May 13th, 2010 | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

New Police Commissioner Gets First New Challenge (UPDATED with Adams comments this morning)

Mayor Sam Adams and new Police Chief Mike Reese

Before nightfall of his first day as Portland's new self-appointed police commissioner, Mayor Sam Adams got his first challenge in the form of a fatal police shooting — the third in less than five months this year.

Many details about this shooting will emerge in the coming days as they did with the deaths of Aaron Campbell and Jackie Collins. New police chief Mike Reese —appointed by Adams yesterday to replace Rosie Sizer as chief at the same time that Adams took the Police Bureau from Commissioner Dan Saltzman— has scheduled a press conference this morning at 11 am to discuss the latest shooting. The shooting also left a police officer hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

One detail is for certain: Adams, whose first 16 months in office have been devoted to the more measured worlds of transportation and planning, faces a whole new and uncertain world this morning. And we can listen to him "Think Out Loud" about it at 9 am.

UPDATE: Adams said this morning on "Think Out Loud" that while other police commissioners have been "reluctant" to show up at the scene of police shootings but that "because these issues make their way to the police commissioner, I think it's important to show up." The mayor called what he saw at that scene "heartbreaking."

Adams also said the shooting victim was African-American. And the mayor said he didn't get a chance to meet with the officer who was shot when he went to the hospital because the officer was coming out of surgery.

He added that the witness statements have all been collected and that he wants a "fair, impartial and swift" investigation.

Adams says he offered the job to Reese about 8 pm Tuesday night and that they spoke for a couple hours. The mayor said he reached that decision after "being deep in contemplation" earlier Tuesday about the Police Bureau and what he maintains was a "budget debacle" created by Sizer's pushback on the police budget. Adams said he spoke with Saltzman on Monday about that budget dispute, adding that he and his staff finally reached Saltzman after about a dozen efforts.

The mayor said he didn't include the Albina Ministerial Alliance in the decision to pick Reese as the new chief because he'd already gotten a lot of feedback on Sizer's successor, given that her impending retirement had been news before yesterday.

Adams said the timing of the move was driven by the budget, and that superseded concerns about Saltzman's pending primary election next week.

"The exact time was forced by the fact, I've got to put together a budget. And what transpired in the last four or five business days showed me I did not have the partners to do that," Adams said. "I'm a supporter of Dan's. I hope he wins re-election. That was part of my thinking. But in the end I had to put what's important for the city ahead of that."

A listener asked Adams whether he would move to fire Officer Christopher Humphreys, who was involved in the 2006 death of James Chasse Jr. in police custody. Humphreys has already served 80 hours of unpaid leave for his role in Chasse's arrest, and Adams said punishing Humphreys again would be akin to double jeopardy, so he won't do it.

In response to another listener's question about deadly use-of-force, Adams said he doesn't think the approach of deadly use-of-force being a last resort "has been as explicit as I would like it to be."
 
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