Police Chief Mike Reese, right, explains his disagreement with a citizen panel handling the complaint of Floyd McCorvey, third from left.
  • Denis C. Theriault
  • Police Chief Mike Reese, right, explains his disagreement with a citizen panel handling the complaint of Floyd McCorvey, third from left.
With measured, respectful words—alongside a harsh, unsparing letter—Police Chief Mike Reese personally addressed a citizen panel tonight and laid out his reasons for refusing a request to punish an officer accused of treating a 62-year-old black man rudely by calling him a pimp.

And Reese's comments managed to persuade the Citizen Review Committee, the city body that oversees misconduct cases, to relent in its request. The panel mustered only a 3-3 tie on whether to send the impasse onto the Portland City Council—what would have been a rare and nearly unprecedented outcome in a police case.

Reese went through his points sitting just a few feet from Floyd McCorvey, a community volunteer who brought his complaint to the city in 2012. In a sign of the high stakes in a case that also sparked talk of racial profiling, Reese was joined by his professional standards captain, Dave Famous, who oversees internal affairs and police investigations, Mike Crebs, the assistant chief who oversees Famous, and a handful of police bureau investigators in plainclothes. Two city attorneys and Chad Stover, a policy analyst in Mayor Charlie Hales' office, also attended.

The Mercury first reported on Reese's decision on Monday. The CRC voted 4-2 in August that commanders erred in not sustaining a complaint that then-Officer Todd Tackett had treated McCorvey rudely as part of a pedestrian stop that ended with a jaywalking charge.

CRC members had been troubled that Tackett and a training officer, William Green, had differed on key details in the stop—including the skin color of a woman the cops had seen McCorvey speaking with after hd' gotten off the bus. The bureau had ruled the claim "unproven" and given Tackett a debriefing. CRC member Pamela Dunham, a wobbler during the August vote, changed her vote during the most recent hearing.

Reese largely deferred to his letter, released only in hard copy, which included new details on McCorvey's police record that weren't part of the original investigative file: guilty pleas for domestic violence in 1996, a failure to appear in court, and prostitution in 2000. McCorvey had said he hadn't had previous contact with the cops.

"A review of complainant's police history shows this is not the case," Reese wrote. "He has been arrested several times since moving to Portland."

And he insinuated, in his letter, that a clean glass pipe McCorvey said he was going to use for his medical pot—a pipe that Tackett and trainee officer confiscated and destroyed, against bureau policy—was probably a crack pipe. He wrote McCorvey's claim about the pipe was "suspect."

Meanwhile, the letter made sure to include Tackett's commendations and praise for his service record. Tackett, in fact, was promoted to sergeant the day after the CRC's August vote.

One CRC member, Rochelle Silver, called the disclosures about McCorvey "ugly" and "not relevant."

Reese said he raised those points because the CRC members, in August findings, had raised questions about his officers' credibility. He said the discrepancies they noted were "minor" inconsistencies.

"Officers in this community have to testify in court," Reese said. "They have to write police reports that document criminal activities. They absolutely have to be credible. And I take comments that officers weren't credible very seriously."

CRC members had access to some of that information. Rachel Mortimer, assistant director of the city's Independent Police Review division, said she'd made a note that McCorvey's record differed from his statements when initially investigating his claims. But she also said she didn't mention them in previous hearings because they weren't relevant.

Silver offered a withering response to Reese.

"We weren't talking about the credibility of the officer over his whole life," she said. "We weren't talking about the credibility of Mr. McCorvey over his whole life either. We were talking about the situation on that particular day on that particular corner, on NW 19th and NW Couch.

"It's baffling to me you would include all these sorts of ugly things about Mr. McCorvey and all these positive things about your officer."

Reese also spent several paragraphs on the seriousness of prostitution and human trafficking cases—especially in the area around 19th and NW Couch. He says it's well-known as a trouble spot for cops and that investigations into prostitution aren't always delicate. Reese's comments, however, focused on going after johns, not pimps. Reese also said he wasn't there and couldn't verify whether Tackett used language like "whore" when addressing McCorvey.

"The officers are investigating activity that's pertinent to that neighborhood and community and to what they saw," Reese said at the meeting. "They saw behavior that led them to believe a crime was afoot and they're interdicting that behavior."

Regina Hannon of Portland Copwatch asked Reese, rhetorically, whether his officers would have stopped a 62-year-old white man.

"I think not."

McCorvey was deeply frustrated with Reese's letter. He flat out accused Tackett of dishonesty. Tackett had said he stopped McCorvey for jaywalking because he thought he'd seen him talking to a known prostitute who was white. McCorvey and Green both said the woman was black—clearly not the woman Tackett insisted, all through the investigation, he saw that day.

"Officer Tackett lied," McCorvey said.

McCorvey didn't shy from the revelation of his record, noting the charges were from "16 years ago, 13 years ago." He said he'd meant that he'd never been stopped randomly on the street before—not that he'd never been arrested when he deserved to be.

He said he was the one who brought the whole incident to light. Tackett hadn't even filled out a police report beyond the jaywalking citation when McCorvey complained. Tackett was disciplined for taking McCorvey's pipe without giving him a receipt. McCorvey also thought he was unfairly searched and racially profiled.

"Why would I come to this committee if something did not happen?" he said. "There is a protocol and Officer Tackett broke that protocol in every way possible."