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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Police Shooting on Think Out Loud!

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, May 13, 2010 at 8:53 AM

OPB has invited me to start off their hour-long Think Out Loud about the police shooting this morning—you can stream the show here starting in ten minutes.

The following act on the show, of course, is Mayor Sam Adams. The mayor was invited on the show to discuss the change up in the police chief, hours before the police shooting occurred. Should be a very interesting conversation. I'm wondering what he thinks now of his decision to take over the police bureau. I'll be liveblogging the show here.

Update 9:19 AM Phew, that's done. Being on the radio is nerve wracking, I think I'll stick to the blogs. I just spelled out the police and witness accounts of what happened last night.

After my departure, OPB's Emily Harris asked Mayor Adams what questions he has for the police after the shooting, "What's the nature - why did this particular vehicle attract the attention of police? Who are the officers? What's their background?" replied Adams. "Obviously, the deceased, his background. Where did the gun come from?" The mayor promises to be "very vigilant" that the city does a "fair, swift, impartial investigation" of what went on. "I want to underline swift because in the past, these investigations have dragged on far too long," says Adams. No one says "James Chasse" but the connection is obvious.

UPDATE 9:27 AM The mayor's defending his budget cuts to the police department, which former Chief Sizer criticized. But he admits, "The cut is too deep to the police bureau, but I didn't know that."

"A key part of my consideration that the budget debacle highlighted was that we need a police chief who would take ownership of these things," says Adams. So I assume that now the mayor's office is going to add back some of the positions that were cut?

Emily Harris asks when Adams decided to fire Sizer. On Tuesday he was "definitely deep in contemplation" about making a change, says Adams. He finally got ahold of Commissioner Saltzman late in the afternoon on Tuesday and "had a conversation" with him about the budget and the police bureau.

Adams says he offered the chief job to Mike Reese at about 8 PM on Tuesday night. Which is weird. Because at about 8:15 PM on Tuesday night, Adams wandered into Backspace and had a drink with voters during the Mercury/Bus Project's Drink 'n Vote event. And didn't breathe a word of the change.

UPDATE 9:32 AM From the comment section, a question about why there was no public process to appoint a new chief. Adams replies that police chiefs are usually appointed with no public process, for example Sizer was "pulled off the firing range" and appointed chief within a matter of hours. "Because Rosie and Saltzman earlier in last year raised the possibility that she was retiring, I got a lot of feedback on who should be the next chief. Mike Reese is a name that came up over and over again... I felt comfortable making the decision that way I did, but I totally understand that it caught people by surprise," says Adams.

Personally, I think Mike Reese is a great choice. He told the press yesterday that he's looking to be a "peacekeeper" on the force, but I feel bad for him being thrown into the job with a surprise, hotly political appointment just days before a major election. He deserves getting started off on steady ground.

UPDATE 9:38 AM Oregonian columnist Anna Griffin is on now and, yes, I totally agree with her assessment that to restore good relationships with Portland, the police need to get out to more community meetings, to interact with citizens in ways that don't involve pulling them over or pointing a gun at them. That kins of community policing should definitely be prioritized in the budget.

And on the politics of firing the police chief and stripping the bureau from Saltzman days before the election. "I think the timing makes it look vindictive," says Griffin. No shit. I would be surprised if that takeover doesn't effective boot Saltzman from office.

UPDATE 9:48 AM Asked about whether it's hard for a police chief to stay in office in Portland, Mayor Adams replies, "This decision was about stability. Stability and change at the same time." That wins the Think Out Loud Bullshit Quote of the Day Award.

UPDATE 9:50 AM Adams points out that the constant slashing of the social services safety net at the state level has forced more mentally ill people into interactions with police and firefights. "The job of a police officer and firefighter has fundamentally changed," says Adams.

Now this is refreshing, a discussion about mental health issues at the police bureau! New police union president Dave Dobler notes that a large part of officers' jobs these days isn't to go out and "catch bad guys" but to basically be social workers. "The taxpayers are paying us to do a certain job. Let's make sure that we're all on the same page about what that job is," says Dobler.

UPDATE 10 AM Okay, that's all, folks. Next up: police press conference at 11AM downtown. Tune back in for updates then.

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