October 27th, 2009 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

Saltzman to Leonard: Let Portland Water Bureau Security Guards Use Pepper Spray

IMAGE: Hawk Krall
In response to the news that Commissioner Randy Leonard wants Water Bureau security guards to become armed peace officers, Commissioner Dan Saltzman today issued an eight-page memo [PDF] outlining all the reasons he opposes the effort. Saltzman, of course, oversees the Portland Police Bureau that Leonard at one point wanted to manage.

The document, which proposes giving security guards less lethal weapons like Tasers or pepper spray, also contains a response to Leonard's proposal from Police Chief Rosie Sizer.

Among the findings in Saltzman's memo:

The Water Bureau currently spends about $1 million a year for a security force with 24 employees, and that making them police officers would increase costs. Saltzman says that's because law enforcement units of 20-25 people cost other agencies in the state $4 million a year.

Alternatives exist, Saltzman says, including the following:

Water Bureau Security

According to Sizer, only five law enforcement agencies in the country exist for the sole purpose of protecting drinking water. The national trend is to move away from those sorts of arrangements, she writes.

Sizer also noted the vast majority of the land in the Bull Run watershed, which the new police officers would patrol, is owned by the federal government. Only four percent is owned by the City of Portland.

After Saltzman criticized Leonard's plan as "totally unnecessary" earlier this month, Leonard countered that the Water Bureau used to have armed guards. Ironically, that was when Saltzman oversaw the bureau and the city contracted with an outside firm to provide security for Portland's drinking water, Leonard said. However, those guards weren't commissioned police officers, as the new ones would be under Leonard's proposal.

Last Tuesday, Leonard also told the Portland Utility Review Board that heightened security at the city's open reservoirs could help Portland win its long-sought variance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Image by Hawk Krall
 
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