Saltzman: Road rage cops may have to undergo anger management

From the Portland Observer, April 12, 2010

Dan Saltzman, Police Commissioner

Dan Saltzman, Police Commissioner

This Sunday, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman granted the Portland Observer an interview on the maiden broadcast of “The Portland Observer Hour” on Portland Community Media.

Last week, Sgt. Kyle Nice, an officer involved in the death of James Chasse, was involved in a road rage incident in Washington County.

On Friday, the Oregonian reported that Sgt. Scott Westerman, head of the police union, is under investigation for a similar incident.

When asked about the incidents, Saltzman had serious words.

“Well, let me say first of all, to me, it’s completely unacceptable, these incidents,” said Saltzman.

He also had some interesting remarks about Westerman, who lead a massive demonstration of the police union and held a vote of no confidence on Saltzman and Police Chief Rosie Sizer when Saltzman moved to suspend Christoper Humphreys, an officer also involved in the Chasse incident, after it was revealed he shot a 12-year-old girl with a beanbag gun during an altercation at a MAX stop. The union withheld the results of the vote after Saltzman backed down.

“Scott Westerman is also being reviewed. He’s a little bit different because he’s the head of the union right now. We’ll see how long that may last,” said Saltzman.

“I will consider discipline of him too,” Saltzman continued. “But we’re still completely the internal affairs investigation right now.”

“Well, I think at a minimum, I’m going to have both Sgt. Nice and Sgt. Westerman undergo some anger management counseling,” said Saltzman. “But that’s not really discipline. I mean that’s something to me that’s not discipline, that’s something based on what happened that needs to occur.”

When questioned what he would do if the union held another march, Saltzman had this to say:

“But, yeah, I mean they’re welcome to march. They’ve done that before, and that hasn’t changed my opinion on things or how I perceive things,” he said.

Saltzman also wants the upcoming contract negotiations with the police union to include a provision that allows for drug testing of officers involved in shootings. He also wants annual performance reviews of officers.

“What we may have to bargain for is what do we do with those reviews,” he added.

When asked about why the Mental Health Association of Portland wasn’t included in discussions to craft a set of recommendations geared toward better equipping police officers for encounters with the mentally ill, Saltzman said that Jason Renaud, one of its most outspoken members, flatly refused to participate.

The topic of racial profiling also came up. Saltzman didn’t deny it happens, but didn’t seem to think it’s something officers deliberately do. Instead, he seemed to suggest that everyone takes race into account in their day-to-day lives, whether they intend to or not. When asked if the police union’s denial that the phenomenon occurs in Portland was an obstacle, he had this to say:

“We don’t bargain over this. This is something we handle through policies and procedures that we have, the chief, I should say, has full ability to take into account,” said Saltzman. “I guess what I’m trying to say, is that part of it – biased-based policy, racial profiling- is endemic to everybody. I think that’s something we all have to work at overcoming.”

He also had this to say about the police union.

“I don’t always think the police union speaks for many of the views and opinions of rank and file officers, and I base that on my years of experience, especially in the last year and a half talking to many many officers,” said Saltzman.

He also added:

“I think there’s kind of disconnect. I think the union gets itself too rigid, and I don’t think it fully represents the views of all rank and file officers, including on points like whether racial profiling exists a not.”

Saltzman had so much more to say on issues ranging from making the force more diverse, his top-to-bottom overhaul of police procedures, and gang violence.