Portland Police Chief Mike Reese stressed multiple times during testimony before an arbitrator that Aaron Campbell posed no immediate threat to police before Officer Ronald Frashour shot him.
“We don’t have a right to shoot him. He never displayed a weapon. He didn’t take any offensive action towards the officer,” Reese said in a sworn statement. “We can’t use force on him.”
For Campbell to have posed an immediate threat, the chief testified, he would have had to take an “offensive action” — “turn toward us, pull something out, take a shooting stance.”
The chief’s testimony Sept. 23, 2011, obtained by The Oregonian, stunned Portland police, union leaders and the union’s use-of-force expert, who say the chief articulated a new standard, one that’s inconsistent with their training. And in the end, the arbitrator discounted the chief’s stance in her March ruling that ordered the city to reinstate Frashour, who was fired in November 2010.
READ – Deposition of Portland Police Bureau Chief Mike Reese
READ – Deposition of W. Ken Katsaris, a ‘police training expert’ and hired witness of the Portland Police Association
READ – Deposition of James McCabe, a criminal justice professor, and hired witness of the City of Portland
It was yet another example of what the Campbell family’s attorney Tom Steenson has called a serious “disconnect” between Portland police command staff and bureau trainers that needs to be addressed for public safety.
“Courts have recognized (as does the Portland Police Bureau, according to evidence at the hearing) that an officer is not required to “await the glint of steel” before acting because it then may be ‘too late to take safety precautions,'” arbitrator Jane Wilkinson wrote.
A Portland police trainer’s testimony directly conflicted with the chief’s. Police are taught that if an officer reasonably believes a person is a significant immediate threat of death or serious physical injury, the officer would not have to wait to see a gun or see what the suspect intends to do with that gun, and would need to take “pre-emptive action.”
Their training drills into officers the action-reaction principle that a suspect can pull a gun and shoot faster than an officer reacts.
On Jan. 29, 2010, Campbell, distraught and suicidal about his brother’s death, emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment with his back toward officers and his hands behind his head. Officer Ryan Lewton, trying to get Campbell to put his hands in the air, fired six beanbag rounds at him. Campbell ran toward a parked car and Frashour shot Campbell once in the back, killing him. Campbell was not armed, but Frashour said he thought Campbell was reaching for a gun.
The arbitrator found that a reasonable officer could have concluded that Campbell was armed and reaching for a gun. Mayor Sam Adams has refused to honor the ruling, and the city is challenging it before a state panel.
The chief testified that Campbell posed no immediate threat because police were called for a welfare check; no crime had occurred; Campbell had threatened no one but himself; and he emerged voluntarily without threatening police or showing a weapon.
During Reese’s cross-examination, union attorney Will Aitchison asked the chief again, would Campbell have had to “pull the gun out,” for him to be an immediate threat?
Reese answered: “They have to have somebody who is displaying something, a weapon, or some offensive action before he’s immediate.”
W. Ken Katsaris, an expert who has testified on behalf of the city in the past but was hired by the union in the Frashour arbitration, called Reese’s standard unusual.
Katsaris, noting that he’s been in law enforcement for 50 years and has spent 45 years training police, testified: “I have never heard of the fact that you have to see a gun or some action such as presenting the firearm first. I have never seen a court decision that ever required that. And I have never seen a policy or a directive or another police chief or sheriff in the country that has indicated that, in my experience.”
Katsaris further blasted the bureau’s physical-force policy, adopted in 2008, which is more restrictive than state or federal law. The directive says officers should accomplish the bureau’s mission “as effectively as possible with as little reliance on force as practical.”
The policy continues, “The Bureau places a high value on resolving confrontations, when practical, with less force than the maximum that may be allowed by law.”
Katsaris, who worked as a St. Petersburg officer and a Leon County Sheriff in Florida, characterized the directive as “feel-good value statements” that don’t give police guidance on when force should be used. “It’s untrainable, it’s untenable, it’s unreasonable, it’s wrong … and it’s left up for an interpretation,” he testified.
The city countered that Deputy City Attorney Dave Woboril in 2009 repeatedly has trained all officers, including Frashour, on the new bureau standard.
“Authority to act first”
A city-hired expert, James McCabe, a retired New York Police Department inspector who teaches criminal justice at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., testified that the action-reaction principle does not give the police the “authority to act first.”
It’s understood that a person “looking to pull a weapon and shoot an officer” is at a tactical advantage, he said.
“However,” McCabe testified, “that does not give license, if you will, to take preemptive force to prevent that. … Wait. … Allow the situation to unfold. Remain behind cover, maintain tactical advantage, and then wait for a peaceful resolution.”
The chief and McCabe argued that Campbell posed a “potential threat,” but police had superior firepower and a police dog, and Campbell was running away from officers. Even if he’d made it behind a parked car or back to his girlfriend’s apartment, police could have called in tactical officers to reassess. If Campbell was an immediate threat, they testified, why didn’t other officers fire their guns.
“I think Frashour overreacted,” McCabe testified. “He used a preemptive force to stop a potential threat. He should have waited.”
The union expert countered that Campbell was said to have talked about “suicide by cop” in the past, surprised police when he emerged from his girlfriend’s apartment, failed to follow orders to put his hands in the air and had texted his girlfriend, “Don’t make me get my gun. I ain’t playing.”
Katsaris said it was important for Campbell to put his hands in the air; officers are taught that he could have been palming or concealing a small-caliber gun with his hands behind his head.
In his termination letter, Reese cited Frashour’s “rigid and inflexible” approach to policing, and referred to an August 2008 incident in which Frashour rammed into the wrong car as police were trying to stop a reckless driver and his 2006 firing of a Taser at Frank Waterhouse, who was videotaping officers chasing a suspect. He also testified that Frashour’s firing was “the only correct decision to make with the loss of life.”
“I don’t think that we could improve his decision-making to where I could feel comfortable putting him back as a Portland police officer,” the chief testified.
Yet Reese broke ranks with the mayor this year, saying he did not support the city’s challenge of the arbitrator’s order. Reese declined comment for this story, citing the ongoing matter before the state Employment Relations Board.
No closure in Aaron Campbell killing
It is difficult to believe the unnecessary and fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell would hold yet more repugnant surprises. But the news this week that the Portland Police Bureau’s chief spokesman, Lt. Robert King, may have changed his sworn testimony about the findings of his review into the tragedy pushes our patience to the extreme.
King’s role and his words throughout the Campbell proceedings need immediate investigation. Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese were correct Thursday in requesting that the city’s independent auditor review arbitration and grand jury testimonies not only of King but of all witnesses to the shooting.
The sorry truth in this more than two-year-old case has been slow to arrive and isn’t here yet. The independent arbitrator reviewing the case, Jane R. Wilkinson, last year heard testimony that King and an associate had concluded in five successive draft reports that Officer Ronald Frashour, who fired the fatal shot, acted in a way that was consistent with his training. In a sixth and final report, however, King concluded otherwise.
READ – Partial transcript of Robert King’s testimony about the investigation of the shooting of Aaron Campbell by Ronald Frashour.
READ – Attorneys for Portland consider Frashour’s fatal shooting ‘unjustified and egregious’, The Oregonian
READ – City of Portland brief to the Employment Relations Board re. termination of Ronald Frashour
Now, an arbitration transcript obtained by The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein shows King is on record as saying that he had never really asked police trainers to review the incident for him and that he discounted their opinions anyway because he felt they would be disinclined to rule against a fellow cop.
But King, who oversaw the training division’s review, ultimately decided Frashour had acted inappropriately. And Reese and Adams would soon fire Frashour.
Following the arbitrator’s ruling that Frashour acted in a manner consistent with his training, Reese swung around to support Frashour’s reinstatement. But Adams, as police commissioner, insists Frashour remain off the force and has a raft of arguments drafted by city attorneys to support his position.
King, it is worth noting, was sufficiently tortured by his reviewer role that he first considered demotion to avoid it, Bernstein reported. “I thought that I should revert to being a sergeant, because I didn’t want to take a position against an officer that would be harmful to him and his career, that could result in his termination,” he testified.
The unspeakable result for Aaron Campbell was mortal termination.
Transparency in the Campbell proceedings continues to lag. And the battle between City Hall and the union for control of the Police Bureau continues and clouds everything going forward.
On Friday, Adams was near exasperation.
“I’m calling the union out on this,” he told The Oregonian. “The selective release of arbitration transcripts is a federal violation. Our auditor will get the whole picture. And she will find what she finds. I am confident. I stand by our review.”
But we’re calling everyone out on this. The city of Portland needs closure and healing from the egregious killing of Campbell. And it won’t come in the next batch of dueling accounts of who said what to whom and when.
While Wilkinson cited federal law to support her view that a suspect reaching into a pocket could be viewed by a police sniper as armed, we take the view that anyone running away after being pelted by beanbags should first be seen as frightened rather than a serious threat. Not seeing that appears to be a failure of police action or police training or both.
More than two years ago, the Albina Ministerial Alliance correctly and effectively protested Campbell’s shooting as another inappropriate use of force against an unarmed, innocent citizen who posed no real threat. Yet Portland police won’t get it right until Campbell’s case is fully vetted, understood by everyone to mean the same thing and the source of learning both on the force and in the community.
The auditor’s review should be as swift as it is comprehensive, offering a legible path forward.
Portland police union calls for inquiry into testimony of Lt. Robert King, others in Ron Frashour firing
From The Oregonian, June 8, 2012
In sworn testimony before a state arbitrator in September, Portland police Lt. Robert King characterized the training division’s analysis of Officer Ronald Frashour’s fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell as a “coordinated effort among bureau training instructors.”
King, who oversaw the division’s review of the shooting and now serves as Portland police spokesman, told the arbitrator that he discussed the shooting “extensively” with seven bureau instructors and showed them a draft of his review. The review, King testified, concluded that Frashour did not act according to his training.
But King broke down in tears under cross-examination after union attorney Will Aitchison entered into evidence five drafts between May 12 and June 20, 2010, in which King found that Frashour had acted appropriately, before he suddenly concluded the opposite in his final June 21, 2010, review.
When grilled by the union attorney, King’s sworn testimony also changed and he acknowledged that he did not ask any trainers to review the full investigative files of the shooting and included none of their opinions in his final review, according to a transcript of King’s testimony obtained by The Oregonian. King testified over three days in late September 2011.
Police union leaders said the unusual turn of events suggests that Frashour’s firing was politically motivated and have asked for an independent investigation of King’s testimony and that of other city witnesses. They point to the fact that the review was done by a new lieutenant who veered from past practice by shutting out the opinions of lead police trainers, and that the findings changed after the May 12, 2010, appointment of Chief Mike Reese.
Further, the arbitration testimony revealed that the Portland Police Bureau has no policy or procedure for how its training reviews of police actions are to be done.
“As these drafts are being written, and as Lieutenant King changes his mind, the police chief is fired, we get a new police chief, appointed by a mayor who has already passed judgment on Officer Frashour,” Aitchison argued before the arbitrator. “The timing of this, I think, is significant.”
Mayor Sam Adams, who serves as police commissioner, called the union’s criticism of King “reprehensible and wrong,” likened it to “character assassination” and said it should be disregarded. “Enough is enough: (the) police union should stop bullying those who disagree with them,” Adams said.
Reese defended King, who would not comment for this story, as “well-qualified” to conduct the training review.
“To be clear, there was never an agreement between Mayor Adams and me prior to my appointment as chief of police regarding the outcome of this matter,” Reese wrote in a prepared statement. “To say otherwise is ludicrous and insulting.”
Trainers contradict King’s testimony
Aitchision asked why King, a new lieutenant at the time who hadn’t been a training instructor for at least 14 years, would ignore the opinions of the bureau’s training experts.
His answer: He doubted the training officers would rule against a fellow cop.
“One of the problems that we have in this situation is the trainers historically have not wanted to — I don’t think that they’ve wanted to write reviews that conclude that officers are out of training, for different reasons,” King testified. “It can have harmful effects in, say, a disciplinary proceeding like this one.”
Six of the seven police instructors from whom King said he had sought input contradicted his testimony, saying that no such conversations took place. Each testified that the first time they saw King’s training review was in September 2010, months after the final version was presented to a Use of Force Review Board, a panel of police and citizens who recommend discipline.
When King finally did share the final review, the lead training instructors objected in a tense meeting.
King, one trainer testified, responded by saying the bureau couldn’t ignore the political backdrop, and told them: “the elephant in the room is the fact that we shot and killed an unarmed black man.”
“I was disappointed because I think at that moment me and every other lead instructor, as I found out later, felt that that analysis was not immune to the political pressures of this case,” the defensive tactics instructor testified.
The testimony echoed concerns raised by Campbell’s family attorney, Tom Steenson, about the need for the chief to address an obvious “disconnect” between command staff and police trainers on bureau training and policy.
Said Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner: “Lt. King had a moral and civil obligation to conduct a full and thorough training review based on the facts; not on political pressure.”
Under questioning from the union lawyer, King said he regretted not including the trainers’ opinions, and during his cross-examination sought to explain how his decision-making evolved.
He testified that as a former union president and as an officer who’d had two fatal shootings scrutinized by the bureau, he was reluctant to rule against Frashour. He even considered a demotion to avoid doing so.
“This report, going through this process, was the single-most difficult thing that I’ve done in my police career,” he testified, through tears. “I was a probationary lieutenant at the time, and I contemplated demoting. I thought that I should revert to being a sergeant because I didn’t want to take a position against an officer that would be harmful to him and his career, that could result in his termination. I’d been with officers throughout the course of my career who have made those difficult decisions, and I’ve been with them and didn’t want to see them harmed.”
Up until a point, King testified, he was reluctant to be critical of Frashour’s actions.
“He’s (Frashour) saying all these sorts of things that I would expect to hear him and other officers in a situation like this to say. But it’s incumbent upon us as a Police Bureau to look very carefully and very thoughtfully, without regard to what anyone else will think or feel … at what they did and why they did it, and, if necessary, arrive at conclusions that are not what trainers or other officers or the officer himself or the union would like.”
King denied that he had been swayed by anyone in the chief’s office to find that Frashour had not complied with training. However the union submitted an email that King received from a sergeant in the chief’s office June 23, 2010, with an edited version of King’s training review attached. The subject line said, “Changes I’ve made.”
Although King had no extensive talks with the bureau’s training instructors, now-retired Officer Mike Stradley testified that King called him to discuss the shooting in depth, and at that time, they agreed that Frashour had acted as trained.
Just before Reese sent Frashour his final termination letter, Turner, the union president, and Aitchison, the union attorney, met with the chief. At that point, the union wasn’t aware of the multiple training draft reviews, but did alert the chief that the bureau’s lead instructors had disagreed with King’s findings and found that Frashour had followed his training.
When called to testify before the arbitrator, Reese was asked whether he had spoken to any of the trainers to verify that. The chief said no, but he did ask then-training Capt. Bob Day — who was at the scene of the Campbell shooting — about it. Day dismissed the union concern, telling the chief the trainers were “disgruntled,” Reese testified.
Portland mayor asks city auditor to review arbitration testimony in Frashour case
Mayor Sam Adams Thursday night said he has asked the city auditor to conduct a review of the testimony offered in the arbitration hearings on the firing of Officer Ron Frashour “in light of the serious accusations” made by the Portland police union president.
Adams request comes a day after Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner called for an independent investigation of Lt. Robert King’s testimony and that of other command staff.
Union leaders argue that Frashour’s firing for his fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell on Jan. 29, 2010 was politically motivated. The union pointed to the fact that the bureau’s training review of the shooting was done by Lt. Robert King, who was relatively new in the training division at the time, and veered from past practice by shutting out the opinions of lead police training instructors.
King’s testimony before an arbitrator in September 2011, according to transcripts obtained by The Oregonian and reported in a story that ran in the paper Thursday, changed during his cross-examination by union attorney Will Aitchison.
During his direct examination, King first characterized the training division’s analysis of the shooting as a “coordinated effort among bureau training instructors.” He said he had discussed the shooting “extensively” with seven bureau instructors and showed them a draft of the review, which found Frashour did not act according to his training.
Yet King broke down in tears under cross examination after the union attorney entered into evidence five drafts of training reviews King wrote between May 12 and June 20, 2010, in which King found that Frashour had acted appropriately, before he suddenly concluded the opposite in his final June 21, 2010 review. King also acknowledged during cross-examination that he did not ask any trainers to review the full investigative files of the shooting and included none of their opinions in his final review, according to the transcripts.
When the union president first called for an independent investigation on Wednesday, the mayor released a statement, saying the union should stop “bullying” those they disagree with and that the “union’s rant should be disregarded.”
By Thursday night, Adams released this statement: “Tonight I asked the city’s independently elected auditor to review the testimony in the Frashour arbitration matter. This request is in light of the very serious accusations the Portland Police Union president made against members of the PPB command staff – as well as the Chief and me – in an attempt to discredit them.”
Turner, reached Thursday night, said he had not seen the mayor’s statement and could not comment.
On his Facebook page, the mayor released his letter to the auditor:
As you know a recent article in the Rap Sheet written by PPA president Daryl Turner called into question the involvement, decision making and ethics of myself, Chief of Police Mike Reese and various members of Police command staff in the Ronald Frashour arbitration matter. On behalf of Chief Reese and myself, I am writing to request that you complete an independent review of the testimony of all Bureau members who were involved -from the initial interviews through arbitration hearings.
Thank you and I appreciate your willingness to accept this request.
Mayor asks auditor to review Campbell shooting testimony
Auditor says she will lead a team to look for material inconsistencies that require further investigation
From the Portland Tribune, June 7, 2012
Mayor Sam Adams has asked City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade to review all of the testimony given by city employees related to the police killing of Aaron Campbell.
The request, which was emailed to Griffin-Valade Thursday evening, includes all the testimony given during the arbitration proceedings that reversed the decision by Adams to fire Ron Frashour, the officer who shot Campbell.
Griffin-Valade tells the Portland Tribune she will lead a four-person team from within her office that will review the testimony given by city employees in all administrative reviews conducted by the Portland Police Bureau into the shooting, as well as all testimony given during the arbitration hearings. Griffin-Valade said the review will look for material inconsistencies that could require further investigation. If the team finds any, they will be investigated by the Independent Police Review division of the auditor’s office.
“I hope to wrap this up as expeditiously as possible because this is a matter of great public concern,” said Griffin-Valade.
Adams is refusing to obey the arbitrator and rehire Frashour. The Portland Police Association that represents rank-and-file bureau employees has filed an unfair labor practice in the matter with the state Employment Relations Board and has also demanded that Frashour be re-hired.
Adams’ request comes after PPA President Daryl Turner wrote an article in the police union newspaper the Rap Sheet saying the decision to fire Frashour was political. Among other things, Turner said then-training Lt. Robert King only said Frashour violated bureau policies in the final version of his report on the matter.
The earlier drafts did not say Frashour violated bureau policies, wrote Turner, who also said King did not ask any training officers to review his drafts or the investigative files.
Frashour shot Campbell in the back with a sniper rifle after a lengthy police standoff at a Northeast Portland motel in January 2010 Although police had been told Campbell was armed, he did not have a gun on him when he was shot.
At the time of his death, Campbell, an African-American, was upset by the recent death of his brother. The killing sparked community protests, including a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who denounced it.
Adams and then-Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman subsequently asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate it and a number of other incidents where the police killed minority members. The review is ongoing.
Adams took the police bureau from Saltzman before firing Frashour.
Here is the email Adams sent to Griffin-Valade:
As you know, a recent article in the Rap Sheet written by PPA President Daryl Turner called into question the involvement, decision making and ethics of myself, Chief of Police Mike Reese, and various members of Police command staff in the Ronald Frashour arbitration matter. On behalf of Chief Reese and myself, I am writing to request that you complete an independent review of the testimony of all Bureau members who were involved–from the initial interviews through arbitration hearings.
Thank you, and I appreciate your willingness to accept this request.
Sam Adams – Mayor
READ – Portland Auditor Agrees To Review Police Shooting Case, OPB.org
READ – Adams asks for independent review of Campbell shooting testimony, KOIN.com
READ – BREAKING: Mayor Asks Auditor to Review Frashour Arbitration Testimony, Portland Mercury