Early last week, an off-duty Portland police officer accidentally rammed his Ford pickup truck through the wall and into the kitchen of the Blackbird, an indie-rock bar on the corner of 37th and Sandy. Regarded as one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, Officer Kent B. Scott came around the corner at a speed excessive enough to knock a 10' x 12' hole through the brick wall. He claims he was reaching for his "cell phone" at the time of the accident. Though no one was injured--there were roughly 30 people in attendance for the Blackbird's '80s DJ night--the distance between where the truck stopped and where patrons were standing was only about 20 feet.
Responding to the 9-1-1 call, Officer David Staab of the East Precinct arrived and quickly whisked Scott away from the scene in the front seat of his police car. Scott did not receive a sobriety test, and no citation was issued. Officer Staab's report neglected to record any details of how the wreck happened and only included Scott's name and vehicle registration information. According to Sgt. Brian Schmautz, spokesperson for the police bureau, Officer Staab "did not draw the conclusion that Officer Scott was intoxicated" and that he "would have handled this [situation] the same as he would have [for] anyone else."
While the specter of cronyism within the police force can be considered both a fact of life and a cause for dismay, if police policy is what Schmautz says, it can also be a reason to celebrate. If Staab truly handled the incident in the same manner as if it happened to any normal joe, then it could signify the genesis of a kinder, gentler police officer: An officer who won't issue a ticket or make you walk the straight line after crashing into a bar full of people! (The free ride home in the front seat is a bonus.)
According to the bureau's traffic accident policy, a traffic crash will be investigated only when a person is injured and the injury is substantial enough to require an ambulance. Good to know! We can all breathe easier knowing that after a long night of "reaching for our cell phones," it's A-OK to crash into an elementary school filled with students... as long as no one is injured. No ticket, no D.U.I.; no blood, no foul. Thanks, Oshifer Shtaab! (Hic!) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY