Leonard: Miscommunication a deadly pattern at Police Bureau

Leonard: Miscommunication a deadly pattern at Police Bureau


by Eric Adams


Posted on February 17, 2010 at 8:29 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:45 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Commissioner Randy Leonard said that police missteps in the field were part of a pattern during the tenure of Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer.

Leonard said the shooting of Aaron Campbell, which involved a communication breakdown between Officer James Quackenbush and the armed unit of officers waiting outside the Sandy Terrace Apartments, was similar to the events surrounding the police shooting of Raymond Gwerder in 2005.

"In that incident, five years ago, a police sniper shot a man in a backyard who was just standing up to give himself up; because he was on a cell phone with police, talking to a police negotiator," Leonard said. "The flaw in that system, acknowledged at that time by Chief Sizer and the incident SERT commander, was that the police officer shooter was on a different radio frequency than the command vehicle overseeing the negotiations."

The shooter did not know that Gwerder had agreed to give himself up peacefully, Leonard said, "and all that listened agreed that had the shooter listened to the negotiations, he would not have shot him."

Fast-forward to Jan. 29, 2010 and the "exact same thing happened" in the Aaron Campbell shooting, Leonard said.

Police compiled nearly 700 pages of data along with maps, diagrams, evidence from the scene, 9-1-1 emergency phone call logs and audio testimony from the police involved in the Campbell situation. It was all made public on Monday at the request of Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Chief Sizer.

Officer Ron Frashour testified that he did not have a microphone in his ear during the negotiations. 

"He testified that he did not know anything about the negotiations. He did not know a police dog had just been released to take down Mr. Campbell," Leonard said. "He had no way of knowing that Aaron Campbell had promised not to hurt himself, not to hurt others -- and was walking out backwards, with his hands behind his head, according to police orders ... and he was still shot and killed."

Sizer promised after the Gwerder shooting that police would communicate on the same radio frequency, Leonard said.

"We've learned nothing at the police bureau in the last five years," Leonard said, adding that it was "disingenuous" to say mental health experts on-scene or more mental health training could have altered the Campbell outcome.

"Police are not communicating. We need a police bureau held accountable for decisions that are made repeatedly - that evolve into a pattern - of a lack of basic, emergency ground communications," the fire commissioner said.

The police union opposes a change in the public policy of keeping grand jury proceedings sealed.

However, Sgt. Scott Westerman, president of the Portland Police Association, said police supported calls to unseal the Aaron Campbell investigation.

"We did not oppose the grand jury release for Campbell because the officers had already given a complete, recorded interview to detectives," he said.

In other instances the publication of testimony would keep vulnerable victims from testifying in court out of fear, Westerman said.

Domestic violence or child abuse victims "would be less likely to testify if they know their statements will be released.

Officer Frashour was cleared of criminal charges but the grand jury found the Police Bureau responsible for the procedures in place that led to Campbell's "needless death." Grand Jury statement