Portland Police Chief Mike Reese promoted Leo Besner to sergeant today despite concerns over Besner's conduct as a Portland police officer.
Portland Police Chief Mike Reese told The Oregonian today that he could find no "justifiable reason" for denying the promotion. This shows a lack of moral clarity on the part of the chief that reflects back on you, Mr. Mayor, as police commissioner.
As you know, Officer Besner not only shot Raymond Gwerder in the back, killing him, but has faced numerous other serious charges of professional misconduct. The city of Portland has been forced to pay out nearly $1 million to settle suits against the city related to Officer Besner's professional conduct. That conduct has been violent and unprofessional.
The Oregonian reports that today Reese responded to that criticism during the promotion ceremony:
Reese told the crowd assembled at the Portland Building this morning that he, as chief, has certainly experienced the critics the last week or so. It was a veiled reference to community members who have questioned Besner's promotion, concerned that he has cost the city more than $852,000 from tort claims and jury awards in the last seven years.
But the chief said he fully supported each of the officers promoted.
"To each of you, you would not be here if I did not have faith in your ability," Reese said.
The chief went on to quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Actually, Chief Reese, in a democracy critics counts. The Portland Police Bureau does not stand apart or above the citizens of this great city. We value the service of those who risk much as members of the Bureau but many Portlanders have deep concerns about the leadership of the bureau. Promoting an individual like now-Sergeant Besner only serves to undermine confidence in the police. Religious leaders have been outspoken in criticizing the bureau for legitimate reasons in recent years and our witness is in the tradition of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other faith leaders who have challenged power because, as it reads on the walls of the Portland Justice Center: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."