<<Portland police Officer Joshua Dyk shot and killed 40-year-old Aaron Stanton on July 27 in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Southeast Portland.
Less than four months later, Officer Christopher Sathoff fatally shot Immanuel Clark-Johnson, 30, near Reed College.
But the public did not learn these names until December, when the Portland Police Bureau identified Dyk and Sathoff, along with seven other officers who had fired their weapons while on duty between July and the end of 2022.
The Portland Police Bureau used to release the names of officers who used deadly force within 24 hours. Now, under a policy change announced in December, the Police Bureau will publicly identify those officers within 15 days, “absent a credible security threat.”
The blanket policy change troubles some public records experts, who said state law requires public agencies to release public records on a case-by-case basis and as soon as possible and without undue delay.
The change comes on the heels of nearly six months of secrecy, during which time the Police Bureau repeatedly declined to identify officers who fired their guns while on duty, citing unspecified threats on the officers and their families. Portland police have declined to provide details about the threats, including when or how they were received.
But the threats are what bureau officials said spurred the policy change.
“This new procedure strikes the right balance between transparency and the security concerns of our PPB members,” said Chief Chuck Lovell in a statement Dec. 9. “I believe this change is reasonable and responsible.”
State Public Records Advocate Todd Albert disagreed, saying the new rule could have a “chilling effect” on the ability of people to access public records by introducing an arbitrary delay and frustration into the process.>>
<,“I am uncertain why when looking through a public records lens, it should take 15 days to identify the name of an officer already known to PPB,” Albert said in an email Tuesday to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
“While the policy may meet other needs of PPB, it does not maintain the central goal of the public records law, which is to disclose as many public records as possible upon request.”>>
<<In 2020, the Police Bureau tried to avoid releasing that information to The Oregonian/OregonLive, calling disclosure an unreasonable invasion of privacy on officers who had endured threats to their personal safety.
The bureau was unsuccessful.
Threats on officers have escalated in recent years, according to a Nov. 30, 2020, letter from Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt.
Multiple officers reported receiving threats that people would find out where they live and attack and kill their spouses and children. During one 2020 protest, a crowd of protesters chanted an officer’s home address and said they would burn his house down, Schmidt’s letter said.
Another police officer described seeing multiple cars watching his house and finding a person crouching down near his property line, Schmidt wrote.>>
<<“It is clear that lines that we as a society have considered inviolable have long-since been crossed,” Schmidt wrote. “The described conduct is despicable.”>>
POLICE BUSINESS ALLIANCE
<<Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell participated in a panel and took questions about public safety during a breakfast hosted by the Portland Business Alliance.
Their answers were generally optimistic that the public would see progress in increasing safety. But they also said the metro area is far from solving public safety issues.
“We are in a position now where the collaboration I’m seeing across the board between our local, state, and federal public safety partners, our community groups, I think are in a really great place to find the best solutions to address today’s extremely challenging public safety issues,” said Sheriff Morrisey O’Donnell.
The sheriff said her law enforcement division is almost fully staffed.
Chief Lovell also echoed promising staffing numbers and said there are now more than 800 sworn officers in the bureau. Despite that, the chief said hiring will still be an ongoing battle.
“There’s a big hiring push, then a hiring freeze, big hiring push, hiring freeze and that doesn’t work,” Chief Lovell said. “It really needs to be a sustained thing that is supported and is resourced properly. You have to over-hire in anticipation of resignations, retirements, and things of that nature.”
Chief Lovell also said there is a problem at the state level. Wait times for the police academy, a requirement to become a police officer, is up to five months.
“When we do hire someone, we typically have them for five months doing different types of roles in the police bureau until we can get that academy date,” Chief Lovell said.>>
<<The district attorney also addressed the problem of people being arrested, then released and then suspected of reoffending. He said he is frustrated that this happening. One of the main problems, according to Schmidt, is the lack of public defenders. A problem that is out of his office’s control.
Public defenders are funded at the state level, not the county level.
Without available legal counsel to represent people accused of crimes, Schmidt said there’s not much his office can do to keep people from reoffending.
“You got to think of our criminal justice system like an ecosystem,” Schmidt said. “You got to think of it as all the different parts have to be healthy and functioning if we’re going to get the results that we want. And public defenders are part of that ecosystem, as our police, as our sheriff deputies, and the jails, we’re all part of that ecosystem.”>>
<< The Portland Police Bureau confirmed it’s in preliminary discussions of possibly relocating its headquarters to a large building in the city’s Old Town neighborhood which has dealt with growing crime over recent years.>>
<<The property, which sits on the corner of Northwest 2nd Avenue and Northwest Everett Street, has served as the headquarters for NWEA, a nonprofit providing educational services, since 2011. >>
<<Portland police are in early talks about moving Central Precinct and their headquarters to a large building in the city’s Old Town district, Chief Chuck Lovell and bureau staff confirmed Thursday.
Central Precinct Cmdr. Craig Dobson and others did a walk-through late last year of the 160,044-square-foot property at the corner of Northwest First Avenue and Everett Street. It’s now owned by NWEA, the not-for-profit education research group that’s being acquired by a Boston-based company.>>
<<For years, the bureau has complained that Central Precinct’s 18,457-square-foot space on the ground floor of the Justice Center is extremely overcrowded, lacks room for community meetings, isn’t up to seismic code and affords scarce parking for police vehicles or officers’ personal cars.>>
<<Sgt. Aaron Schmautz, president of the Portland Police Association, said he’s heard for years about the bureau’s interest in moving Central Precinct without any concrete steps taken. He added, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”>>
COP SHOOT COP
<<The Clark County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a Vancouver police officer in a case of mistaken identity nearly one year ago will not face criminal charges, according to a memo from the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office released Thursday.
Deputy John Feller was one of many officers in pursuit of an armed robbery suspect, 20-year-old Julio Cesar Segura, on the night of January 29, 2022. Segura fled toward a home in rural Battle Ground, one that he seemed to choose at random after ditching a stolen vehicle as he was being pursued.
The home happened to be that of off-duty Vancouver police officer Donald Sahota. According to investigative reports, Sahota confronted Segura in the driveway of the home. Though Sahota was armed with a gun, Segura managed to grapple with Sahota and allegedly stabbed him multiple times, causing the off-duty officer to drop his gun.
As the first Clark County deputies arrived on the scene, Segura ran into Sahota’s house. Sahota’s wife was inside. Sahota went to recover his gun and run toward the front door of his home. That’s when Feller opened fire, thinking that Sahota was the robbery suspect, Segura. Sahota died at the scene.
A panel of five Washington prosecutors tasked with an independent review of the shooting were unable to “reach a consensus” on whether the deputy acted in “good faith” when he opened fire.
The disagreement between members of the panel was over whether it was necessary for Feller to use deadly force, even if he believed the man he was shooting at was the robbery suspect.
Despite the mixed result, a one-page Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office memo dated Jan. 11 determined that Feller should not face criminal charges. The office said that it had conducted a “careful review” of the independent investigation and the prosecutorial review.
The Clark County prosecutor’s memo cited Washington state law that states an officers should not be held criminally liable if deadly force is used in good faith.
“We find when the facts of this case are applied to the legal standard set forth above, it is likely a ‘similarly situated reasonable officer’ would have believed the use of deadly force was necessary,” the memo says. “The result of Deputy Feller’s use of deadly force in this case was incredibly tragic. However, the facts support a finding that Deputy Feller made a mistake that a reasonable officer could have made in the same situation. Therefore, per Washington State law, Deputy Feller shall not be held criminally liable.”>>
<<Feller was also involved in the 2020 fatal shooting of Kevin E. Peterson Jr. of Camas.>>