People's Police Report
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Former Portland Police Traffic Division Captain Todd Wyatt, accused of "road rage" for pointing a gun at a motorist in Idaho, then refusing to pull over until he reached Washington state (PPRs #54- 55), was found not guilty by an Idaho jury in early February. Wyatt claimed he held his badge and gun up with one hand to fend off the other motorist, whom he said was threatening his family, and failed to pull over because he didn't want to tie up traffic on the freeway. The Washington State troopers thought Wyatt was "arrogant and cocky," but failed to follow their own procedures when they didn't ask to see Wyatt's gun. Wyatt also said he didn't just stop his car to get away from the other driver because he thought doing so would provoke a confrontation... unlike brandishing a weapon? Interestingly, the father-in-law of the man driving the other car is a retired Seattle officer, which gives credence to his testimony that his wife said "a cop's not stupid enough to do that."
At the trial, the District Attorney showed the jury a video which instructs Portland's off duty cops to carefully deliberate before intervening rather than calling local authorities. Wyatt told the court he was "a little embarrassed" and couldn't explain why he didn't call 9-1-1. Wyatt is still not back at the helm of Traffic while the Bureau investigates whether his conduct violated policy (Oregonian, February 11 and February 28).
In PPR #54, we reported that many of the decisions about the Portland Police Association (PPA) labor contract with the City were made behind closed doors, noting that the document adopted by City Council lacked details and led to multiple disputes with the "union." That "shopping list" approach of the negotiations led to a headline-grabbing embarrassment: a one percent "fitness bonus" the City intended to award to officers who passed a physical endurance test ended up going to 91% of the Bureau's members, who merely had to show up, have blood drawn, get a blood pressure test, and be weighed (Oregonian, January 7). We figure the overall cost, at $739 for 823 cops, was $608,197, or about $174,000 more than if the expected 65% had passed.
The City's Bureau of Human Resources conceded to the PPA's low threshhold tests because otherwise officers would demand to be paid for time spent running an obstacle course. BHR Director Yvonne Deckard defended the biometric tests as useful, noting that 109 of the 823 cops screened are "at very high risk" (Oregonian, January 19). Commissioner Dan Saltzman made two attempts to have the City renege on the contract, ending up only with a resolution to either include full testing or no benefit at all in the next negotiations. The resolution was approved by the other four members of Council, but not Saltzman.
Meanwhile, the City found a suitable laboratory to run steroid tests as part of the random drug testing approved in the contract (PPR #53). PPA President Daryl Turner (whose biceps, by the way, are as big as my head--DH) fears that low-level positives such as those for widely used supplements would result in discipline. OHSU Doctor Linn Goldberg says that the PPA members "don't know what they're talking about," because only a supplement illegally containing steroids would prompt a positive test (Oregonian, January 10). While random testing might uncover problems within the Bureau, we join others in the community who want to see testing done after use of force and deadly force incidents.
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through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.