Portland Mayor Tom Potter announced the firing of a veteran Portland Police Lieutenant this afternoon.
Jeffrey Kaer's termination stemmed from an incident involving deadly force more than a year and a half ago. As Andrew Theen reports, according to Potter the use of force wasn’t the issue — it was Kaer’s decision-making that proved to be his undoing.
Early in the morning of January 4th 2006, Lieutenant Jeffrey Kaer got a call from his sister reporting a suspicious vehicle in front of her house. Kaer, a 17-year veteran of the bureau decided to check it out, even though his sister’s home is outside his precinct.
Kaer arrived to find a stolen green Oldsmobile Cutlass idling. 28-year-old Dennis Young lay slumped over in the driver’s seat.
Kaer acted without his backup. He reached inside the vehicle and put it in park.
Kaer then asked if the vehicle was stolen and Young reacted, putting the car in gear then striking a tree.
Kaer fired two shots when he claimed Young put the car in reverse. He said he feared for his life.
Portland Mayor Tom Potter: “While it is undeniable that the decision of Lieutenant Kaer to fire at the car had to be made in a split second, none of the decisions leading up to that moment had to be made under such pressure. It was Lieutenant Kaer who escalated the situation.”
One of Kaer’s two shots struck Young in the upper torso. He died from the wound.
Kaer’s backup was on scene at that point, but in Potter's official statement on the matter, he says Officer Lawrence Keller was never fully aware of the situation.
Potter a former cop and police commissioner in his own right said “virtually every tactical decision he made leading up to the use of deadly force was wrong.”
For example, Kaer never ran a license plate check on the Cutlass, and he reached inside a vehicle to subdue a suspect with no backup.
Mike Reese is the Central Precinct Commander of the Bureau's Commanding Officer’s Association. He said he is “deeply disappointed” with Potter’s decision.
Mike Reese; “We believe that the Mayor was presented with compelling information at Lieutenant Kaer’s due process hearing that showed Lieutenant Kaer acted as any reasonable person would when defending themselves in a deadly force encounter.”
Mayor Potter declined to comment aside from his prepared statement because Kaer could appeal the termination.
Commander Mike Reese says he is confident that in the end Kaer will be reinstated. He said an independent arbitrator will handle the appeals process. That could take 6 to 8 months.