MAYOR SAM ADAMS took the police bureau away from former Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman last Wednesday, May 12, just 24 hours after Saltzman announced the city's record $1.6 million settlement with the family of James Chasse—a man suffering with schizophrenia who was beaten to death by Portland police in 2006.
Saltzman later told Willamette Week and the Oregonian that he was the victim of "vindictiveness" by Adams. Saltzman didn't return our phone call on the matter, but then we endorsed his opponent, Jesse Cornett, in the primary, because he doesn't talk like a stoned robot. Sensitive?
Oh, yeah, the primary. Saltzman took a "political whipping" from Adams, in the words of one local columnist, just six days before heading to the voters to beg for reelection. Did he deserve it for siding with former Police Chief Rosie Sizer in her budget tussle with the mayor? Well, probably. But not for the reasons one might expect.
Sizer was practically asking to be fired with her desperate press conference last Monday. Having told the mayor she could absorb an extra $3 million in cuts without firing any police officers, she then invited the media over to watch her stab Adams in the back by suddenly saying she would have to fire 25 new officers. Whaaa?
For Saltzman to side with Sizer, who was so clearly on a political kamikaze mission in this instance, was plain stupid, and that's why he deserved the whipping. Not for showing backbone. Not for "standing up" to anyone. It seemed obvious, to me, that Sizer had decided to go down in a blaze of glory, knowing damned well she was likely to take the fall over the Chasse case when it either settled or went to trial in early June. Mayor Adams, meanwhile, had to learn about the settlement of the Chasse case from yours truly, via text message, on Monday night. Call me old fashioned, but the mayor of Portland should know about his city's record settlement in a police brutality case long before the local muckraker. So the mayor had to slap Saltzman on the wrist and take back some control.
Is that vindictive? I don't think so. I think it's good old-fashioned politics. Saltzman doesn't seem to be awake most of the time, let alone aware that he's working in a nest of vipers. In other news, I'm leaving town. It's been fun, but I won't miss covering this desperate circus for a second. Thanks for reading, though. I've appreciated you. Goodbye.