Kendra James...shall her killer now receive an apology for his deed?
About redeeming the reputation of a flawed civil servant in which the O's high profile conservative advocate exercises his muscle to mend a cracked pot. Why it should be tossed into the dustbin.
Scott McCollister took a life. After Kendra James moved from the back seat to the driver's seat of a car stopped one early morning and proceeded to put the car in motion, Scott McCollister inserted himself partway into the car in an effort to remove her from it, unsuccessfully as it turns out, until after he shot her in the back with the bullet exiting her body from her right breast.
In the face of considerable pressure from vocal members of the public, the city and the bureau paid lip service by suspending McCollister for five and a half months without pay for "unsatisfactory performance", only to later have the state arbitrator order the city to pay his back wages and expunge his record. Quite a turn-a-round.
To what may we account for this? Can the City and the PPB's understanding and perception of the Policy and Procedure Manual, and the incident involving Kendra James and McCollister have been so vague as to allow them to concede to the case of injustice pled to them by an outraged public? Or, was this a known and deliberate error in regards to understanding and perception of manual and incident, reflecting misgivings about procedures that the manual directs officers to use when they are obliged to take citizens into custody?
Questions about who our society is comprised of, what their problems are, and how to address them are ongoing and of critical importance. Maintaining law and order and exercising humanity towards those subject to it is a challenge that does not seem to have been thorougly thought out here in Portland.
I've taken the facts about McCollister's suspension directly from the O's associate editor David Reinhard's column in the 1/26/06 edition. Reinhard, the O's unwavering conservative pointman naturally would like McCollister's deed to be burnished to heroic status.
In adddition to the return of back pay and record expungement, Reinhard would have McCollister's critics; "former Mayor Katz, the black community and 2003's instant experts...follow up the arbitrator's decision with an apology to Scott McCollister". He adds that perhaps any silence reflecting a failure to do this may be an acknowledgement of shame regarding their criticism of McCollister's actions.
I thank Mr. Reinhard for illuminating the possibility that shame might be an explanation for apologies that will likely never come to McCollister from his critics. I would wager to guess though, that the reason apologies will not be forthcoming has nothing to do with shame but rather the fact that both PPB Policy and Procedure Manual and McCollister were wrong. Of the two, the manual was more wrong, because it actually specified the policy directing McCollister to use lethal force in lieu of a strategy that might have saved a life.
McCollister was wrong because he escalated a chain of events that required he fire his weapon into Kendra James back in order to terminate that chain of events and her life.
They had all the usual hearings and recreations of the incident, but the examinations and coverage of them were inherently confined to what I expect was a very small number of serious observers. Yes, the timeline around the actual shooting was very brief and did not allow for advance thinking and pre-planning. Of course, none of us were there. Maybe, if I'd had opportunity to more closely study a second by second account of the timeline, I'd have a better feeling about the idea that McCollister's actions were justified. Maybe not.
About the Manual and McCollister though, this much seems to be true: The Manual allows for ready use of lethal force against an unco-operative person judged violent with very little consideration for extenuating factors.
Drug influenced behavior and unexpected but recognizable episodes of mental disorder have proven to be death sentences for people in the Portland area because the Manual and the implementation of its directives by some Portland Police officers do not prescribe consideration for the presence of those conditions.
According to the manual, McCollister's prime directive was to arrest an unco-operative person using any means neccessary, including the use of lethal force, period. What if the fundamental priority of that directive leading to a person's arrest, had been to preserve the person's life to the extent that it could be done so without undue risk to the officer and others? The incident might have ended differently with no deaths on that night.
McCollister initially felt confident enough about his ability to remove Kendra James from the car, that he put one foot inside of it, if I remember correctly. But was he pulling on her with both hands? At some time in the shooting timeline, obviously no, because he had his weapon in his hand to shoot her with. By this time, the car was starting to move slowly with him half outside the car. I can't remember reading at what point exactly he had his weapon out. My guess is, he had the weapon out as he approached, knowing he had that readily available option. He knew, according to training and the Manual, that his priority was to arrest, irrespective of the life that might be lost.
Had he initially grabbed her with both hands he probably could have pulled her out of the car. Instead, it sounds like she was able to lean forward and to the right, trying to escape his grasp as the car started to slowly move forward, exposing her back to him into which he fired the fatal bullet. He did this because it was the most expedient way to carry out the PPB Policy and Procedure directives regarding an arrest. Though he is obliged to carry out the directives of the Manual, he is entitled to do so using his own discretion. The manner in which he did aptly reveals the nature of his regard for fellow human beings.
As they choose, the City and PPB can waffle on the morality of PPB member's application of the PPB manual's directives. They can sneak a sigh of relief when the state arbitrator lets McCollister off scot free from a life staining incident involving a star-crossed victim. The O can fill up space with the indulgences of its cavalier conservative point-man. For myself, I think I just may reserve any forthcoming apologies for an individual eventually coming along who really deserves it. McCollister is not that individual.
All of this is why I'm hoping to soon see somebody actively take steps to review, intimately familiarize the public with the manual that directs its officers in the way they confront the public, and re-write the manual. I hope soon to know more about how the directives of the manual are written and approved for use.
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