January 12th, 2010 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

Guns & Hoses: Saltzman Files Public Records Request on Leonard's Bureau

IMAGE: Hawk Krall

Here's an odd event at City Hall: Commissioner Dan Saltzman has filed a public records request for "all written Activity Reports, Dispatched Incidents, and written Security Reports produced by Water Bureau personnel over the past 12 months."

That highly unusual move last Friday by a city commissioner followed a meeting the day before between Saltzman and the Water Bureau's director, David Shaff. The two met to discuss Commissioner Randy Leonard's proposal to make Water Bureau security guards state-certified police officers with the power to carry guns.

In October, when WW broke the news of Leonard's idea, Saltzman told WW he found the move "totally unnecessary." Consideration of the idea was then put on hold.

Fast-forward to this month when Saltzman's public calendar shows the commissioner was at least willing to hear arguments for the proposal, which could come before City Council in February. Saltzman met with Shaff on the afternoon of Jan. 7 to discuss the reasons for the push. Bill Sinnott, a former Portland Police Commander who now heads Water Bureau security, was supposed to join the conversation, according to Saltzman's calendar.

On Jan. 8, Shaff says Saltzman followed up with a public records request. That surprised Shaff's boss. "It's not something I've heard of before," Leonard says of a commissioner resorting to filing a public records request for information on city business. Here's that request and the Jan. 5 email [PDF] to Commissioner Amanda Fritz from Shaff that Saltzman referred to in his public-records request:

Saltzman Public Info Request

From the narrow perspective of the last few months, it's not entirely surprising that Saltzman, the police commissioner, is skeptical of Leonard's idea. In late October, Saltzman issued a memo outlining his reasons for opposing Leonard's measure.

But Leonard has a broader view of the effort. He notes that when Saltzman ran the Water Bureau, it used private contractors with guns to secure Water Bureau facilities. Leonard says he could revert to that scenario without approval from City Council. But he wants security guards to get the additional training that goes with state certification, which requires City Council approval because of the cost of sending about 20 guards to the police academy. The Water Bureau estimates the expense will be $261,000 for the first year.

"I don't need authority [from City Council] to give them guns," Leonard says. "The issue is one of training, not whether they carry guns."

In his October memo, Saltzman wrote that security at Water Bureau facilities should come from an existing law-enforcement agency. He also wrote that re-hiring a private security firm would pose less risk to the city (and cost less). Saltzman's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Last week, in another example of Leonard sparring with Saltzman, Leonard said increasing civilian oversight of the Portland Police Bureau would be his No. 1 priority in 2010.

Image by Hawk Krall.
 
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