Officer's suspension wouldn't be enough, community leader says

The recommendation to suspend, but not fire, Portland police officer Scott McCollister for shooting and killing Kendra James during a traffic stop last month was strongly criticized by a prominent black community leader on Thursday.

Pastor Roy Tate, president of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, denounced the proposed suspension announced in a statement Thursday afternoon by Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker. The alliance has been critical of both the shooting and the police bureau's policy on the use of deadly force.

'It indicates to us that life is just valueless,' Tate said. 'It's another dark day for us.'

James, 21, was shot to death as she tried to drive away following a traffic stop of a car in which she was a passenger.

According to police reports, McCollister, 27, said he shot James because he feared for his life. McCollister said he had climbed partially into the car to arrest James on an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court on a previous charge and thought he was going to fall out and be run over as she started to drive away.

Kroeker said in his one-page statement that he found the use of deadly force against James to be justified. However, Kroeker said, he questioned McCollister's actions leading up to the controversial shooting.

'After lengthy and thoughtful consideration, I concluded that while the use of force itself was within established Bureau guidelines, the officer's actions leading up to the use of force are of concern,' the statement said.

Kroeker said he is recommending to Mayor Vera Katz that McCollister receive a 'lengthy suspension.' Under the bureau's disciplinary policies, McCollister will have an opportunity to tell his side of the story before a final decision is made.

McCollister has been on paid leave since the incident. Officers Rick Bean, 23, and Kenneth Reynolds III, 26, who also were involved in the traffic stop, have returned to work after being on paid leave.

Kroeker refused to elaborate on his written statement.

Katz started a vacation Thursday morning and also was unavailable for comment.

'The chief and Vera conferred, and she agrees with his decision,' said Elise Marshall, the mayor's liaison to the police bureau. 'We can't say anything more because McCollister has some due process rights.'

The disciplinary process is governed by contract between the bureau and the Portland Police Association, the union representing McCollister and the other officers.

Union President Robert King previously has promised the association will fight any effort to discipline McCollister. He could not be reached for comment after Kroeker's announcement.

A Multnomah County grand jury declined to charge McCollister with any crime related to the shooting.

According to Kroeker's statement, an internal administrative review involving members of the bureau, the city attorney's office and the Independent Police Review Division then was conducted. It compared McCollister's actions to the police bureau's Manual of Police and Procedure and the bureau's training policies, the statement said.

'The recommendations from the internal review then came to me for a decision,' Kroeker said in the statement.

Tate said McCollister should have been fired for the way he handled the situation.

'According to the chief, he had some major concerns about what led up to it, although the shooting was within policy. But the officer put himself in harm's way. That means he made a bad judgment call. Because he made a bad judgment call, he needs to be terminated,' Tate said.

A community vigil is planned at the shooting site for 7 p.m. Saturday. It will be held where North Skidmore Street crosses over Interstate 5.

On Tuesday, Katz and Kroeker are expected to face community members at a public forum on the shooting. It is set for 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Mount Olivet Family Life Center, 8725 N. Chautauqua Blvd.

Contact Jim Redden This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Jennifer Anderson contributed to this story.

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