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Officer's claims raise lawsuit potential

Attorney for Scappoose officer says chief 'retaliated' after concerns were raised


Scappoose city officials received a tort claim notice Tuesday, Sept. 17, from an attorney representing a Scappoose police sergeant, who alleges in the notice that Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen retaliated against him by altering the conditions and terms of his employment.

A tort notice alerts the city of the potential for Sgt. Doug Carpenter to seek monetary claims against it regarding the actions of the city or its agents that have affected Carpenter’s employment.

Carpenter is currently off work for protected leave under Oregon’s Family Leave Act, according to Jon Hanken, Scappoose city manager.

“Please understand that Sgt. Carpenter loves his job and his community, and hopes he can return to work under different leadership,” wrote attorney J. Ashlee Albies, of the Portland law firm Creighton & Rose, in the notice.

Carpenter brought allegations against Greisen that were substantiated in a report detailing an independent investigation into Greisen’s actions during a Feb. 4 police pursuit of a non-injury hit-and-run offender. In that report, Greisen was found to have violated 10 of the city’s policies and procedures, which Greisen had recommended for the city council to adopt in February 2012, related to how such pursuits occur. by: FILE PHOTO - Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen

According to the report, Greisen authorized an officer who is no longer with the Scappoose Police Department to use a pursuit intervention tactic, or PIT, to physically disable the suspect vehicle by forcing it out of commission. Neither Greisen nor the officer had been trained to perform the PIT maneuver.

The PIT technique used at the speeds in which the pursuit occurred is considered the use of deadly force, according to report.

Also in the report, Carpenter told the investigator Greisen had required him to participate in a “fitness for duty” evaluation after Carpenter had raised his concerns about the chief’s use of the PIT maneuver. Those concerns were brought to the attention of the department’s second-in-command, Lt. Norm Miller, who forwarded them to Hanken for review.

The report was outlined in detail in last week’s Spotlight and provided in whole on the newspaper’s website.

On appeal

A committee appointed by the Scappoose mayor continues to consider its recommendation following Greisen’s appeal of his 10-day unpaid suspension.

“It’s ongoing,” said Scappoose Councilor Barbara Hayden, who sits on the committee with Councilors Mark Reed and Jason Meshell and Scappoose city attorney Ron Guerra. “It’s still under review.”

This is the first time the committee, known as the Personnel Review Committee, has ever been called up since it was adopted into the city’s municipal code in 2001. It was added to the code following the termination of former Scappoose Police Chief Margo Dew in 2000, said Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge.

“The city attorney at the time wrote this process based on what the council was wanting. This is the first time it’s been used,” Burge said.

At question is whether the committee agrees or disagrees, in whole or in part, with Hanken’s decision to suspend Greisen without pay after the results of the investigation into the Feb. 4 pursuit were made available.

The city’s municipal code spells out the roles of the PRC, which is expected to meet within 10 days after the appeal notice has been filed and render a recommendation within five days of the meeting. Though the PRC had been formed Aug. 26, Burge said, and has met within the 10-day limit, the meeting has been held open and there is no set time for when it might make a recommendation.

Greisen was placed on leave Aug. 24 and was scheduled to return to duty Sept. 9. A second investigation has since been initiated, however, based on allegations Greisen retaliated against a staff member and oversaw a hostile work environment. Greisen has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of that investigation.

Though the committee is placed in the position of reviewing the city manager’s decision and offering a recommendation, it has no authority to overturn the disciplinary action against Greisen. The voter-approved Scappoose City Charter defines that authority, which clearly identifies the city manager as having the final say.

In Greisen’s Aug. 26 appeal, he argued the independent investigator — a former police officer who now works with the Local Government Personnel Institute, according to Hanken — failed to consider the source of the complaint against him, omitted important details from the report, and provided an “unfairly selective” and inconsistent report. Greisen also asserted that the report “entirely fails to take into account practical experience, judgment, and decisions made in the heat of the moment.”

Greisen noted discrepancies in the report in his appeal, including details indicating the suspect vehicle had “narrowly” avoided a swerving collision with oncoming traffic, indicating there were safety issues at stake that compelled use of the PIT.

“What started as an incident that admittedly did not call for an extreme maneuver, later took on an entirely different nature,” Greisen wrote.

Greisen did not return a phone call for comment related to this article.