Portlanders took their concerns about a fired Portland police officer to City Hall Monday. They were reacting to a state arbitrator’s ruling in the case of former officer Ron Frashour.
Frashour shot and killed an unarmed black man named Aaron Campbell, two years ago. The city later fired Frashour for his actions. But Friday afternoon, the arbitrator ordered the city to reinstate Frashour and pay him lost wages.
Kristian Foden-Vencil went to Monday’s protest march, and joins us now. Good afternoon, Kristian.
Beth: This case first starts a couple of years ago, when Aaron Campbell died. What happened that night?
Kristian: Yes, it’s a very sad story. Aaron was distraught over the death of his brother. He was at his girlfriend’s apartment. Her kids were there, too.
He’d told those around him that he was suicidal and there was a gun on the property.
Police arrived after a 9-1-1 call.
They asked him to let the kids out. He did.
They asked him to come out of the apartment. He did.
They told him to put his hands up. His hands were clasped behind his head, a move which some say got him killed.
Police know at this point that he’d resisted arrest in the past and had been charged with domestic violence and carrying a weapon. So they’re on edge. Shouting for him to put his hands up —they meant up in the air— they open fire with beanbag rounds.
Campbell then either stumbles forward from being hit — or as officer Ron Frashour sees it — starts running to find cover so he can use a gun to fire on other officers.
Frashour then shot Campbell in the back. The officer told the grand jury, “in my mind I knew he was grabbing his gun.”
Beth: Now, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese fired Frashour later that same year, 2010, saying it was unreasonable to believe Campbell posed an immediate threat of death or physical injury.
But on Friday, the state arbitrator’s office ruled Frashour should be reinstated.
That’s a big difference of opinion. Where does it stem from?
Kristian: Yes. This basically comes down to a difference over police training. The Mayor and Police Chief don’t think Frashour followed it. The police union and now the state arbitrator’s office think he did.
Officer Daryl Turner, the president of the Portland Police Association, spoke on OPB’s Think Out Loud this morning.
“This was a very difficult and tragic situation, there’s no doubt about that. However, Officer Frashour did follow his training, he did follow the policy and procedures of the Portland Police Bureau and that’s what the arbitrator decided too,” Turner said.
Beth: But many Portlanders think Frashour didn’t follow police training. Have you got an example?
Kristian: Yes. Here’s Reverend T. Allen Bethel of Northeast Portland’s Maranatha Church — again from Think Out Loud.
“Where I believe that the training or the process when wrong was first of all the escalation. From Mr. Campbell coming out with his hands raised, a surrendered position. Then the escalation of the firing of the bean bags, that ultimately caused him to even begin to move, if you’re continuously being shot, by that by the officer saying I’m trying to being him into compliance. So we asked the question, was he not already in compliance, what further compliance were you looking for and you needed? Then with officer Frashour’s ear piece being out of his ear. That at that point we believe that his is out of the line of command and therefore when he takes that shot, he’s taking that shot on his thought and he’s not in line with command,” Bethel said.
Beth: So you were out at the protest today. What were people saying?
Kristian: Well in a word, they were angry.
When Frashour was fired, a lot of people felt that for the first time in many many years, a Portland officer had been disciplined for shooting someone who was unarmed.
Now they feel betrayed.
Reverend LeRoy Haynes, with the Albina Ministerial Alliance, says the arbitrator’s ruling essentially means Portland’s police officers are no longer accountable to the city.
“It is saying to the citizens of Portland that any officer can do whatever they want to do to any citizens of this city of Portland. We need a review of the arbitration system. We need a review of the policy. We need a review of the training,” Haynes said.
There were more than a hundred people there. Black and white. Young and old. They carried signs saying things like: ‘“Fire Killer Cops” and “The Portland Police Bureau - where murder gets you a paid vacation.”
John Davis, the stepfather of Aaron Campbell also made an appearance.
“The main thing I’m saying is let’s look at these laws. Let’s look at changing some of these rules. The police work for the city. I don’t have a problem with the job, I have a problem with the way a lot of things have been done on the job. That’s right,” Davis said.
Campbell’s family settled a wrongful death suit with the city for $1.2 million two months ago.
Beth: Now the state arbitrator has told the city to reinstate Ron Frashour, what’s next?
Kristian: Well, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, has said he’ll appeal the decision — likely in front of the State Employment Relations Board.
That could take some time. But meanwhile, the African-American community and many other Portland residents are placing their hope in the US Department of Justice. It’s in the midst of a civil rights investigation into the ‘patterns and practices’ of the Portland Police Bureau.