- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Federal justice officials have criticized Mayor Charlie Hales for failing to begin an immediate investigation after the police chief was involved in an off-duty shooting in Eastern Oregon.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported (https://bit.ly/2dqm1mp ) that the criticism was included in a Justice Department review of Portland’s compliance with a police reform settlement agreement.

The agreement stems from a 2012 investigation that found city police used excessive force against people with mental illness. It called for a wide range of reforms to police policies, training and oversight.

Chief Larry O’Dea accidentally shot a friend in the back during an April camping trip. He informed Hales several days later, but the public didn’t learn of the incident for a month.

O’Dea quit in June amid a criminal investigation into whether he was forthright after the shooting.

Hales defended his silence and blasted the press for its “trial by media” when announcing O’Dea’s departure. He asked everyone to await the outcome of the investigation before passing judgment.

In a statement released Wednesday, Hales said when O’Dea told him about the incident he also said he would notify internal affairs and Hales trusted he had done so.

“City ordinances and policies govern all internal investigations of Police Bureau members. My role as Police Commissioner is intentionally separate from the investigative process,” the statement said.

The Oregon Department of Justice has yet to finish the investigation.

The federal report noted that no one with the city informed the Independent Police Review Division of the shooting. That group learned of it through the press.

Hales did acknowledge in the statement that no one from the city notified the Independent Police Review Division.

“The Police Commissioner’s and former Chief’s failure to act obstructed a ‘fair and expeditious resolution’ of the alleged misconduct and failed to hold officers accountable pursuant to a disciplinary system that is fair and consistent,” federal justice officials wrote in the report submitted Tuesday.

Instead, the report said, a city official texted to O’Dea, “Don’t worry chief we got your back.”

O’Dea had been chief for little more than a year when he went on the trip to Harney County. He shot his friend, Robert Dempsey, in the lower back with a .22 caliber rifle. The friend was taken to a Boise hospital but not seriously hurt.

O’Dea didn’t identify himself as Portland’s police chief when deputies spoke with him, and he said it appeared Dempsey shot himself in a mishap.

Though O’Dea told the mayor he had fired the shot, Harney County authorities didn’t learn the truth until weeks later, when Dempsey finally spoke with an investigator.


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, https://www.oregonlive.com

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