PORTLAND, Ore. - The union that represents Portland police officers plans to hold a vote of no confidence for police Chief Rosie Sizer and police Commissioner Dan Saltzman after they placed a police officer on leave.
Sizer announced the suspension of Officer Chris Humphreys Thursday pending an investigation into his actions that involved shooting a 12-year-old girl with a beanbag gun at close range. Police said the girl was resisting arrest at a MAX station last weekend and punched an officer in the face before Humphreys fired his beanbag gun.
“Leadership of the Police Bureau at the hands of Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Chief Sizer has failed Officer Chris Humphreys and our entire membership,” said Portland Police Association President Scott Westerman after the union’s executive board unanimously voted to put a vote to the entire membership of the union.
“The events of the last few weeks have shown that Dan Saltzman cares more about politics than he does for the lives and families of police officers,” Westerman said. “Likewise, Chief Sizer’s failure to stand by the officers of this Bureau when they have done absolutely nothing wrong and are being used as political pawns is deplorable. Our faith in the leadership of the Portland Police Bureau is gone.”
Commissioner Saltzman, however, said he stands by his decision. He said that when he saw the video he was disturbed by it. He said he wanted Humphreys put on immediate leave but Sizer suggested just a desk job.
The union said Saltzman’s decision was politically motivated because Humphreys is also the officer at the center of a lawsuit connected to the James Chasse Jr. death in 2006. Chasse died in police custody and investigators said that his chest was crushed after Humphreys landed on top of him during a struggle.
But Saltzman said his decision had nothing to do with politics.
“One thing I pride myself in is really not being sort of a politician in the sense of what most people think of a politician who makes decisions kind of casting a finger to the wind or based on the newspapers,” he said. “I pride myself on being somebody who looks at the issues on their merits and makes decisions whether they’re tough ones or easy ones.”
Saltzman said he was concerned the beanbag weapon was used at such close range on someone the officers knew was so young.
But Westerman asked people to think about what they would want a police officer to do if they found themselves in a similar situation.
“I ask the citizens of Portland, what would you do if you were being assaulted by a five-foot seven, 160 pound hyper-aggressive person? What would you want the Portland police officer that’s standing right there to do? You would want them to end the assault immediately,” he said.
Saltzman said, however, he has a job to do.
“I’m sorry they’re going to take that action, but it’s not going to stop me from doing my job as the police commissioner and making decisions I feel need to be made,” he said.
The police Internal Affairs Division is reviewing the incident to determine if the use of force was justified.
In the meantime, the police union is planning a rally to collect ballots and show support for Humphreys on Tuesday.
Westerman said ballots for the confidence vote will be collected by Nov. 27 and the results of the vote will be announced Nov. 30.
The vote has no legal impact.
KATU News reporter Bob Heye contributed to this report.