Portland Chief Mike Reese calls recent number of police shootings ‘unacceptable’

From the Oregonian, January 3, 2011

Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese spoke this afternoon to the media at City Hall, in the wake of an unusual spate of officer-involved shootings.

There were six officer-involved shootings in 2010. Four of those ended with fatalities. There were two officer-involved shootings in the first two days of the new year.

Reese said he’s asked the bureau’s training division to do a complete study of what other tools exist in law enforcement that would help officers avoid use of deadly force in their interactions with people suffering from mental illness who are armed. He’s also asking the bureau to study the shootings of the last year to determine if any changes to bureau protocols or tactics are needed.

“I don’t want to wait a year to get that,” the chief said.

He called the recent number of police shootings “unacceptable.”

“Absolutely, there’s too many. I consider one too many. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent officers from using their firearms,” Reese said. “It’s extremely disheartening. We have a very safe city. The type of violent actions we’re seeing are very surprising.”

In recent shootings, Reese said officers developed good plans that didn’t work. “I think officers are forming good tactical plans, but dealing with people who are motivated and armed,” Reese said.

In the Dec. 27 police shooting of Marcus Lagozzino, 34, in Southwest Portland, police met at a staging area out of sight of Lagozzino’s family home, and brought several less-lethal weapons as they approached the house. Three officers fired a Taser and beanbag shotguns and another officer fired his AR-15 rifle when Lagozzino rapidly approached the police with a machete, police have said.

In Sunday’s shooting of a 60-year-old homeless man, police said they approached an office in the vacant car wash where the man was staying with another transient, but the homeless man came at two officers with a knife and was shot. “Unfortunately, distance and time was so compressed. It occurred in a very small room. There wasn’t time,” Reese said.

Adams decried the faltering safety net for the mentally ill, and ongoing county and state budget cuts to important social service programs. He vowed that the city will play a more aggressive role in trying to advocate for funding for these services amid its government partners and take a hard look at the number of people who are seeking basic life services “who are migrating to the city.”

“We have to look at the issue holistically,” Adams said. “We have a lot of difficult discussions because what’s ahead is fewer resources.”