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Ask A Cop: Can police help you retrieve belongings from an ex?

HAMANN(A Lake Oswego police officer answers readers’ questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call staff reporter Cliff Newell at 503 636-1281 ext. 105 or send an email to cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.)

I want to collect my belongings from my ex-husband. Can you assist me?

The Lake Oswego Police Department frequently receives requests for this type of assistance (referred to as a “civil standby”), but we can only assist in certain circumstances. So the answer depends on whether the standby is civil, criminal or court-ordered?

The police department cannot respond to civil standbys to “keep the peace.” This is the same for custody exchanges. The police have no legal authority to be involved in civil standby situations without a court order. We do this for several reasons:

  • As I just mentioned, we have no lawful reason to be there;

  • Our presence there, without a court order, exposes us to civil liability; and

  • Even though our presence may be calming for the requesting party, it can actually escalate what would otherwise be an understandably tense, but ultimately civil, situation.

    While we may not be able to personally assist you during a civil standby, you can always call our non-emergency number at 503-635-0238 for advice on how to keep yourself safe during a custody exchange or while retrieving your belongings. If you do feel threatened or find the situation escalating, please call and we will respond appropriately.

    — Sgt. Tom Hamann

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