Oregon Police: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Came across this letter to the editor at blog.oregonlive.com. It reminded me of my phone call with Roger DeWitt, the Oregon concealed carry permit holder who fired on robbers attempting to mow down his cousin. Seems Mr. Lamb sees a disconnect between police PR and practice. Who knew?

A comparison of the June 2 front-page story on the Portland police shooting of Keaton Otis (“Police stop went bad almost instantly“) with the opinion piece by Gresham’s police chief is quite interesting (“Holster that gun, for everyone’s sake“). Chief Craig Junginger stresses how ensuring public safety depends on a highly trained police force rather than on any gun-toting citizen just firing away. (The chief was commenting on the case of a citizen firing his handgun at fleeing theft suspects.) The front-page news article makes clear that the officers involved in the Otis shooting did not have a particular plan, didn’t communicate with each other, and didn’t particularly work as a team, despite the claim by one officer that “they always know what each officer is going to do and how they operate.”

The officers on the scene fired 32 shots, 23 into Otis and nine that missed. One of the police-fired rounds ended up two blocks away — through the open door and into a display case of a Radio Shack store. I have great difficulty believing that the Radio Shack round did not endanger public safety, and I wonder where the other eight rounds that missed Otis ended up.

I also wonder whether forensic evidence matches the bullet that struck Officer Christopher Burley “in the groin area” with Otis’ gun rather than a gun belonging to one of Burley’s fellow officers. The last two shootings of disturbed individuals by separate teams of Portland Police officers make it even more difficult for me to believe that the officers of the Portland Police Bureau are a “highly trained police force.”

Junginger is right, of course. The solution is not a bunch of gun-toting citizens, regardless of their level of NRA certification. The solution is to train Portland police to higher levels of performance than the currently observed norm. The police have a tough job to do, and they need the highest possible level of training to minimize using the improvisatory approach they currently seem to employ on a regular basis. Perhaps the new police commissioner can see to that training.

BILL LAMB

Southwest Portland

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