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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Police Oversight, Police Contract Talks: What's Next?

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 7:58 AM

Yesterday at City Hall was busy—and slightly head-scratching. While commissioners were sitting down for their regular Wednesday morning meeting, questions about the fate of Ron Frashour, the officer who shot and killed Aaron Campbell, were bubbling fiercely behind the scenes.

After the council meeting, Mayor Sam Adams confirmed that, earlier that morning, Police Chief Mike Reese submitted his discipline recommendations to Frashour and the officers involved. The Oregonian's Maxine Bernstein, tapping her sources in the rank-and-file, had predicted a decision was imminent, and it was clear something was up because Adams' deputy chief of staff, Warren Jimenez, kept buzzing in and out of the council chambers.

Adams, however, wouldn't say anything about what their recommendations might have been. Reese then produced a statement but said only that "significant policy violations occurred." So what did they recommend? The Portland Police Association, also in a statement, clued us in. (And, weirdly, their statement came out before Adams or Reese were able to confirm any discipline had been submitted.)

The union, which will represent the officers in a 30-day "mitigation period" before the chief's recommendations are final, expressed disappointment over what it strongly implied was the firing of Frashour and the disciplining of other officers in the case. (Interestingly, the O's initial story also made mention of sanctions, sought by the Use of Force Review Board, for command staff involved in the shooting; a story this morning made no mention of those officers.)

How might things play out? How do these volleys fit in with union negotiations that are supposed to start on Friday? Keep reading.

I called Jason Renaud, of the Mental Health Association of Portland, for his thoughts. Noting the dramatic back-and-forth between city brass and union brass, he said, "My guess is there's already a full script in play."

He also said it was worth paying attention not only to what happens to the officers in the Campbell shooting, but also to the commanding officers. Higher-ranking cops are represented by a different union, the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association, and that union has been very quiet compared to their brethren in the PPA.

"They set up a situation where a machine gun was brought out. [Frashour] does not point that thing without a lot of people thinking that was a good idea."

As for what to expect, that's more difficult to say. Adams has been police commissioner only since May—and the same for Reese as chief—and so, Renaud says, "it's impossible to tell what their future behavior will be, based on past examples."

I also spoke with Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, asking him whether the 30 days of waiting will give all sides time to craft a political answer to the mess, in hopes of mollifying as many sides as possible. He said there might be some of that, but that mitigation sessions are really more about "personal mercy."

A cop, he says, will explain that he's been going through a rough spot and basically plead for the higher-ups not to torpedo his career: "Can you just have mercy on me," Handelman says.

He noted Reese's exoneration of Officer Chris Humphreys—his beanbagging of a 12-year-old girl was blessed Wednesday, a decision buried amid the news about Frashour—and wondered if that was setting up some quid pro quo with the PPA for the firing of Frashour.

He remembered when the PPA marched on City Hall after Humphreys was suspended after the beanbag incident.

"Who knows what the PPA will try," he says.

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