From the Portland Mercury, October 7 2009
City Commissioner Randy Leonard came to the rare defense of Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman during the council session this morning (October 7 2009), with one of his classic rhetorical blow-ups. Why keep an ongoing conflict at a slow burn when you can ramp it up to boiling point with a few choice remarks?
“The bureau should be looking just as seriously into gender discrimination as well as racial profiling,” said Dan Handleman of Portland Copwatch this morning, commenting on the city’s vote to pay out $27,500 to an “emotionally challenged” woman who had sex with an on-duty police officer in June 2007.
Handelman said Saltzman has told him he thinks it’s best to weed out pervo-cops in the recruitment phase, but that’s evidently not good enough, pointing out that Officer Jason Faulk is the fifth police officer in three years to leave the bureau over alleged sexual misconduct. He also criticized the small size of the settlement, saying the case seemed to be about “the apparent rape of a mentally challenged woman by a police officer.”
“Since there’s 850 or so men on the police force, we hope that this council will consider directing some kind of gender bias training,” said Handelman.
Fair enough, right? Well, not for Leonard, who hit back: “One of the things Chief Sizer criticized me for was that I took you seriously,” he said. “I thought you came off as balanced and reasonable and rational, but today it strikes me that you have characterized the police bureau in a way that they can never win with you.”
“I’m very disappointed that you sought to cast a wider net, to cast a wider pall over the bureau, and by reference Commissioner Saltzman, it disappoints me, and this didn’t help our relationship,” Leonard continued. “The result in this case was that the man was fired.”
Handleman responded: “In the same way that we live in a culture that is steeped in racism, we live in a culture that is steeped in misogyny, and I hope that you agree with that, and that there should be some kind of training on that,” he said.
Leonard didn’t respond on the training issue, but did say: “Well, you should have said that.”
To put Leonard’s remarks in context, they may have less to do with Handelman, than the ongoing political pressure on Saltzman as police commissioner, and repairing some of the apparent undermining Leonard has been doing of Saltzman in that role over recent weeks. Saltzman recently went against the wishes of Leonard, Amanda Fritz, and Nick Fish—a majority of council—on another police oversight matter. And the police commissioner has also come under fire for his handling of the inquiry into the death in custody of James Chasse, a man suffering with schizophrenia. Oregonian columnist Anna Griffin even suggested Mayor Sam Adams should take the bureau back from Saltzman last week, over the issue. So Leonard, it seems, decided this morning to back Saltzman up for a change, rather than risk the perception that he might be siding with Griffin and risk a further fissure on council, over the handling of the police bureau.
“The facts in this case are chilling,” said City Commissioner Nick Fish, about the settlement. “A comment was made about the size of the settlement, and what gives me some cause here is that the plaintiff is represented by the Steenson firm, who I believe are representing the Chasse family. So the plaintiff has had excellent counsel. No amount of money can erase the damage done by things like this. But there is no place on the police bureau for an officer who engages in behavior like this.”