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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Police Chief Maybe Softening His Refusal to Punish Cop in Domestic Violence Case

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Police Chief Mike Reese was pointedly clear when he wrote the Citizen Review Committee—a volunteer panel tasked with handling police misconduct appeals—and said he wouldn't overturn a discipline finding that cleared a controversial cop accused of menacing his ex-wife and her new husband.

The letter, sent January 23, was first reported by the Mercury last month. Reese wrote, in part:

I found no evidence that the basis of the recommended finding was unreasonable and find that there is sufficient evidence in the record for a reasonable fact finder to come to a finding of UNPROVEN WITH A DEBRIEFING.

The cop in question, Jason Lobaugh, has a bit of a checkered history. His ex-wife, Laurie Grant, accused him, while off-duty, of instigating three confrontations over a six-week span in late 2012 as part of a custody dispute. Among the accusations: he called her new husband a "little bitch." Lobaugh, however, was cleared by his commander of violating the bureau's rules on professionalism. The CRC disagreed and urged Reese to overturn that ruling.

That impasse, with the chief refusing a unanimous vote by the CRC, was supposed to head back to the panel during a hearing tonight. And if the CRC and chief couldn't come to a decision, the appeal would head to the city council for a decision. (That's only happened once. Ever. In 2003. According to Portland Copwatch, that case saw the council split the difference and opt for an "unproven" finding.) But the chief, it was announced tonight, has asked for more time before a final decision is issued. Faced with that council hearing, Reese is thinking of changing his mind.

"Chief Reese reconsidered that and asked for additional time to think bout the committee's findings and look at some other material," said Jamie Troy, the CRC's chairman.

Constantin Severe, the city's Independent Police Review director, said he expects a decision in April, in time for the CRC's next scheduled meeting.

"That would be my expectation," Severe says. "All of these cases have clocks on them. And we can't have it staying in stasis. I've expressed my concern that this case cannot be hiatus on a longterm basis."

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