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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Terribly Wrong": Police Union Boss Posts Explosive Takedown of Frashour Firing

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Jun 5, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner has never made it much of a secret that he loathes the city's decision to fire Ron Frashour, the cop who fatally shot Aaron Campbell in the back back in January 2010. But today, in a lengthy post to the Rap Sheet, the PPA's online newsletter, Turner let loose in a way he never has before.

He writes at length about what he sees as a political witchhunt gone "terribly wrong" and aims withering vitriol at Chief Mike Reese's command staff—particularly Lieutenant Robert King, the Reese ally (and, incidentally, former PPA president) whose training review of the Campbell shooting served as the basis for Frashour's dismissal.

And he closes by asking for an independent review of the bureau's training division and senior command staff. It's devastating stuff that's sure to roil the police bureau, and it comes with the city and the PPA still fighting over whether to reinstate Frashour.

How could it be that the Bureau fired Officer Frashour for violating his training, and yet every one of his trainers and every officer and sergeant on the scene who witnessed the incident would testify that Officer Frashour’s conduct complied with his training? How could it be that the termination decision makes so many obvious factual mistakes? How could it be that members of the command staff would make fundamental errors concerning the layout of the crime scene, the location of officers on the scene, and Portland Police Bureau policies and training....

There is no underestimating the role of Lt. Robert King in producing the Bureau’s disastrously bad disciplinary decision. Lt. King wrote the entire portion of the Training Division review dealing with Officer Frashour’s conduct when using deadly force, and made the conclusion that Officer Frashour violated his training. Lt. King’s conclusions were solely and repeatedly relied on by [former North Precinct] Commander [Jim] Ferraris, the Use of Force Review Board, and by Chief Reese. However, when Lt. King was finally held to account for his work and assertions in Officer Frashour’s arbitration hearing, when he was finally forced to answer questions about what he had done, he gave testimony that was not only riddled with inconsistencies, factual mistakes, and contradictory explanations but he also made revelations that were shocking.

I've left a message for King, and I'll update if I hear back, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Turner pounds King, who later was promoted to Reese's top spokesman, as incompetent and dishonest. He says King privately disagreed with the decision to find Frashour out of policy and accuses King of letting Reese's office direct the shape of the training review instead of the bureau's trainers, who also agreed (and later testified to an arbitrator) that Frashour had done as he was taught.

Eleven trainers testified at the arbitration, either in person or by stipulation. All eleven said that Lt. King did not show them a draft of his findings and in fact had not asked for their opinion on whether Officer Frashour’s actions complied with his training. All eleven testified that they first saw Lt. King’s report long after it was finalized, and after it had been presented to Chief Reese and the Use of Force Review Board. All eleven described a tense Division-wide meeting of the Trainers and non-sworn personnel where Lt. King presented the report. It was during this meeting that Lt. King justified his conclusions by saying “the elephant in the room is the fact that we shot and killed an unarmed black man.”

Later, Turner goes on to rip into King's bosses. He lifts the lid on their testimony in the Frashour arbitration, saying the standard for using deadly force they held as acceptable would lead to cops being killed in the real world. But then he comes back to King.

Lt. King wasn’t the only City witness whose testimony would likely shock PPA members. There was Assistant Chief O’Dea testifying that a round from a .22 cannot penetrate a sliding glass door (Assistant Chief O’Dea mistakenly thought that the three college kids observing the scene from a second-floor apartment behind the custody team were behind a sliding glass door; in fact, the door was open). There was Commander Ferraris testifying exactly as you might imagine he would, with all of the connection to real-world policing you’d imagine he would have. There was Chief Reese, testifying that when Will Aitchison and I told him the trainers disagreed with Lt. King’s conclusions, he didn’t bother speaking with any of the trainers before firing Officer Frashour because Captain Day had reported to him that the trainers were “disgruntled” employees.

There was also Chief Reese testifying on the ultimate question. For him, Mr. Campbell wouldn’t have been an immediate threat unless he reached hard cover, drew his weapon, and took “offensive action” towards officers. There was Assistant Chief O’Dea testifying that for a suspect to be an immediate threat from 40 feet away, “. . . they have got to have a weapon or something that is going to be able to hurt me from that distance away; they’re going to have to produce that weapon; they’re going to have to acquire me in one of the various positions of cover I might be in.”

All of these things were startling and were a gross deviation from the way Portland police officers are trained. In my opinion, Lt. King’s words, were the worst. Lt. King had a moral and civic obligation to conduct a full and thorough training review based on the facts; not on political pressure. He had the opportunity to stand up for basic principles of right and wrong, the basic principles of training. For whatever reason, he chose not to.

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