The Portland Police Association has decided today not to release the results of its no-confidence vote in Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Police Chief Rosie Sizer.
It appears, from statements just released, that Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman has reversed his decision to suspend Officer Christopher Humphreys, and instead, plans to place him in a desk position pending the outcome of the investigation into his shooting a 12-year-old girl with a beanbag shotgun.
That was the original verdict of Police Chief Rosie Sizer on November 19, but Saltzman overruled her, following accusations by fellow city commissioner Randy Leonard that Saltzman was a "parrot for the police chief" over the discipline of Humphreys.
Humphreys claimed stress-related disability last week, so it's not clear when he will actually return to duty.
9:08pm Statements from the police union and Commissioner Saltzman, Chief Sizer are now after the jump.
3:28 The mayor's office plans to issue a statement shortly. We've got calls for reaction in to City Commissioners Randy Leonard, Nick Fish, and Amanda Fritz, and we'll let you know if they decide to comment.
3:34 Fritz, who supported both Saltzman and Sizer last week, has also changed her mind today about appropriate discipline for Humphreys, it seems:
“I totally support his approach, I think he’s making good decisions," she says, referring to Saltzman. "I think he is working behind the scenes. You can’t just take someone off the force without doing a proper investigation."
Fritz thinks having Humphreys on desk duty is a better solution than having him on paid leave. Her opinion about whether or not Humphreys should be on the force depends on the outcome of the investigation.
3:54 "It's not surprising," says Jason Renaud with the Mental Health Association of Portland. "Commissioner Saltzman is now learning how potent the union is, and how powerful the union's contract is. His suspension of Officer Humphreys was a mistake, because under the terms of the contract, there was a due process—the officer is due a full review of the event prior to a decision being made by a politician."
"Police Commissioner Saltzman has clearly felt the political pressure of his upcoming campaign for re-election," says Renaud. "He needs to prove himself, and buff up his work experience over the past four years. Saltzman waited for three years, prior to insisting on an investigation being finished by the police bureau in the Chasse case, and that allowed this issue to reach a boiling point. And now the police union is taking advantage of this, and has him wrapped around its finger."
5:12 Mayor Sam Adams was talking to TV reporters as we arrived at city hall. City Commissioner Randy Leonard had left for the evening and plans to allow the mayor to comment first on the issue, according to his chief of staff, Ty Kovatch. The mayor was kind enough to give us five minutes.
- MAYOR ADAMS: FACED QUESTIONS FROM ALL THE TV NETWORKS
MERCURY: So the police commissioner has backed down. Do you support him?
ADAMS: "My focus right now as mayor is to see an investigation that is thorough, complete, and accurate. And for the police bureau to follow protocol and procedures requiring officers under investigation. There is a continuum of options for officers who are under investigation."
MERCURY: So you're saying that's why Officer Humphreys wasn't given a desk job after the Chasse incident?
ADAMS: "I am not allowed to address that case beyond to say that the legal process is under way."
MERCURY: Does it put you in a difficult position, supporting the police commissioner one way and then having to support him when he turns around and takes a completely different position?
ADAMS: "I've been around. I've worked for a police commissioner for 11 years, I've been on city council observing police management and operations for 11 years, and I assigned the police bureau to Commissioner Saltzman so that I could focus on the recession, and dropout rate, while we have a historically low crime rate. The job of police commissioner is an inherently controversial assignment, and whatever you do, there will be people who are happy with you, and people who are unhappy with you. My priority throughout these negotiations has been to see that the investigation is thorough and that the officer is reassigned. Commissioner Saltzman deescalated what he thought was a polarizing situation, impacting operations in the police bureau."
MERCURY: "Anna Griffin put on her Facebook page just now that there is an absence of leadership at the city. Could you respond to that?"
ADAMS: "The police bureau was controversial under Mayor Katz, under Mayor Potter, and under police commissioner Dan Saltzman. During the most controversial incidents, one side or the other accuse each other of a variety of things, and there is often an allegation of a lack of leadership."
“As you know, I was early and clear in my support of Commissioner Saltzman and Chief Sizer on this," says City Commissioner Randy Leonard. "So in that context, I’m equally as disappointed in their decision today to back away from the action I felt was appropriate regarding Officer Humphreys and his actions with the 12-year-old girl."
“I’m equally as disappointed as I was supportive of their decision to put Humphreys on administrative leave,” Leonard says.
“Neither Commissioner Saltzman or Chief Sizer has spoken to me at all about any of this since the beginning—not to inform me of their appreciation for my support, or to hear what I thought about their plans," says Leonard. "So I don’t know what their reasoning is. I’ll just tell you that I fear that this has empowered bad behavior on the part of some of the command staff of the police bureau, and has in my view weakened the principle of chain of command and civilian oversight.”
“There was a time to be resolved," says Leonard. "The council was unanimously united in their support of what the commissioner and the chief had done, we expressed that, publicly, and it just seems like it was a time to be clear that the city would not tolerate those kinds of behaviors on the part of police officers, and I’m disappointed in that.”
December 1, 4:36pm:
“As you know I stood with Dan when his authority to determine the appropriate action was challenged," says City Commissioner Nick Fish. "And I issued a statement to that effect. He has apparently had a change of heart, he has not discussed it with me and I’m going to withhold judgment until I have had a chance to talk with Dan.”
Statement from the police union:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PORTLAND, OR — November 30, 2009 — Following a week of discussion among the Portland Police Association (PPA), Police Chief Rosie Sizer and Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the PPA announced today it will not release the results of the ballots returned in the union’s no confidence vote. The PPA advocated for the reversal of Officer Humphreys suspension, and the reinstatement of his full police powers, and we are happy that Commissioner Saltzman and Chief Sizer have accepted our point of view.
The PPA’s rally on November 24 was designed to focus on the need for due process for Officer Humphreys; to have the incident thoroughly investigated before any decision was made. Today’s actions grant those basic due process rights. PPA President Scott Westerman said he was encouraged by the decision and believes the door is now open to efforts that will strengthen public safety in the region.
“Chief Sizer and Commissioner Dan Saltzman have pledged more direct interaction, more conversation, and more frequent contact with the officers of the Portland Police Bureau,” said Westerman. “And the PPA has pledged more interaction, conversation and outreach with the community. It is my sincere hope that these measures will lead to greater understanding and trust among residents, officers and the Bureau’s leadership.”
“The Portland Police Association is ready to move forward, in good faith, with these measures and to be fully engaged in efforts to strengthen confidence in the Portland Police Bureau and its leadership,” said Westerman.
The action is a good faith effort to continue dialogue and initiate meaningful efforts to improve relationships and strengthen trust among union membership, the Chief’s office, Commissioner Saltzman, and Portland residents.
President Scott Westerman and Secretary-Treasurer Dave Dobler commend the members of the PPA for their courage in showing support for their fellow officers in recent weeks, and said today’s announcements will help bring resolution to the frustrations many officers have expressed.
And a joint statement from the Police Chief and the Police Commissioner:
POLICE COMMISSIONER DAN SALTZMAN AND CHIEF ROSANNE SIZER ISSUE STATEMENT
“We have made the decision to place Officer Chris Humphreys in an off-street administrative assignment upon his return to duty and pending the outcome of the investigation into the use of force incident that occurred on the 148th Street MAX Platform. The investigation will include a review of police policy and training as it examines the individual actions of the officers involved.
“Over the course of the last week, doubts have been raised in the media about the state of the Portland Police Bureau. We think it is important to express that the Portland Police Bureau and public safety in the City of Portland are in sound condition, when measured by a variety of performance indicators. Crime is down in Portland 11% year to date and was down 10% for 2008. In fact, when measured on a per capita basis, crime is at historic lows. The Portland Police Bureau has worked hard on the use of force issue over several years. Consequently, use of force and officer-involved shootings are down and injuries to officers and suspects are down.
Additionally, use of force complaints are down almost 60% in the last four years. Overall, Internal Affairs complaints are down 40% during the same period.
“The Portland Police Bureau has sought creative ways to develop and improve our relationship with our community. We are assigning new recruits to assist with social service providers and learn more about people who suffer disadvantage. We are actively engaged in inter-group dialogue with the Human Rights Commission and its Police/Community Relations subcommittee.
In addition, we are involved with the Z-Man Scholarship Foundation, which provides opportunities to young people and looks for innovative ways to bring the community and the Police Bureau closer together.
“Emotions have run high over the last ten days. We met with the leadership of the Portland Police Association today to discuss recent events and how to best move forward from here. We are confident that we are moving in the right direction for the long-term interests of both the community and the Police Bureau.”