By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

About that delay in officer interviews ...

All WhatchamaColumns                    

After the Nov. 15 police shooting of murder suspect Juventino Bermudez-Arenas, three McMinnville police officers — on advice from police union counsel Daryl Garrettson — declined to make statements or answer questions about the incident. Two days later, after viewing a video of the shooting, they again met privately with counsel before finally submitting to interviews by law enforcement investigators.

Some called it an unacceptable practice to allow officers this opportunity to mold and align their stories. As so often is the case, however, the issue is more complicated than it first appears.

We will never know what drove Bermudez-Arenas to carry out the unprovoked murder of Parker Moore, a total stranger simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. We can only speculate why Bermudez-Arenas returned to the scene minutes later with the weapon and seemingly provoked his own death at the hands of three McMinnville police officers.

As reported in today’s paper, there will be more investigations into the events of Nov. 15. Officers have been cleared of criminal charges, but interim Police Chief Matt Scales will convene a review board to investigate the incident from perspectives involving MPD policies, best law enforcement practices, training and related internal issues.

While waiting for that investigation, we can consider myriad issues related to the delayed interviews with those officers. But any such debate should include points raised by a 2009 article in The Police Chief magazine entitled, “When Public Duty and Individual Rights Collide in Use-of-Force Cases.”

First, as a matter of union contractual agreement with McMinnville police:

“Employees involved in the use of deadly physical force will be advised of their rights and allowed to consult with an attorney (or agent) prior to being required to give an oral or written statement about the use of deadly physical force. The right to consult with an attorney or agent will not unduly delay the giving of the statement or hinder the immediate processing of an ongoing incident.”

The 2009 article, analyzing a complex mix of professional and legal issues, was written by Karen J. Kruger, then-counsel to the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. Here is the core of her somewhat surprising conclusion:

“Under most circumstances, agencies can require officers who are involved in critical events to provide a routine report of what happened. However, most often, this is not the best practice.”

The full article is a fascinating read. You can find it online at www.newsregister.com/officershooting.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Web Design & Web Development by LVSYS