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Letting Go Is the Hardest Part

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chief Reese Still Hasn't Decided If He'll Change His Mind on Not Punishing Cop in Domestic Violence Case

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 7:21 PM

It was supposed to be settled last month. Until it wasn't. Then it was supposed to settled this month—as in, tonight. Until it wasn't.

And now, it seems, we'll wait until as late as May 7 to hear whether Police Chief Mike Reese is going to change his mind—officially—and defer to a citizen panel that urged him way back in December to overturn a police bureau decision not to punish a controversial cop accused of menacing his ex-wife and her new husband.

The Citizen Review Committee, tasked with hearing appeals in police misconduct cases, voted unanimously at its regular meeting tonight to set a "conference" hearing with the chief to talk about whatever decision he does arrive at.

Everyone thought that conference hearing would have happened well before March—following a January 23 letter from Reese in which he politely refused the CRC's unanimous request to sanction Officer Jason Lobaugh for his off-duty conduct.

"I believe the commander and members of the Police Review Board made a reasoned decision and that there is a rational logical connection between the recommended finding and the evidence in the record. Alternatively, 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."

But Reese wasn't invited to last month's meeting—because, it came out during a discussion on his absence, he was thinking about changing his mind. Instead, everyone said Reese or a designee would show up tonight, and that it wouldn't take him more than another month to figure out where he stood.

"Due to complications," Constantin Severe, the director of the Independent Police Review Division, reiterated tonight, not specifying those complications, "it was pulled back."

Those complications might involve what would happen if the chief and CRC both stick to their respective positions. The appeal would head before the Portland City Council—for only the second time ever. Chiefs have been loath to let that happen. Reese and the CRC came close to a city council hearing in another appeal last year—but that was on a close vote, and one of the CRC members who'd voted to challenge the chief changed her mind during the conference hearing.

This challenge was unanimous, making the odds of a reversal incredibly long. That pressure could be why Reese is spending months and months and months with this case—at the same time as the city has been accused by the federal Department of Justice for taking far too long to adjudicate discipline.

"The chief expects to have a response prior to the committee hearing," deputy city attorney Mark Amberg said tonight.

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