The Secret Precinct

Originally published in the

Portland Free Press Newspaper

September 1995

                    Tucked away in the Portland Police Bureau budget is the cost of the Internal Affairs “precinct.” Its only purpose is to investigate its own crime fighters, those that are themselves caught in crime. And the cost of this secret precinct is staggering. It, like other precincts, is headed by a captain, whose annual salary is $67,000, four detectives with combined wages of $196,000, an administrative assistant at $34,000, (all captains have to have an administrative assistant) and a clerical person to do the paperwork at $23,000. The secret precinct costs taxpayers $320,000 annually. Not included are costs for office expenses and phone and light bills. Yes, you are paying way over a quarter of a million bucks a year for cops to investigate themselves. This internal precinct has serious legal and constitutional ramifications. What other professional group has its own judicial system?

                    It might go like this: An electrician (let's say) is caught breaking the law. The violator is immediately removed from the real justice system and hauled before the Electricians Judicial Board. The board adjudicated guilt, and the board adjudicates the penalty, say thirty or sixty days suspension and loss of wages. Perhaps even a demotion to electrician third class. But wait a minute? Doesn't the Fourteenth amendment require “equal justice under the law?” Where pray tell, does it provide for a separate judicial system for electricians? It doesn't! And neither does it provide for a separate judicial system for police!

                    Let me relate a personal experience from my years as a cop. A speeding car, heading South on SE Milwaukie Avenue late one night was weaving across the center line. When I attempted to stop it, the car accelerated and TURNED OFF ITS HEADLIGHTS. It ran the red light at Milwaukie and Holgate in excess of 90 miles per hour. A few blocks farther, the car trapped itself in a dead-end street. The driver was an intoxicated police detective sergeant.

                    I was not allowed to cite him. I was not allowed to arrest him or take him to jail or tow his car, although he clearly violated several serious statutes: Drunk driving, reckless driving and attempting to elude an officer. Instead he was taken away by another sergeant and his case was handled by Internal Affairs. He was found guilty, expelled from the detective division, although he kept his sergeants rank, and was suspended from duty without pay for thirty days. Had it been you that was trying to outrun me, it would have been jail, bail and the judge!

This secret precinct is wrong, it's expensive and more importantly is is unconstitutional

                    How does it apply today? Officer Douglas Erickson is an excellent case in point. His wild shooting case was handled by Internal Affairs. He was convicted of wrong doing by the police “judicial” system and sentenced by “Judge and Chief of Police Moose,”

                    Erickson was fired but the firing was overturned in arbitration. Consider this: If Doug Erickson, who is white, shot at another man, who was black 22 times it could be a assumed he intended to kill the man. (Erickson had to stop and reload to get off 22 shots) If he was wrong in shooting then he may be guilty of assault with intent to kill. Assault with intent to kill is a felony crime in Oregon! Erickson's case should have gone through the real judicial system. He should have been judged by a real judge and a jury, not Chief Moose and not Mayor Katz! Had the legal system been used, perhaps the officer could not have been reinstated. Convicted criminals are not eligible to be policemen.

                    Remember the case of former Detective Tony Newman? I knew him when we were both Portland Police detectives. Newman was displayed on television in handcuffs facing a real judge for assaulting his white girlfriend with a knife. Makes you wonder why his case wasn't handled by Internal affairs, the secret precinct.

                            Of course Tony Newman is black!


By Don DuPay

Authors note: In the past 16 years since this
editorial appeared in print, the cost of this
secret precinct has only gone up, paid for
by your tax dollars.