hours or longer. The bridges of the Willamette River are the city’s transportation connection. In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, first responders would need those vital links to administer aid to all areas of the city.

Majority of Portland Bridges Not Designed to Survive a Quake

Varying in age, each bridge spanning the Willamette River is unique in construction, with some built in the early 20thcentury to carry horse and buggy across the River. Even bridges more recently built were not designed by current standards to withstand an earthquake of the magnitude that geologists predict for Oregon.

“A majority of the bridges…were built prior to scientists’ current understanding of the regional seismic threat and prior to the engineers’ current understanding of effective seismic design,” said Portland State University civil and environmental engineering professor Peter Dusicka. “We have learned a lot in the past several decades; unfortunately, a majority of our infrastructure is significantly older,” he said.

Oregon bridge engineers did not design for Cascadia-level earthquakes of magnitude 8 or 9 until the mid-1990s. Even the relatively new Fremont Bridge, built in the 1970s, is not expected to be useful following a major quake. If the bridge survives, engineers predict that the ramps leading up to the bridge will not hold up.

Bridge Replacement vs Retrofit

The susceptibilities of Portland’s bridges are complex, each having different weaknesses, with some

By |September 6th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Is Public Transportation Safe in Portland?

Commuters have questioned the safety of Portland’s public transportation system for years, but never as vehemently as they have since the tragic MAX attack. Ever since an extremist white supremacist stabbed three brave men, slaying two and injuring a third, passengers are trying to overcome anxieties about the possibility of future acts of violence taking place aboard the trains. The widespread news coverage has shaken people across the country.

Soon after the tragedy occurred on March 26, TriMet substantially beefed up security presence, giving more hours to its police officers, supervisors, and private security guards. TriMet also hired extra private security guards and transit and community safety officers to establish a presence, particularly on rides to and from the Rose Quarter and Gateway transit centers.

Most passengers welcomed more security in the aftermath of the MAX attacks, but statistics show that crimes against passengers have been steadily declining since TriMet took a stand to curb crime in 2008, the year a senior citizen was attacked with a baseball bat.

TriMet Makes Security a Focus

When a teenage suspected gang member beat a 71-year-old from Sandy with a baseball bat at the Gresham Transit Center, passengers called out TriMet for failing to keep them safe. The attack occurred the day after the mayor of Gresham at the time commanded Gresham police to patrol MAX trains.

Mayor Shane Bemis communicated to TriMet’s general manager at the time a list of grievances he had received from Gresham residents boarding TriMet. Instances of public inebriation, gang violence, drug activity, assault, and fare skipping were rampant. In response, a conference was held to discuss safety in which a state representative attended.

The pressure on TriMet to make safety a priority established their now formal partnership with local law enforcement departments. Passengers became empowered to report any suspicious activity and look to TriMet employees for help.

Police Controversy

Not everyone believes that increased police presence will do much to deter crime, and many do not want to interact with armed police officers. Transit advocacy organizations are concerned that the police and fare inspectors pose a threat to minority and low-income riders. Just two days before the MAX tragedy, over a dozen activists expressed to TriMet’s Board of

By |August 12th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Oregon Transportation Safety Committee Meeting Presents Ambitious Agenda

ODOT

The Oregon Transportation Safety Committee (OTSC) will meet at 9:30 am on Tuesday, August 8th, at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, 4190 Aumsville Highway SE in Salem, with a pre-meeting agenda review session in DPSST Room A254 at 9:00 am. Anyone wishing to be present for a particular item should arrive when the meeting begins to avoid missing an item of interest.

The OTSC, within the Department of Transportation  (DOT), was created under ORS 802.300 to advise the DOT and the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on issues, policies and programs that affect Oregon transportation safety, and performs any other functions related to transportation safety that the commission delegates.

The five members of the OTSC are appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the commission for a four year term of office.  The Governor appoints one member of the committee as the chair and another member as vice chair, and the Director of Transportation may also appoint assistants, consultants, clerical staff and other employees as needed.

After welcome and introductions, the Consent Calendar and July Meeting Minutes will be read, followed at 9:45 by member, program, and liaison reports.

At 10:00, C. Hunter will provide a Region 3 Bridge Study Update.

At 10:15, ODOT Tree Maintenance will be the next topic of discussion.

At 10:30, liaison reports will be presented by Oregon State Police (P. Huskey), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Region 10 (S. Wise), and the Traffic Records Coordinating Committee (W. McAllister).

At 11:00, the following program managers will present updates: Speed presented by K. Twenge, and Driver Education by B. Warner.

At 11:30, H. Gard and J. Palmateer will review with updates the Public Transit Plan / Public Transit Division.

At 1:00, the Change Management Plan will be discussed by K. Bruce and C. Phelps.

Finally at 2:30, presenters will announce the next meeting date, set for September 12, 2017 at 9:30 am at the same location: Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, 4190 Aumsville Highway SE in Salem.

The following are possible topics for future meetings:

  • Data Report on Pedestrians and Crashes
  • Local Traffic Safety Action Plan (TSAP) Presentation
  • Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) with National and State Statistics

Learn more about issues impacting safety, well-being, and justice at rizklaw.com. To schedule a confidential appointment to discuss a claim with an attorney, call (503) 245-5677 or email info@rizklaw.com.

By |August 7th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Homeless Women’s Village First of its Kind in Portland

Despite efforts to contain Portland’s widespread homelessness, a recent report unveiled that the city’s homeless population has increased by 10% since the city’s homeless crisis began two years ago. In a new effort to provide some stability, the city is testing out its first government-supported homeless village.

It’s a homeless camp with a twist. Residents of Kenton Women’s Village — formerly known as the POD Village — reside in fourteen tiny houses reserved for homeless women in Portland. The village provides a community atmosphere with oversight and ongoing support from Catholic Charities, a non-profit organization. It is a cost-friendly alternative to traditional homeless shelters which are not effective for everyone who needs a place to stay.

Portland Explores New Territory in Homelessness Fight

Kenton Women’s Village is a one year pilot project that emerged from a collaboration between the City of Portland, the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Catholic Charities, and the Village Coalition. The project received strong support from a majority of neighborhood residents and top local officials such as Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury. It officially opened on June 10th.

The goal of the project is to experiment with new methods to combat homelessness, a rampant problem throughout greater Portland. The fleet of homes lies on N Argyle Street on property owned by the Portland Development Commission. Each individual pod is assigned to one resident. At 8 feet by 12, the homes are too small to have their own bathroom and cooking facilities. They are not equipped with running water or electricity; however, each home is equipped with solar panels to charge a cell phone and locks on doors. Residents share a community bathroom and kitchen.

Individual homes like these may save the city public funds in the long run, as they are less expensive to provide and manage than a homeless shelter. These homes can work well for homeless citizens who cannot thrive in shelters; those who have difficulty getting along with others can resort to their own pods for privacy. That is not to say that conflicts do not arise in Kenton Women’s Village.

Eighteen days after the village began to accept residents two of the women left. One cited verbal

By |July 14th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|