Portland Police Chief Mike Reese Seeks 9 New Sergeants For Use-of-Force Investigations

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Friday, January 20, 2012

Mike Reese Looks On

Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press
Portland police Chief Mike Reese, center, looks on after police arrested some Occupy Portland demonstrators who refused to move from Southwest Main Street after Mayor Sam Adams ordered the street be opened to traffic.

Portland police Chief Mike Reese wants the City Council to pay for nine new sergeants’ positions to help the bureau change how it investigates officer use of force.

The new policy, recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice during its ongoing inquiry into Portland police practices, requires sergeants to go out to scenes and start investigations into all police use of force that results in injuries or when a person complains an officer used inappropriate force that caused injury.

Reese said he’ll ask the Council for an additional sergeant per shift at each of the bureau’s three precincts, at a time when the bureau is considering holding 20 officer positions vacant and looking for up to $6 million in budget cuts next fiscal year.

“It’s complicating the budget discussion a little bit,” Reese told a bureau budget advisory council this month. “It will require more sergeants on patrol than we currently have.”

More: The Oregonian’s continuing coverage of the U.S. Department of Justice inquiry into the Portland Police Bureau.

The new directive was signed Jan. 1 and took effect Jan. 15. Supervisors received training the first two weeks of this month to learn how to secure or photograph evidence, obtain statements from officers and witnesses and document it all in a use of force after-action report that’s to be forwarded to an assistant chief.

Meanwhile, the Portland Police Association – the union that represents rank-and-file officers, sergeants, criminalists and detectives – filed a grievance with the city on Jan. 6, objecting to the new policy.

Officer Daryl Turner, union president, urged the city to vacate the new policy, arguing in the grievance that the city had to negotiate the impacts of the policy on sergeants’ wages, hours, workload and safety.

The union further urged the city to provide “no less than a 3 percent wage increase and 10 percent FTO (field training officer) pay” for all sergeants due to their increased workload.

Currently, a patrol sergeant makes $85,051 after four years in the rank. A sergeant working in the investigative branch or criminalist division now receives 3 percent higher pay.

The union said the additional pay should be granted, retroactive to the policy’s adoption.

The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation in June to determine if there was a pattern of excessive force used by Portland police, particularly involving people who suffer from mental illness. The investigation is continuing.