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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nope, the City's Embarrassing $2.3 Million Payout Can't be Explained by Color Blindness

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 1:59 PM

It should be easy to tell fatal shotgun rounds from the "less-lethal" (though still incredibly painful) beanbag rounds cops use to incapacitate arrestees. The "live" round shells are bright red. The beanbags' shells are described as a "milky white."

But as Portland City Council this morning OKd a hefty settlement to a young man mistakenly shot with live ammo, Commissioner Amanda Fritz posed an interesting question: Does Portland test its officers for color blindness?

"I think we should be looking at every single factor," Fritz said.

Deputy City Attorney Jim Rice said he'd check into the matter. Portland Police Spokesman Pete Simpson wasn’t immediately sure. Turns out: Police recruits are tested before employment, and disqualified if they’re found to be color blind.

So the condition played no part in the dangerous errors of Officer Dane Reister— who in June 2011 mistakenly believed he was firing beanbag rounds at William Kyle Monroe, a man suffering a manic incident in a Portland park.

The difference between a red shotgun shell and a whitish-gray shotgun shell, in this instance, cost the city a great deal of embarrassment and a record amount of settlement money. Council this morning approved spending $965,000, the city's portion of the $2.3 million settlement Monroe will receive. The rest of that money will be paid through insurance.

"This had never occurred before," said Rice, who searched around for examples of similar mix-ups nationally. "I think it was a first-time instance."

The city has already taken lessons from the incident. It now prohibits officers from carrying both live and less-lethal rounds on their person, Rice said. Reister, who fired at Monroe five times causing permanent injury, faces possible criminal conviction in the case, and is on paid leave.

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