March 16th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

Guns & Hoses: Leonard Explores Arming Water Guards Without State Certification

IMAGE: Hawk Krall

Commissioner Randy Leonard's push to arm and certify Portland Water Bureau security guards as Oregon police officers has taken a turn.

Five months after WW first disclosed Leonard's proposal, the commissioner is now exploring a plan to arm Water Bureau security personnel under a state law that lets water authorities in Oregon create their own special police officers. Those officers would have the power to carry firearms and make arrests on Water Bureau property, says Ty Kovatch, Leonard's chief of staff. (Leonard was out of the office Tuesday morning.)

"We're exploring the logistics of it," Kovatch says. "It's not the most well-known provision."

This new plan follows months of opposition from Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Saltzman had reservations about extending police powers to Water Bureau employees, and Leonard needed City Council approval to send those employees to training at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

Kovatch says under the new proposal Water Bureau security guards would get a different, lower-level of training. "The safety of our officers is also a responsibility of ours," Kovatch says. "We're faced with making another choice."

Asked how this latest effort squares with Leonard's other push to promote police accountability, Kovatch said the two topics were separate. "That's a wholly different issue than accountability," Kovatch says.

Update at 1:45 pm:The Water Bureau's director, David Shaff, says the current proposal doesn't rule out the possibility that security guards will get the highest DPSST training, even if they are not DPSST-certified. But it remains unclear now how that might happen.

Image by Hawk Krall.
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