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Marshman promises to release police report on alleged assault

UPDATE: DA's report summarizes criminal investigation, legal issues

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: NICK BUDNICK - New Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman had to answer questions about an alleged choking of his stepson soon after being introduced by Mayor Charlie Hales last week.Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman knew he would be under a microscope in his new job. But he seemed taken by surprise last week by questions about a 10-year-old investigation into an alleged assault of his then-stepson.

Marshman responded quickly Thursday in an interview with the Portland Tribune, however, vowing to release a police report on the incident — as well as his entire personnel file — as early as today. “Being a chief, you get an extra level of scrutiny, so it makes sense to me,” he said.

Mayor Charlie Hales named Marshman chief on June 27, citing the need for “unquestioned leadership” at a time when his predecessor Larry O’Dea and his then-four assistant chiefs are under investigation over their handling of O’Dea’ accidental shooting of a friend. State and local investigations are looking at whether O’Dea misled a Harney County sheriff’s deputy who investigated the shooting, and why, contrary to bureau policies, the shooting was not investigated internally until news of it broke in the media.

In an early interview after taking the chief’s job, Marshman said he would stress fairness in overhauling the bureau’s policing. Now, discussing the time he was criminally investigated, he says he is making a “show of faith” in the public, noting that the incident was deemed “unproven” by an internal investigation nearly a decade ago.

In late 2006 the Portland Bureau received an anonymous complaint that Marshman had choked his then-teenage stepson during an argument, and rammed his head into a wall. Marshman says he was taken by surprise when criminal investigators approached him at his desk and asked to talk to him. “I said ‘Wow, I’m surprised, I’m not ready to talk at this time,’ ” he says.

Later, as required by bureau policies, he gave an interview to an internal affairs investigator. That probe judged the complaint “unproven,” and no criminal charges were ever filed.

“Obviously, it’s an unfortunate incident,” Marshman says. “I wish it never happened.” He says he hopes both his ex-wife and former stepson have moved on. Both of them declined to comment for this article, as did the bureau’s now-retired criminal investigator on the case, Karen Mack.

Praise for the new chief

For Marshman and the bureau, the latest attention to potential misconduct by a high-ranking official could not come at a worse time. The bureau is facing a likely reorganization to try to address what officials describe as a historic staffing shortage. Meanwhile, Marshman has been addressing officer roll calls in an effort to boost the bureau’s poor morale, saying he plans to improve relations with the community.

Many current and former police officers who worked with him give him high praise, as do members of the African-American community and police oversight activists.

On a scale of 1 to 10, “he’s a 10 — no, make that a 12,” says Officer Stuart Palmiter, who describes Marshman as ethical and fair. “He really cares about the rank and file.”

Retired Sgt. Brian Schmautz says that Marshman was a sergeant when he worked with him last, and “it’s always about the bureau for him, not about himself.”

Retired Capt. C.W. Jensen had been talking up Marshman for the chief’s job well before Hales’ decision, saying it would “send a strong message about police accountability and a commitment to return to community policing.”

Retired cop Tom Mack praised Marshman’s early moves, such as promoting Chris Uehara to assistant chief. “I have high hopes for Marshman,” Mack says.

So how does Marshman restore trust in the bureau? He says he intends to follow the advice he received from Portland activist Joyce Harris years ago, when he asked about building trust.

“She said it’s one-on-one relationsips. I can’t do it from a podium, I can’t do it on TV. It’s literally many many one-on-one conversations and relationship building. Which I literally expect every bureau member, including me, to do. And that’s like a pebble in a pond right? That will ripple out.”

UPDATE: County report sheds light on incident

The only report obtained about the incident so far includes information that contradicts some of what Marshall told the Portland Tribune about it.

In the report obtained last week by the Tribune, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office summarizes the criminal investigation into the incident. Among other things, it says the stepson was 16 years old when it occurred at Marshman’s home, not 19 or 20, as he told the Tribune when first asked about it last week.

And the report says the stepson claims Marshman grabbed him around the neck, not by the shirt, as Marshman said.

But the report also explains why no charges were filed against Marshman at the time, explaining there was insufficient evidence for the logical felony charge and the stature of limitations had expired on possible misdemeanor charges by the time the incident was report four years later.

According to the report, the incident happened in 2002. At time, Marshman was living with the stepson and his mother on Sauvie Island. The incident was apparently not reported to authorities until 2006, a few months after Marshman and the stepson’s mother divorced. The incident did not become public until 10 years later when it first reported by the Portland Tribune last Thursday, three days after Marshman was appointed chief.

The two-page summary report says the investigation started in August and was completed in October 2006. It says the incident occurred four years earlier in 2002, when the stepson was 16 years old. The report includes a description of the incident by the stepson, whom it identifies as the “victim.” The report does not include Marshman’s version of the incident.

In the report, the stepson said Marshman told him to turn a light off in the kitchen, and this “bugged him” because Marshman didn’t turn there light off himself. The stepson told Marshman “You’re an a**hole” and Marshman asked the stepson to repeat himself. The stepson said he did, and that Marshman then grabbed him by the neck, “choking him and pushing him up against a wall” before dropping him.

The report says the stepson said these actions by his stepfather “did hurt” and that he “couldn’t speak and had a loss of breath and words when it happened.” The stepson also said he had bruising the next day which was photographed. According to the report, his mother said at first she thought the bruises “were hickies because of their appearance.”

But the stepson also said the pain was not long lasting, that he could not described it on a scale of 1 to 10, and that he couldn’t recall whether he had a stiff neck the next day.

No charges filed

The legal analysis in the report says there is insufficient evidence for a felony charge of criminal mistreatment one before the state would have to be able to prove substantial pain or physical impairment. Possible misdemeanor crimes included harassment or attempt criminal mistreatment in the first degree, but the two-year statute of limitations had expired.

Although the stepson’s description fit the current Class A misdemeanor crime of strangulation, it did not apply because the Oregon Legislature did not pass it until 2003, the year after the incident, the report says.

The report describes the disposition of the investigation as “Insufficient Evidence as a Whole” on Oct. 20, 2006.

The Portland Tribune first wrote about the DA's report on Friday. You can read that story at pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/313481-192201-new-portland-chief-mike-marshman-says-10-year-old-alleged-assault-of-stepson-was-untrue/

Jim Redden contributed to this story.