Justice served at MPD; now it's time to move on
We’ve had nothing but the highest regard for the men and women of the McMinnville Police Department and have found that esteem widely shared in the community. The level of professionalism they display has always been beyond reproach.
We’ve viewed them as colleagues and co-workers, partners in the process of making this community a better place to live. We’ve seen them as calm, patient and positive forces for good.
That admiration made it doubly jarring this year when the story surfaced about an officer’s violent, unprovoked, 2010 attack on a McMinnville citizen who was the passenger in a traffic stop — slamming him to the asphalt, beating him to the point of breaking his elbow and ribs, then taking him into custody for resisting arrest. It was the same officer who was involved in a 2012 Seaside brawl after consuming, by his own admission, 12 or 13 drinks.
Unknown in 2010, the episode was indelibly preserved in the form of a squad car video. Fortunately for the city, even without that video as evidence, beating victim Hippolita Aranda was acquitted of all five counts by a local jury. It’s lucky he settled for the reasonable sum of $295,000 in his subsequent civil suit. And it’s fortunate the city carries insurance, keeping that burden from falling on taxpayers.
It isn’t luck, however, that city leaders opted for a series of measured and deliberate steps to remove the offending officer from police ranks. He got a second chance because the videotape didn’t surface in 2010, and he blew it as badly as the first. Now he’s gone.
Every citizen should be grateful, as should every remaining officer. No law-abiding citizen should have to fear for his safety when he encounters a McMinnville officer, and no officer should have to encounter citizens legitimately harboring such fears.
The system worked at every step, even though the videotape, which ultimately erased all doubt, remained unavailable until late in the going because the police chief viewed a replacement tape without knowing the problematic original had been fixed by technicians.
For that, we give special thanks to the defense counsel and jury in the criminal case; the chief and his captains in the internal reviews; and the chief and city attorney in the dismissal. They performed well under difficult circumstances.
Both city and county prosecutors concluded that the glaring discrepancy between the officer’s account and the videotape record makes any future testimony from him impeachable. That made him dead weight as an officer, and the chief acted in the public interest to terminate his employment.
It was difficult for the offending officer, who, by some accounts, changed after the Seaside incident and was regaining internal respect in the department. However difficult it was for him, his family and colleagues, the city had to recognize that he forfeited public trust, and there’s no winning it back.
We think it’s time McMinnville and its police force put this pair of episodes behind and move on. Some wounds were inflicted, and the sooner we can tend them, the sooner they will heal.