Cornett: Police union members should reject no-confidence measure to maintain public trust

Charlie Burr

In an Oregonian guest opinion today, Blue Oregon contributor Jesse Cornett urges police union members to reject the no-confidence measure targeted at Commissioner Saltzman and Chief Sizer:

This week, your union executive board is asking you to take a vote of no confidence on Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer and Commissioner Dan Saltzman. I'd like to urge you to vote against this measure for your own benefit and, more important, so as not to lose the faith of the public you've sworn to protect.

I'm withholding my judgment about whether Officer Christopher Humphreys behaved appropriately during the recent incident in which he fired a beanbag round at the leg of a 12-year-old girl at point-blank range. Because Humphreys and his partner were reported to have been responding to an incident that could have required the force of a beanbag shotgun, Humphreys had his loaded and at the ready. When the situation rapidly changed, he had to assist his fellow officer. He didn't have time to secure his shotgun; he had to act. Understood.

Humphreys may or may not have been justified in shooting the girl; only time and a review of bureau policy will tell. And until he is cleared of wrongdoing, residents of Portland need to know that if you cross the line, there is some accountability. As you know, the investigation of a previous incident involving Humphreys (the death of James Chasse Jr.) remained open for three years. The officers within your ranks -- and all Portlanders -- can be assured that with an officer on paid leave, the current case will be investigated much faster.

But to vote no confidence in the chief of police or the city commissioner in charge of the Police Bureau is the worst kind of politics -- the kind of politics that your union leadership seems to be simultaneously decrying. It is unwise of you to support your fellow officers at any or all cost. When former Portland Officer Joseph Wild was indicted last year on charges of harassing not only his fellow officers but teenage girls while on duty, union leadership showed up, saying only, "We're here to show Joey a friendly face."

When your colleagues take actions that erode the public confidence in what you do, the last thing you should show them is a friendly face. And if there's a substantiated allegation of excessive use of force, hyperbole should fall to the wayside in favor of an investigation.

Read the rest here.


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    Nice score for Jesse, but not many commenters seemed to understand the post in the comments section of O-live.

    I think that he made a very important point about blind support of your "brothers and sisters".

    These guys remind me of the old biker days, where rule #1 for "club bikers" was to protect your bro'. I wound up never joining a club (I was in a union once for about two months), because I'm more libertarian minded than the famously anarchistic 1%ers.

    If your "brother" does something really stupid and dangerous, (say in a bar or at a bus stop) you do in fact rush to judgement. You protect him without reservation. As far as I'm concerned, it's about personal responsibility and taking your lumps when you've got it coming.

    I used to tell potential bros that if they started something, I wouldn't help them finish it unless they were prone on the floor getting the aforementioned ribs caved in by drunken opponents in engineer boots, a problem unlikely to occur in the case of a centurion remanded to the tender mercies of The Process.

    You're right on the money Jesse.....

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    Jesse was fair and balanced in the real sense. It always lowers the public's respect when groups automatically defend people without the facts. It is right that they require a fair hearing, but pre-judging shouldn't work for cops, teachers, doctors, or business people. I hope the cops listen to his good advice.

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    I agree with Jesse and John Calhoun. Nice op-ed, Jesse!

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    Well done, well called for, and fairly courageous given the pull of the PPA. THANK YOU.

  • Steve Marx (unverified)

    So, you have confidence in Dan Salzman? To do something courageous?

    This place is getting wierder by the day - for the wrong reasons. Keep going, pretty soon Randy Leonard will be running this town.

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    I've never understood the propensity of members of a group to rally to the defense of their own members who have clearly acted to hurt the interests of the group.

  • Ralph (unverified)

    I wonder if the author, JC, would unconditionally follow his former boss off of the Global warming cliff now that the emails have exposed the fraud and "lack of facts". Blind faith is a problem indeed.

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    So, you have confidence in Dan Salzman? To do something courageous?

    That's assuming an awful the actions of the police union somehow vindicate Salzman.

    That's a pretty big leap.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    The PPB are unaccountable and unhelpful to all except real estate and business interests, and will do what it takes to stay that way. Saltzman is not supportive of that. The Police Chief's marching order come from him. That is unacceptable. "Blue's rulez"!

    "Colors" had it right. Just another goddamned drug addled gang. High school degree and licensed to kill. Of course, only if you really feel threatened. Liberals feel really threatened by the police. But then, we don't have the same rights as your ex hired gun for colonial aggression.

    Jesse is wasting his breath. They are constitutionally unable to act on the principles he articulates. Hard to counter, "Joe. Him good man. My buddy. Tight family. He vote 'no confidence', I vote 'no confidence'. We vote to get rid of bad man that not get family." Think I parody? They really believe that there are good guys and bad guys, and they're just out there rounding up the baddies.

    A cop's just a crook without balls. I met a young policette wannabee at the pool last summer. I said, "why do you want to be a cop". She said, "I realize the value of law. I would send my own brother to jail if I say him light a joint. I don't care who it is; I will report anybody. So, I decided to be a cop". And you're going to give her a gun and authority to pull you over.

    Frankly, I'd rather deal with anarchy than the police. Just kick the lot to the curb. Bring back the Guard personnel and send the cops someplace that fits their urban fantasies, like Kandahar.

    "There's nothing so vulgar as a policeman" - Sherlock Holmes

    Now, I'm off to address a secret group of guys that meet to watch cock fighting, and ask them to please stop eating meat. I say my odds are 2x better than Jesse's!

  • Helys (unverified)

    The Skanner has posted a strong editorial about the issue here

    Anyone else remember that an 11-year-old PPS elementary student was tasered just a few years ago.

  • Steve Marx (unverified)

    "I've never understood the propensity of members of a group to rally to the defense of their own members who have clearly acted to hurt the interests of the group."

    Fascinating - How do you feel about Sam's smear campaign and lying to get elected and how it reflected on gay people?

    You can drop the pretense of morality if you think they are Progressives?

  • LT (unverified)

    Oregonian has an editorial about this and here is a quote:

    "Fundamentally, this is not about whether the police union has confidence in the police chief. The real question is whether Portlanders have confidence in their police. "

    This sort of thing is why some people believe all public employee unions are full of thugs and all union members let others do their thinking for them.

    How many decades ago was the incident where a Portland policeman put a possum on someone's back doorstep and then said it wasn't racially motivated?

    People who don't trust the police won't help them solve crimes--don't they realize that?

    Given the James Chasse case and all the other controversies in Portland over the years, citizens of Portland are supposed to believe that the 12 year old was uncontrollable without a bean bag gun unless evidence proves otherwise?

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    You're projecting.

    You know dang well that a whole bunch of us were just as critical of Adams as we are of this ongoing problem with law enforcement accountability. That's called consistency.

    If memory serves, you were in that discussion.

  • Steve Marx (unverified)

    "were just as critical of Adams"

    Anyone ask him to resign like Minnis here? I mena we get a lot of the hand-wringing, but in the end we find some sort of moral out like this isn't the sort of thing we should have a recall for or the he din't quite exactly break the law, but in the end he goes pretty much without any loss.

  • Steve Marx (unverified)

    "Humphreys may or may not have been justified in shooting the girl"

    One other thing, that is one short sentence, otherwise, I hear everyone here calling for Humphrey's head. SO the PPA asks for a no confidence vote - so what?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Any reasonable workplace issue rising to this level would involve the suspension of the employee (Portland Police or not) pending the outcome of the investigation. That the city has placed the officer in question on full pay with benefits shows no animis towards the officer.

    Yes, the officer has already been involved in another high visibility case and there are questions that a reasonable person would have about the use of force (non-lethal) on his part. If he acted within the scope of training and departmental polict regarding the use of bean-bag shotguns, if there were no ther viable alternative, then he will be exonerated and placed back onto active duty. He does, hjowever have a huge strike against him regarding the previous incident.

    The Police Union needs to support their members when they are acting within the scope of their duties and when acting as trained. This grandstanding on their part does little to serve their purpose, little to help the city, little to help the officer at the center of the situation or their public image. Further encouraging the officer to file a stress-related disability claim only makes the eyes roll; as in, no again.

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