This Week in the Mercury


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Police Chief Aims to Ease Concerns About Federal Reform After Weekend of Officer Injuries

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Police Chief Mike Reese, in a YouTube video first mentioned by the Oregonian, took the unusual step this week of addressing his officers about a recent spate of injuries during police calls—a run that would be disconcerting for cops no matter what, but one that's proving especially difficult as the bureau refines its use of force policies under federal order.

Near the end of his remarks, Reese goes out of his way to mention the federal reform effort, which is still being hashed out between the cops, city hall, the feds, and, let's still hope, the community. He said "safety" remains his top goal for officers and acknowledges uncertainty over new policies that seek to limit and discourage Taser use, for example, promote de-escalation, and also require cops to better articulate their initial decisions to use force.

One incident over the weekend involved an officer who was briefly pulled into a car window by a fleeing suspect who then rammed a police car. A day later, two other officers scrapped with a man who had left a residential mental health facility and was accused of assaulting others. In that incident, the two cops were treated at a hospital. I wondered if, in years past, either or both of these cases would have resulted in deadly force.

I'd also been wondering, as I read about these, whether anyone might be looking to these incidents as cause for any extra concern over the proposed changes (it can't be understated that cops and police leaders are always generally upset whenever an officer is injured, no matter the current political climate). I've asked Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner for comment and will update if I hear back.

Reese, in the video, certainly seemed to entertain the possibility.

UPDATE 3:10 PM:
Turner didn't return my call from this morning, as noted above. But he did manage to get in touch with the Oregonian a few minutes ago. Maxine Bernstein updated her story with his comments. And, why yes, it turns out my instinct to give him a ring for some juicy copy was correct. He sees using constitutional amounts of force, as the feds would define it, as a zero-sum game.

Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner said officers are very concerned about being "second guessed'' regarding their use of force. Turner said he believes the increase in police injuries since the Justice Department's settlement was announced last month "is not coincidental."

And...

Turner said he was dismayed that no street officers were involved in helping the bureau provide input to proposed revisions to the bureau's use of force policies.

"We have a rash of injuries to officers in incidents that probably could have been resolved more efficiently if officers weren't so concerned about being Monday morning quarterbacked,'' Turner said. "We believe the proposed use of force policy will hinder officers from using tools that are available to them.''

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