Nearly one year after he became Portland's top cop, Police Chief Mike Reese today defended his officers, owed up to some of their mistakes and blasted the mental-health system in a speech to the City Club of Portland.
Reese praised his officers' heroism in a non-lethal shooting encounter with a machete-wielding man earlier this year and discussed errors made in the January 2010 shooting of 25-year-old Aaron Campbell.
"We have a great organization, and 95 percent of our people are doing tremendous work. Probably like your organization, five percent are doing something else," Reese said. "Officers are human, and they're going to make mistakes."
Reese added that when cops try their best and follow their training, the chief will defend his officers even when the outcomes turn ugly. But when cops violate policy, Reese said, they'll be punished within a fair system of discipline. He noted that Officer Ron Frashour lost his job for fatally shooting Campbell.
Reese threaded the needle a bit in discussing crime rates. He noted the Police Bureau's successes in bringing crime down to historic lows not seen since 1967 in Portland.
But at the same time—while City Hall is currently haggling over his budget—Reese tried to argue that his force lacks enough officers to respond to all the community's needs.
Reese gave a personal thank-you to Officer Chris Burley, who was shot the day Reese took office as chief in an encounter with an emotionally troubled young man named Keaton Otis. Reese said the encounter in May 2010 inspires Burley's current work on the Police Bureau's mobile crisis unit.
Striking a similar theme to one frequently raised by his boss, Mayor Sam Adams, Reese blasted Portland's mental-health system as "broken" and said it daily places his officers in danger.
Reese described a meeting with the parents of Marcus Lagozzino, the man who charged officers with a machete after threatening his parents at home. Reese said the family lives in his own neighborhood and had previously sought help for their son in vain.
"There really is very little help or hope for them and others in our community given the current state of our mental-health system," Reese said. He described such encounters with police as a "tragic intersection."
Notable members of the audience included former Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto, failed 2010 City Council candidate Jesse Cornett and Bob Ball, a reserve cop and prominent property developer.