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Objective review?

Frustrated mayor: 'You have to make the decision based on the evidence, not who the person is'; PRC calls independent report into police chief violations 'erroneous,' attempts to rescind discipline against Greisen


by: ROBIN JOHNSON - A Scappoose City Council executive sesssion planned for Friday evening, Nov. 8, at Scappoose City Hall is expected to hear complaints and, possibly, a follow-up motion to terminate Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken, according to several sources familiar with the meeting. Hanken fielded a Scappoose police officer's complaint alleging Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen violated several departmental policies related to a February police pursuit. As a result of Hanken's use of an independent investigative agency to explore the allegations, which were ultimately upheld by the agency, several sources have alleged city councilors friendly with Greisen plan to terminate the city manager following the executive session meeting and reinstate the police chief, who is also currently on paid leave due to allegations he retaliated against a whistleblower in the police department. Scappoose city officials have enlisted the help of a retired Lake Oswego Police Department chief to review the findings of an independent investigation conducted by the Local Government Personnel Institute that found Scappoose Police Department Chief Douglas Greisen violated 10 of the city’s policies related to his involvement in a Feb. 4 police pursuit. As a result of his actions in that pursuit, Greisen was placed on a 10-day unpaid suspension starting in late August.

The review comes on the heels of last week’s release of a recommendation drafted by a subcommittee of the Scappoose City Council that called the LGPI’s findings “erroneous” and “prosecutorial.” The subcommittee, called the Personnel Review Committee, or PRC, alleges the investigator was prejudiced against Greisen.

Following the PRC’s allegations regarding the independent report, Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge last week said he intended to ask a second, independent agency to review the LGPI report. When asked at the time if he thought the PRC’s recommendation was objective, Burge hesitated, ultimately answering, “I hope so.”by: FILE PHOTO - Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen

At question is whether Greisen, who remains on paid leave pending the results of a second, ongoing investigation, should be reinstated as the Scappoose police chief and whether or not he should have been disciplined for his actions in the Feb. 4 pursuit. Following the LGPI report, Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken, who has supervisory authority over city department heads, placed Greisen on a 10-day unpaid suspension. Greisen appealed the discipline, prompting the mayor to randomly select the PRC from the City Council with the purpose, per city ordinance, of reviewing whether the suspension adhered to city policy and law.

Later, Scappoose Sgt. Doug Carpenter, who first raised questions about the chief’s actions in the pursuit, alleged Greisen retaliated against him by requiring him to undergo a fitness for duty evaluation.

Carpenter, who is also currently on leave, has since filed a tort notice against the city for Greisen’s alleged retaliation, and a second LGPI investigation is underway to explore Carpenter’s retaliation claims.

A Scappoose police officer familiar with the case, who asked to speak on background due to retaliation concerns, argued in an interview with the Spotlight that the PRC is incapable of making an objective recommendation due to its members’ friendship with Greisen.

Two of the subcommittee’s members — Barbara Hayden and Mark Reed — readily admitted to being friends with Greisen.

“They’re biased,” the officer said of the city councilors. “If it was any other employee that had broken the 10 policies, they would’ve been fired. But since it was the chief, and the City Council had a handle on him, they’re not going to do anything about it.”

The officer continued, “It seems as though the City Council wants to get the chief back and they’ll do whatever they can to get him back, even if that means firing the city manager.”

The Scappoose City Council called a special executive session for Friday, Nov. 8, to consider complaints or disciplinary action against a city employee.

Burge described himself as “frustrated” with the situation.

“You have to make the decision based on the evidence, not who the person is,” he said.

Other officers declined comment, often citing similar concerns that either Greisen or the city councilors would retaliate.

When asked to describe the mood of the department with Greisen on administrative leave, the officer said the department is running more smoothly and efficiently than it ever has.

“You feel like you’re heading to work and you’re walking on eggshells the whole time,” the officer said. “That’s what it was like there. The only thing is, is that we’re nervous about when [the chief] is going to come back.”

The officer claimed that sentiment is widely held throughout the department.

City Council links to Greisen

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Scappoose city councilor Mark Reed, despite knowing the Greisen family for 40 years, says he was prepared to set aside his friendship with Chief Douglas Greisen when making his recommendation to rescind discipline taken against Greisen for violating multiple departmental policies in February. Reed also believes an indepdent report that sustained allegations from a Scappoose police officer that Greisen violated the department's rules for police pusuits should be considered null and void.Reed, who served on the PRC, told the Spotlight Monday, Nov. 4, that he has known the Greisen family for about 40 years.

“Doug was probably 9 or 10 when they moved to town,” Reed said. “I’m friendly with him, yeah ... When I was asked to be a part of this PRC, I was fully prepared to make an appropriate recommendation regardless of my friendship with the chief.”

Hayden, who also served on the PRC, said she has known Greisen for five years and also considers him a “friend,” noting that she got to know the chief due to his involvement in community events.

The third PRC member, Jason Meshell, said he did not know Greisen personally before becoming a councilor in January.

“I’ve learned watching him at City Council meetings, where he always seems to have the best interest of the city at heart,” Meshell said.

Meshell grew up in Scappoose and served as a member of the Scappoose Budget Committee for two years prior to beginning his term as councilor.

One city councilor who was not a member of the PRC, Donna Gedlich, said she considers Greisen to be like family. Following one heated executive session regarding the Greisen investigation, Gedlich apologized for an earlier outburst and said, “I’m just so upset by this. He’s like my son.”

Still, all three councilors on the PRC insisted their recommendations are unbiased and objective.

“Oh yeah, all of the studies we did, we came to our conclusion due to the evidence,” Hayden said. “I really would like everyone to know how in-depth we got on this. We went through hundreds of pages of documents and have really got into this. When we got done, our findings were justified.”

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Scappoose city councilor Barbara Hayden says she has known Greisen for five years and considers him a friend. Hayden, who served on the PRC, said she believes the independent investigator who explored allegations into Greisen produced an 'erroneous' and 'prosecutorial' report on his findings, arguing instead that the PRC's recommendation - of which two of the three councilors on the PRC say they are friends with Greisen - should be the guiding document for rescinding all discipline against the chief. Despite Hayden’s claims, however, the subcommittee did not contact the LGPI investigator to ask for additional insight into his approach toward the investigation. Nor, per its own report and investigation into the events of Feb. 4, did the subcommittee contact the Scappoose police officers who initially recommended the city manager launch a review into Greisen’s actions during the pursuit.

In fact, the only people the PRC interviewed in the course of its investigation were Greisen and Anthony Miltich, the officer who conducted a controversial intervention tactic following Greisen’s authorization — a tactic contrary to city policy and one, according to the LGPI report, that is construed as the use of deadly force at the speeds it occurred.

Hayden said the PRC did not interview city staff directly because she felt it would have violated the city charter, and said the LGPI investigator was not contacted because the PRC wanted to form its own investigation and reach its own conclusions.

In its recommendation, the PRC outlined multiple reasons it believes the discipline issued to Greisen was out of proportion based on the actions he had taken as a pursuit officer and police commander during the pursuit.

For his part, Hanken said he is taking the PRC’s recommendation under consideration.

Agency stands behind report

Upon reviewing the PRC’s recommendation, LGPI executive director Diana Moffat said she stands behind her agency’s report.

“I can say, with all certainty, that I have no reason to believe that Investigator [Craig] Stoelk included any factually incorrect information, to his knowledge, in his report, let alone any 'intentionally' incorrect information,” Moffat said in an email. “Now, does that mean that reasonable folks can’t differ as to what they think the ‘facts’ are? Of course not.”

Based in Salem, the LGPI is a membership-based agency that is commonly used by Oregon municipalities to investigate personnel matters. Moffat said the investigator assigned to the Greisen case had by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Scappoose city councilor Jason Meshell, who also served on the PRC, says he only knew of Griesen and had seen him around town and City Hall prior to beginning his term as a city councilor in January. Meshell grew up in Scappoose and served two years on the city's budget committee prior to being elected to the City Council. no prior knowledge of it or instructions for how to proceed.

“Investigator Stoelk had no previous knowledge regarding this situation,” she wrote in an email. “When we were contacted by the City, there was no specific request for which one of our investigators would be assigned. It was a matter of who was available at the time.”

Report discrepancies

The LGPI report determined Greisen violated 10 policies, including authorizing Miltich to execute a ramming maneuver during the pursuit on Highway 30 on Feb. 4.

The maneuver Greisen authorized, called a Pursuit Intervention Tactic, or PIT, is a ramming tactic used to spin fleeing cars 180 degrees.

By departmental policy, PIT maneuvers are to be conducted only by trained police officers at speeds less than 40 mph.

The LGPI report stated that neither Greisen nor Miltich were trained to execute such a maneuver and did so upon a non-injury misdemeanor hit-and-run violator who was traveling at an estimated 55 mph, which is considered to be the use of lethal force. In an LGPI interview, Greisen said he felt the use of lethal force was necessary.

The PRC recommendation states that Greisen authorized a PIT maneuver when the chase was at a speed “substantially less than 50-60 mph,” and that since the video recording of the event does not display Miltich’s speed, or the speed of the suspected violator, Lawrence Bickmore, the use of lethal force cannot be concluded.

But the LGPI report states that, in an interview with the investigator, Miltich said that as he moved into position to perform the PIT, Bickmore slowed and moved to the shoulder, but then accelerated to about 50 mph by the time Miltich rammed him.

The PRC, however, reached a conclusion contrary to what Miltich initially told the LGPI investigator.

“In watching the video several times, there was a drastic reduction in the speed,” Meshell said. “I believe the investigator took information about speeds that were traveled that night at any particular time, but that was not the speed at which the PIT was conducted based upon the video.”

Hayden noted that Miltich told a different story from the institute’s account when the PRC interviewed him.

“I don’t know where the breakdown came,” she said. “We were told something different in our one-on-one interview with Miltich.”

Reed said Miltich didn’t give the PRC an exact number for the speed, but added that it was “less than 50 [mph].”

Another discrepancy between the documents involves Greisen having taken a position during the pursuit to act as a barrier between the fleeing, swerving driver and oncoming traffic.

The PRC recommendation clearly states Greisen exercised knowledgeable pursuit tactics by his maneuver. The document reads, “The action taken by Chief Greisen to monitor Mr. Bickmore alongside his vehicle with lights flashing and siren blaring provided necessary warnings to oncoming drivers on Hwy. 30 of a dangerous situation just up ahead and to avoid it.”

In the LGPI investigation, however, Greisen admitted that by acting as a barrier between the suspect and opposing lanes of traffic, Bickmore could have pushed him into oncoming traffic, hence creating a deadly hazard for oncoming motorists.

Reed said he didn’t recall Greisen mentioning anything about acting as a sacrificial vehicle to Bickmore in the committee’s interview.

“When [Greisen] talked to us, he felt that because of the look that Bickmore gave him when he came up to him, he felt Bickmore could have been a danger,” Reed said.

Meshell said he believes the LGPI investigator and the PRC came to different conclusions because the two bodies had different motives going into their investigations.

“The PRC recommendation judges the events of that night in totality, whereas the LGPI report came at it as a list of accusations it was trying to prove,” he said. “That’s why I think there were different results.”

Exclusions from PRC

Not included in the PRC’s review is the allegation that Greisen entered the pursuit in an unauthorized, unmarked and insufficiently equipped police vehicle. The LGPI report states that the SUV Greisen used to enter the chase did not have an overhead light bar, resulting in no illumination to traffic approaching from side intersections.

In the LGPI report, Miltich estimated Greisen overtook him at a speed of 80 mph, then continued until adjacent with the fleeing vehicle.

Reed said the PRC understood that the vehicle Greisen was using was not rated for pursuit.

Meshell told the Spotlight he did not have a comment as to why Greisen’s use of an unauthorized vehicle was left out of the PRC recommendation.

Asked why the detail was excluded, Hayden said the PRC didn’t leave anything out.

“We didn’t exclude anything,” she said. “We reviewed in great detail the incident and all data to support all our findings.”

The PRC report concludes with a list of seven suggestions to procedural changes within the department, mostly regarding policy review and training for the chief and other officers.

Asked to what degree he is held responsible for the chief’s understanding of policy and participation in training, Hanken answered, “I supervise all positions, but because department heads do the trainings, they make sure certifications are up to standards.”

PRC approach

The ordinance upon which the PRC was formed specifically states that a it can be called up to review whether disciplinary action taken by the city manager complies with existing policy and law. The PRC’s recommendation, however, was the result of its members launching their own investigation into the events of Feb. 4 and did not provide any analysis of the legality of Hanken’s actions.

Instead, the committee stated that the “degree of discipline issued to Police Chief Douglas Greisen for minor discrepancies of best practices, is entirely out of proportion based on the totality of the findings on the night of Feb. 4th,” making no mention of whether the disciplinary action was in compliance with current law and policy.

When asked if the PRC had overstepped its bounds, the Scappoose city attorney who was appointed to oversee the committee, Ron Guerra, paused before answering, “I don’t think they were overstepping their boundaries, because there is little in the way of direction or instruction in the charter or in the city ordinances. The members of the PRC felt it was necessary to look at all of the factors the city manager reviewed in order to make a determination.”

Guerra said he had no comment on the fact that the PRC recommendation focuses mostly on an investigation into the event and doesn’t address whether Hanken’s action was in compliance with existing policies or laws.

Hayden, also, could not provide a clear answer as to why the PRC recommendation does not specifically answer whether the city manager’s actions were in compliance with city policy and law.

“You have to understand this is the first time the PRC has ever been formed,” she said. “We were looking to legal counsel to guide us. The steps we took were per counsel’s instruction.”