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Sizer's Size-up: Portland's New Chief Survives Showdown Over New City Administration

Sizer to Remain Head of Police Bureau--For Now New Police Commissioner Has Mixed Accountability Record

Much ink has been spilled covering the feud between Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer and Commissioner Randy Leonard, who was slated to become Police Commissioner in 2009 when Mayor-elect Sam Adams takes office (PPR #45). The most influential of the articles was a front page piece in the September 6 Oregonian, titled "Would she rather quit than work for him?" When asked whether she would continue as Chief after Leonard took over, Sizer said, "I like the job, I don't have to have the job...I don't intend to let the job make me miserable."

After several editorials in the Oregonian (September 3, October 21) and apparent leaks of information about his daughter's criminal history--which Sizer investigated and claimed was not posted to the web by a Police Bureau Employee (Oregonian, October 29)-- Leonard took himself out of the running.

Interestingly, Leonard released a draft of his "Public Safety Assessment" report for Adams in late August, accusing the Bureau of being "defensive, and in some cases, obstructive" to his research. However, Leonard's report also relied heavily on broad strokes and input from the Portland Police Association (PPA) and command staff, who were invited to his meetings on the topic before Sizer was (also PPR #45).

Responding to his draft, Portland Copwatch (PCW) wrote Leonard: "There is nothing in this report regarding police use of force, the increasing militarization and apparent over-use of Tasers, police relations with peaceful protests, or even the revamped use of force policy. The absence of this final item came as quite a surprise as many of the other talking points of the PPA (low morale, low staffing, discontent with management) are covered in the report."

Despite our letter and a memo from Mayor Potter correcting several issues raised by Leonard, his final report, released on November 5 (two weeks after he withdrew his name from the Commissioner slot), contained just one change: an added sentence clarifying that the City-County board dealing with public safety issues is not adequate. Perhaps Leonard felt that rewriting the report or even just "seek[ing] more input, includ[ing] more research and data, and focus[ing] more broadly on what 'public safety' means" as suggested by PCW was too much.

Quickly after Leonard withdrew, Adams announced he would hand the Bureau to Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Many in Portland still feel that the buck will always stop with the Mayor on police issues. Adams' claim that he wants to spend his time focusing on "creating jobs, reducing the high school dropout rate, and making the city more livable as it grows" seems more like a political "duck and cover," since at least the one of his to-do items is in the purview of Portland's elected school board, for example (Oregonian, August 29).

Saltzman hasn't done a lot directly with police issues in the 10 years he has been on the Council. Two items that stand out are his sole vote to "Sustain" a misconduct complaint against the officer who dragged African American grandmother Dora McCrae from her van when the case came to Council in 2000 (PPR #23)--a plus for Saltzman, and another solo vote, against withdrawing Portland officers from the Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2005 (PPR #36), a minus.

Portland Copwatch also raised concerns about Leonard's unquestioning support of a ubiquitous officer's efforts in our letter to him: "Quite a few of these programs were initiated by Officer Jeff Myers, and we have documented--and brought to your attention--ways in which Officer Myers' perhaps well-meaning actions have led to constitutionally questionable practices. This includes the shutting of a community garden to drive away homeless people, the practice of stopping 'known' persons to ask them to consent to a search with no probable cause (except that they are who they are) and the related 'dirty 30' list of which you have denied knowledge to the Portland Mercury despite praising the efforts of Officer Myers, who created it" (see Secret List article)

What's Ahead for Sizer and the City

Now that the dust is settling on the Commissioner issue, several items, including some raised in Leonard's report, remain for Sizer to deal with. Aside from the upcoming review of officer Use of Force (see p. 3) and Sizer's role in the Racial Profiling Committee's demise and revamping (see p. 2), there has been a lot of focus on the length of time it takes to hire officers (Leonard/Portland Tribune, August 28/ Rap Sheet), the possibility of raising officer salaries as much as 25% as was done in Seattle (Tribune, August 21/Rap Sheet), and staffing levels at precincts while "specialty teams" are still in place. For example the "Hotspot Enforcement Action Team" (HEAT), which was created to "quell an increase in gang-related violence," dropped from 10 to 7 officers in early October (Oregonian, September 30).

  People's Police Report

January, 2009
Also in PPR #46

Railroad Police Shoot Near Portland Cops
  • Cops Bragged About "Tackling" James Chasse
  • Shootings and Deaths In and Around Oregon

Lawsuit Changes Policy on Taping Police
Oversight Report Skewed for Public Relations
Review Board Holds Only 1 Hearing in 2009
Updates PPR 46
  • Racial Profiling Committee Dismissed
  • Cops Create Rules for "Secret List"
Sheriff Skipper Talks to Copwatch
  • Sheriff Jail Deaths, Sick Leave in Headlines
Sit/Lie Report: Sign Boards OK, Not People
  • Anti-Camping Update
Portland to Revive Prostitution Free Zones?
Chief Sizer Remains Bureau Head--For Now
Taser Danger: Portland Cases in the News
Family Settles Suit: Excessive Force in Raid
Rapping Back #46

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #46 Table of Contents
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