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Consider the police chief investigation on its merits

It’s never easy when a public official who is deeply entrenched in the community and is widely known as a trustworthy, well-liked person comes under suspicion for wrongdoing or, as is the case with Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen, negligence or inappropriate conduct on the job.

Comments on Spotlight stories posted to our Facebook page and emailed letters exemplify the fact that a large number of people in Scappoose appreciate all of the work Greisen has done for the community over the years. As a Scappoose High School graduate, he has been part of the Scappoose fabric since he was a kid. His brother, Mike Greisen, works as the fire chief for Scappoose Rural Fire District. His is a familiar face at nearly all community functions and occasions. When it comes to his relationship with the newspaper, Greisen has shown himself to be accessible and a trusted source of information.

Without a doubt, the Greisens are a known and respected family in the community with significant local roots, and there is no reason for respect toward him or his family to be compromised in light of the ongoing internal investigation into his performance as the city’s police chief.

With all of that being said, the findings of an independent investigation into a police pursuit on Feb. 4 demonstrate Greisen’s serious, potentially life-risking lapses of judgment.

The report shows that he joined an in-progress pursuit of a non-injury hit-and-run driver in an SUV not approved for such pursuits. The report indicates Greisen raced through the city with his sirens on but without an adequate overhead light bar. He didn’t inform dispatch or first responding officer Anthony Miltich that he had joined the pursuit, instead “surprising” Miltich when he came up at an estimated 80 mph alongside him.

He authorized Miltich to perform a technical maneauver on the suspect, called a Pursuit Intervention Tactic, or PIT, despite the fact neither Greisen nor Miltich had been trained to make such a move. Following the fact, Greisen told the investigator all he knew of the maneuver he had learned from watching TV shows. The maneuver was improperly conducted at a dangerous, high speed.

The investigator substantiated that Greisen had not considered the possibility that how he had positioned his police vehicle in respect to the fleeing suspect could have resulted in Greisen’s vehicle being pushed into oncoming traffic. Greisen later acknowledged that was a possibility he hadn’t considered, and acknowledged such an action would likely be fatal to the oncoming vehicle’s occupants.

Perhaps most troubling is that Greisen ultimately concluded lethal force, as it applies to his authorization of using a PIT at the 55 mph speed of the suspect, was appropriate. Recall, the suspect was fleeing a non-injury, misdemeanor hit and run from the Fred Meyer parking lot. Though the pursuit following the original offense escalated, Greisen’s assertions that he was thinking of fallen Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter, and that he believed the suspect was “deranged,” led him to conclude that that lethal force was necessary. To be clear, the suspect was driving an estimated 55 mph in a 55 mph speed limit zone.

This assertion alone warrants a city review and, as it had been substantiated by an independent investigation, appropriate corrective action.

Many of the findings stemming from the pursuit investigation have been published in this issue of the Spotlight. Our purpose in doing this is twofold.

First, we believe city residents have a right to know how public officials, especially those in positions of considerable prominence, conduct themselves in the workplace. Though it might sound cliché, Greisen serves solely at the pleasure of Scappoose city residents. Those residents are represented by an elected city council, whose function is to represent the best interests of those residents. It is our belief Scappoose residents need to be fully informed of the events that led to the investigation into the Scappoose police chief and the reasons why accusations of improper on-the-job conduct were substantiated.

Second, Scappoose is a small town. Rumors and gossip spread like wildfire. One of the most common to come across our desk is that this is a “witch hunt,” with others implying Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken has it out for Greisen. Some have implied that Hanken has an “axe to grind” with Greisen, and still others have accused Hanken of attacking Greisen in the pages of the Spotlight. In fact, Greisen’s second in command, Lt. Norm Miller, recommended the investigation following a review of the damaged vehicle conducted by Sgt. Doug Carpenter, Miltich’s immediate supervisor at the time of the pursuit.

We are unaware of an occasion in which Hanken has malevolently targeted Greisen in the pages of the Spotlight beyond answering questions we have asked him. He is Greisen’s supervisor, and given our position that he is obligated to inform the local residents of the status of the police chief, it is his job to let us know of actions that substantially affect the city’s ability to provide its services.

Such talk deflects from the real question: Is the Scappoose police chief fit to perform his duties as he is required?

As this goes to press, a second investigation into Greisen has been launched regarding allegations he operates a hostile workplace and has retaliated against officers who spoke against him. We await the conclusion of that independent investigation.

We encourage Scappoose residents and officials to view these investigations and their conclusions on the merits, not on a sense of loyalty that risks exposing the city to litigation and exposing its residents and those who pass through the city on any given day to excessive actions that could result in considerable harm.