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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Breaking: Randy Leonard Says "No Reason" to "Legitimately Quarrel" with Ruling to Reinstate Ron Frashour

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM

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After the Portland City Council unanimously approved spending up to $300,000 more to defend its bid to discipline four officers in the January 2010 police shooting of Aaron Campbell, Commissioner Randy Leonard told the Mercury that he doesn't personally support one aspect of that continuing fight: Mayor Sam Adams' planned challenge of arbitrator's ruling that called for the since-fired cop who shot Campbell—Ron Frashour—to be reinstated.

"I see no reason we could legitimately quarrel with her conclusion," Leonard said of the controversial ruling by arbitrator Jane Wilkinson, issued Friday, March 30. In her lengthy ruling, Wilkinson wrote that Frashour, apparently believing Campbell was armed even though he wasn't, did precisely what a "reasonable" officer would do in firing his rifle.

The mayor's office is still working with the city attorney's office to decide how and whether to challenge Wilkinson's ruling. It's a tough legal road that could stretch out for months, and still ultimately fail, if the city decides to pursue it. Leonard says he hasn't yet shared his opinion with Adams.

"He hasn't asked me," Leonard says, noting that in other cases when a city commissioner contemplates defying an arbitrator's ruling, it's usually brought before the entire council in an executive session. The semi-critical comments are a noteworthy departure for Leonard, who is close to both Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese.

Leonard made it clear he's not saying that Frashour shouldn't have been fired, just that he can't find any grounds, on his "first take" reading through Wilkinson's ruling, that Wilkinson erred. He also said that Campbell was NOT one of the people responsible for his shooting. (It should be noted that Leonard, before serving in government, was president of the Portland Fire Fighters Association and is no stranger to discipline cases and arbitration rulings.)

Leonard says he still thinks, just as he says he did in the aftermath of the shooting, that the well-documented breakdown in police communications that preceded Frashour's fatal shot is a larger problem that's yet to be satisfactorily addressed.

"That's what we have to fix. That hasn't been acknowledged [publicly, by Adams, Reese, and the community, since Wilkinson's ruling], which is troublesome," Leonard says.

"To say Mr. Frashour was the cause is a tragedy," Leonard also said. "He literally was the last person in a breakdown of incident command.... It was like a domino effect."

He raised a couple of specifics: He says the hostage negotiator who persuaded Campbell to emerge from his apartment, James Quackenbush, erred by failing to properly broadcast other officers that Campbell was coming out. He raised questions about Officer Ryan Lewton's beanbag shots—which sent Campbell running in pain after he emerged, drawing Frashour's bullet.

Leonard also called out the incident commander, Sergeant Liani Reyna, saying she walked away from the scene at a critical time to brief a superior and that she didn't properly connect the officers at the scene who ought to have been working together.

Reyna and Lewton, along with Sergeant John Birkinbine, were handed 80-hour unpaid suspensions at the same time Frashour was fired in November 2010. The Portland Police Association has challenged the suspensions along with Frashour's dismissal; Wilkinson is set to consider the suspensions next, source say.

Leonard says he felt like "80 hours was very kind" for Reyna in particular, "a minimum in my mind. But he wouldn't quite say, definitively, that she should have been fired.

"She should be held accountable," he said. "I know they're all trained better than that."

Asked why Frashour was the one who wound up singled out for dismissal, Leonard quickly replied: "I don't know."

"I wasn't consulted about that," he said. But "we should be very careful not to politicize what the arbitrator found. Which I fear we're on the verge of doing."

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