A police officer has been arrested in Oregon in connection with an incident last year during which another officer allegedly vandalized a home displaying a Black Lives Matter flag. The arrest Thursday follows a grand jury indictment in which Officer Bradley Schuetz was charged with first-degree official misconduct for refusing to arrest Officer Steven Teets, who had vandalized the home, the Associated Press reported.
Teets was off duty when he allegedly saw a Black Lives Matter flag hanging outside of a residence. Feeling triggered, he then walked up the home’s driveway, set off the resident’s car alarm, and punched the flag and the metal garage door behind it before proceeding to aggressively bang on and kick the family’s front door, investigators said. The homeowner immediately called the police. The responding officer recognized Teets. Instead of supporting this officer and placing Teets under arrest, as the procedure would be with any other civilian, Schuetz reportedly then arrived at the scene and drove Teets home.
While Teets was off duty at the time of the incident, Schuetz was not. Beaverton police Sgt. Kevin MacDonald said by failing to arrest Teets, Schuetz “prevented the investigation from happening.” As a result of the incident that “terrorized” a family, Teets was later charged with second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree disorderly conduct. Forest Grove police officials then asked the Beaverton Police Department to investigate Schuetz’s involvement in November.
While Teets was placed on administrative desk duty during investigations, Schuetz is currently on paid administrative leave—despite being indicted on criminal charges, according to Forest Grove Police officials. The investigations continue per a lawsuit filed by Mirella Castaneda, one of the home’s residents, who believes that her house was targeted “because of her personal and political beliefs.” When reached for a comment regarding the arrests, Castaneda noted that the arrest itself does not solve the issue at hand.
“I’m glad that people are finally asking the questions that need to be asked,” Castaneda told the Portland Tribune. “Hopefully this means that people care enough to know how their law enforcement departments are actually conducting business, and making sure that they’re doing it the right way.”
According to the Portland Tribune, Teets was reported to be “highly intoxicated” during the Oct. 31 incident and the responding officer did not activate their body-worn camera despite department policy. According to a Washington County Sheriff’s Office memo, Teets didn’t even recognize his colleagues and “squared up” in a fighting stance when first approached by them. Investigations only began after the incident was reported to a supervisor by another officer on call.
According to Castaneda’s lawsuit, responding officers didn’t even check Teets for weapons. She wasn’t even told Teets was a police officer, The Washington Post reported. It was only when she googled his name that she learned the man who harassed her family was a police officer nearby. Her lawyers argue that this lack of information, the failure to document possible political motives, and the officers’ unwillingness to turn on body cameras must be investigated.
“The treatment of Ms. Castaneda as a second-class citizen based on her political viewpoint by the investigating officers added insult to injury, and further compounded the emotional trauma she and her family had experienced at the hands of Officer Teets,” her lawyer said.
While Castaneda has not gotten the answers she needs, she hopes that better policy, actions, and procedures will follow this case.
“Hopefully justice is served in this case, but more than anything, I hope this is a chance for the police to be more transparent in the future,” Castaneda told the Portland Tribune. “Transparency and accountability is really what people want from their police department.”
The case itself has raised questions about how the treatment of law enforcement officials differs from civilians in criminal cases. The fact that an off-duty officer was driven home instead of to the police department after harassing a family is beyond understanding. Teets’ actions were not only inappropriate as an officer, but as a human in general. Had the flag represented something else, the situation might have been different. Unfortunately, such incidents involving the Black Lives Matter flag are far too common. In multiple incidents, individuals have targeted homes and harassed families outside of which the flag has been displayed. These individuals have faced charges ranging from hate crimes to criminal charges. Police officers should not walk free or be given special treatment for terrorizing a family or caving in to their fragile egos triggered by movements to hold them accountable.