Illustration by Wilder Schmaltz
Illustrations by Wilder Schmaltz

POLICE COMMISSIONER Dan Saltzman appeared to bow to pressure from the police union on Monday, November 30, by reinstating a bad-apple cop he had suspended 11 days earlier—placing the officer on desk duty instead, until an investigation is completed.

Saltzman overrode Police Chief Rosie Sizer on Thursday, November 19, suspending Officer Christopher Humphreys after he was caught on video shooting a 12-year-old girl in the leg with a "less-lethal" beanbag shotgun. Sizer had wanted to place Humphreys on desk duty while an investigation into his actions was carried out.

The officer's suspension sparked a 650-person rally and a "no-confidence" ballot on Saltzman and Sizer last week, organized by the Portland Police Association (PPA), the union representing more than 900 rank-and-file officers ["A Line in the Sand," News, Nov 26]. But the PPA called off the no-confidence vote an hour before the results were due to be announced on Monday afternoon, November 30, saying it respected Saltzman's decision to reinstate Humphreys on desk duty—as Sizer had originally suggested.

Sizer, Saltzman, and the union all declined further comment by press time, but the move placed the rest of city council in a difficult position—having to support the police commissioner's flip-flop.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she felt Saltzman was "making good decisions" on Monday afternoon. "You can't just take someone off the force without doing a proper investigation," she said—even though Fritz had supported Saltzman doing exactly that, the previous week.

"My priority throughout these negotiations has been to see that the investigation is thorough and that the officer is reassigned," said Mayor Sam Adams. "Commissioner Saltzman deescalated what he thought was a polarizing situation, impacting operations in the police bureau."

"I stood with Dan when his authority to determine the appropriate action was challenged," says City Commissioner Nick Fish. "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."

Meanwhile, City Commissioner Randy Leonard slammed Sizer and Saltzman on Monday night, saying, "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 for this to be resolved," Leonard continued. "The council was unanimously united in their support of what the commissioner and the chief had done. We expressed that, publicly, and it seemed like the time to be clear that the city would not tolerate those kinds of behaviors on the part of police officers. I'm disappointed."