January 5th, 2010 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, City Hall, Cops and Courts

Randy Leonard Vows Fight in 2010 on Police Oversight (with Clarification and Sizer No-Comment)


City Commissioner Randy Leonard tells WW his No. 1 priority in 2010 will be increasing oversight of discipline in the Portland Police Bureau.

Leonard says he's working to bring before the City Council as soon as possible amendments to the city code.

Leonard's chief of staff, Ty Kovatch, says Leonard is working with City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Mayor Sam Adams toward that end.

"It has come to the attention of a number of us that there is a cultural barrier to transparency in the police bureau, and the police bureau at times is hostile to transparency," Leonard says.

Without going too far into specifics, Leonard says he wants to increase powers of the Independent Police Review Division and create consequences if the police bureau stonewalls.

"I want to bring an amendment to the city code that brings, for want of a better word, sanctions for interfering with an investigation," Leonard says, "including criminal sanctions."

Police Chief Rosie Sizer left a phone message on Wednesday morning saying she can't comment because she hasn't seen Leonard's proposal.

Leonard's move comes after Saltzman buckled to union demands on disciplining Officer Christopher Humphreys, who used a beanbag gun on a 12-year-old girl who was violently resisting arrest.

But Leonard says he's been troubled for years when police weren't disciplined for what he considers excessive force. Leonard learned more when he conducted a 2008 public-safety review that put him at odds with Sizer.

Leonard was also troubled by the three-plus years it took to complete an internal investigation into the 2006 death of James Chasse Jr. Leonard says that delay caused him to begin his own investigation into police oversight.

He didn't like what he found.

Recently, he says, an internal police performance review board attempted to exclude IPR Director Mary-Beth Baptista from a hearing in a case of officer discipline. Baptista and Griffin-Valade met with Sizer to resolve the issue and were not satisfied with the chief's response, Leonard says.

"I think currently the police bureau treats IPR as a nuisance," Leonard says. "I have substantive reason to believe that."

Baptista declined to comment.

Leonard had scheduled (PDF) a City Council work session today on police force policies. Leonard says he called off (PDF) the meeting after Saltzman convinced Leonard he was more likely to achieve the changes he wants by working quietly on a solution.

"Probably for me this year, that is the largest thing that I will work on — making sure what is drafted is passable, supportable and defensible," Leonard says.

"I want to make sure true oversight is in place that is not contingent on the mood of the police bureau at the time," he says. "And right now, it is."

CLARIFICATION: Leonard originally gave a different account of the circumstances around the meeting between Sizer, Baptista and Griffin-Valade. That part of the story has been rewritten to include corrected information from Leonard. We now have a call out to Baptista for her account. (Update: As stated above, Baptista declined to comment.)
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