Only Mayor Sam Adams knows why he made the unusual decision to assign the Police Bureau to Commissioner Dan Saltzman rather than over-seeing it himself as nearly every mayor in modern Portland history has done.
There's at least one logical reason why Adams might not have wanted the bureau after he won election in 2008. As proven by the furor over the fatal Jan. 29 shooting
of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed African-American man, the police commissioner regularly faces no-win situations: if he disciplines officers, the powerful police union makes his life miserable; if he does not, critics responds with outrage.
So while Portland gears up for the planned arrivals of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and perhaps Rev. Al Sharpton, it's worth comparing the public communications about the issue from Adams and the commissioner who actually wanted the police bureau, Randy Leonard.
After a Multnomah County Grand Jury on Feb. 11 released a scathing review
of police actions at the Campbell shooting, Adams posted a brief statement
on his website.
First, I want to restate my support for transcribing and publicly releasing the grand jury proceedings of the Portland Police fatal shooting incident on January 29, 2010.
My support for recording and publishing after-the-fact grand jury proceedings regarding law enforcement use of lethal force dates back to a bill I testified in support of during the 2007 legislative session, to increase transparency for our community.
I also want to ensure Portlanders that I will be closely watching the outcome and timeline of the Portland Police Bureau's internal investigation.
For a shooting that could bring two of the country's highest-profile civil rights leaders to Portland, that was a pretty thin response.
Leonard, whose saw his ambitions to command the police thwarted by Chief Rosie Sizer, took a more pointed and expansive position in a statement
he posted today. He also issued a challenge to Saltzman, which whom he has frequently clashed, and Adams, his closest council ally. Here's part of what Leonard wrote:
"It was clear to me that the letter did not lay the cause of Mr. Campbell's death on his behavior, but rather on a lack of basic communication between the officers on the scene and the Portland Police Bureau negotiator who was pursuing a peaceful surrender with a distraught Aaron Campbell," Leonard wrote in a post illustrated with a blindfolded woman holding the scales of justice. "The Grand Jury made a clear and unprecedented declaration that “…the Portland Police Bureau should be held responsible for this tragedy.” Although I have my own opinion, it is up to Mayor Adams and Commissioner Saltzman to decide how to respond. In my view, they can either repeat history by perpetuating an unhealthy deference to the Police Chief, or they can use this moment to take meaningful action and create a real turning point in the history and accountability of the Police Bureau."
Adams surrendered much of his authority on issues such as the Campbell shooting when he dumped responsibility for PPB in Saltzman's lap. It will now be interesting to see as Revs. Jackson and Sharpton try to ramp up scrutiny of the matter whether Adams can figure out a way
to make himself a player or whether he has surrendered all leadership on the issue to Saltzman and Leonard.