Acting Chief Donna Henderson and Internal Affairs Captain Derek Rodridgues
Acting Chief Donna Henderson and Internal Affairs Captain Derek Rodridgues Doug Brown

*** Update ***

This case has seen another interesting development, as Acting Chief Donna Henderson, who is replacing Larry O'Dea while he's under investigation for shooting his friend during a camping trip, just emailed the Citizen Review Committee to say she is reversing O'Dea's challenge of the CRC's ruling, after learning she now has the authority to do so, she said, thus eliminating a showdown in front of the Portland City Council.

Here's what she wrote (the meeting happened on June 1, not June 2): "After careful consideration of what was said by the CRC Board last night on 6-2-16 and determining that I have the authority to make the decision it is my intent to sustain on 310.00 Conduct Professional."

This means Henderson now agrees with the CRC that Officer Scott Groshong deserves some discipline for grabbing the lens of an activist who was filming police downtown. Henderson showed up to the CRC meeting last night and argued O'Dea's position on why Groshong should be exonerated (see below). The unswayed CRC then voted 6-0 to send the case to city council, who would have the last word on it. But now, a day later, Henderson overruled O'Dea, and it will no longer go to city council and Groshong will receive some discipline.

"Although this case took a long path to resolution," CRC chair Kristin Malone just told the Mercury in the email, "I think the extended dialogue between the Bureau, the CRC, and the public led us to the right result. I appreciate Acting Chief Henderson's willingness to engage with the Committee and to reconsider the bureau's finding."

*** Original story, 12:18 p.m. ***

The Citizen Review Committee (CRC) and Portland Police Bureau (PPB) leadership still can't agree about what should happen to a police officer who grabbed the lens of an activist's camera as he was legally filming police downtown. So, for the first time in 13 years, the Portland City Council will have the ultimate say, as the complaint filed by Robert West in October 2015 against officer Scott Groshong drags on for at least another month.

"This has not happened in my time as a city employee," said Independent Police Review (IPR) director Constantin Severe at last night's CRC meeting. Severe told the Mercury this morning that it's the first time since 2003 that city council will have the final say on one of these cases.

The city auditor's IPR oversees the CRC, a volunteer committee that hears appeals from civilians who are unhappy with how the PPB handled their complaint against the bureau, and then votes on whether the bureau's findings could have been made by "a reasonable person." If they disagree with the PPB's findings, they send it the police chief, who can either accept their vote that the officer deserves discipline, or challenge it. If the police chief challenges the CRC's challenge of the bureau's original ruling, it goes back to the CRC who can either side with the chief and drop it, or vote to send the case to city council.

Police Chief Larry O'Dea, who's on leave because he shot a friend in the back during a camping trip in April, through Acting Chief Donna Henderson who was there last night in his place, disagreed last night with the CRC's March 30 vote to side with West. In a rare move, the CRC disagreed with the chiefs' disagreement, voting unanimously to stick with their original findings and send it to city council.

We've detailed this case extensively in recent months. West's March 30 appeal of the PPB's exoneration of the officer was chaotic and contentious as activists in the audience continuously interrupted the CRC meeting with yelling and Nazi references to taunt Groshong's boss, Captain Mark Kruger, who was there to defend the exoneration (Kruger has had some Nazi connections). The meeting ended after local activist Charles Johnson threw a cup of water on one of the two CRC members to side with the PPB that night, which led to a temporary police boycott of the CRC, a cancelled meeting, rule changes, and eventually the CRC voting to legally compel the bureau to show up when after they were a no-show at the April 20 meeting.

At issue in West's case is what happened in this video:

West filed a complaint against the Groshong. The bureau's Police Review Board (PRB) exonerated the cop 4-1, arguing he didn't act unprofessionally. IPR director Severe criticized the PRB's findings and initiated an appeal to the CRC.

At the March 30 appeal hearing, Groshong's boss, Kruger, defended him saying "There is no evidence in this video that the officer grabbed the camera at any time," before citing the dictionary definition of the word "grab." "In my review of the video, that's not what we see... Is it a conduct violation to put your hand in front of the camera?"

CRC chair Kristin Malone responded, "In reviewing the evidence, there was no way Captain Kruger could have viewed the same video I viewed." The CRC voted 7-2 to challenge the bureau's exoneration, sending the case to O'Dea, who then challenged it.

Last night, Henderson relayed O'Dea's challenge and added that she, as acting chief, also didn't feel like Groshong violated the bureau's policy on professionalism.

"The chief felt the officer did not initiate or provoke the incident, nor did he decide the time or place it occurred," Henderson said. Despite the video clearly showing Groshong grabbing the camera for a couple seconds, she sides with the stance taken by the bureau, Kruger, and O'Dea that the Groshong never actually grabbed it. "If he was trying to grab the camera, he would have grabbed the camera. But there's nothing in that video that says he tried to grab the camera. He just put his hand out."

But, she added, "Regardless of whether or not he did touch his camera, the chief believed the officer was not acting unprofessional. It's kind of immaterial whether the officer touched the camera in this case."

CRC members were not moved from their position (the two CRC members who sided with cops on March 30—Jim Young and Julie Ramos— were not there last night).

"I really do trust our findings as they were originally," said CRC member Kiosha Ford. "I don't think there was any misjudgment. We thoroughly discussed whether there was a grabbing of the lens." She then highlighted that Kruger said he wouldn't have exonerated Groshong if he believed he actually grabbed the lens. "We saw different things because I saw him grab the lens."

Each of the six CRC members there last night voted to stick with their original findings and to send this case to the city council.

The city council likely won't hear the case until at least July, Severe said.