Portland Police PIO responds to coverage of Ainsworth incident

Sergeant Brian Schmautz, the Public Information Officer for the Portland Police Bureau has left a detailed comment in response to our story on the Ainsworth incident.

On Saturday, several members of the PSU Cycling Club were riding on Ainsworth when they were allegedly passed dangerously by a Portland Police Officer. According to witnesses that saw the incident, one of the riders gestured to the officer in frustration and the officer then pulled him over, a discussion ensued, and several tickets were issued (to two riders).

After reading through 143 a few of the comments on the original story, here is how Sgt. Schmautz replied:

I have read several of the postings in this current thread and would like to join this discussion with a few brief comments. The conclusions you are reaching about the incident described in the story are based on statements made by the individuals who encountered the officer. It is a one-sided version of the incident. I am personally aware of several prior stories on this website where it was eventually determined that the facts of an event differed dramatically from the original description of the event.

I am also surprised by the vitriol of some of the individuals posting in the comment section. How many of the individuals posting have ever had direct contact with the officer involved in this event or for that matter, any police officer? Would you be willing to make such blanket and far-reaching conclusions about any other group of human beings?

I personally believe that individuals learn about each other by a respectful dialogue. Opinions are changed and lessons are learned by finding points of mutual agreement and then working toward changing hearts and minds. It is difficult for officers to engage in a meaningful or productive dialogue when people are making such broadly sweeping, and in some cases, threatening statements.

The final word on this incident will be by a Traffic Court judge who hears both sides of the story and applies the law to the facts provided. I believe it would be better to have someone hear both sides and report on them. This would allow the reader to draw informed conclusions rather than just venting in a way that does nothing to improve communication.

Beginning with a premise that lacks factual complete information leads to uninformed decisions and does not improve the relationships required to create a safer society.

Sergeant Brian Schmautz
Public Information Officer
Portland Police Bureau

Story continues below

advertisement

I will respond by saying that I reported the story objectively and only as it was presented to me by three different witnesses, one of whom I know and trust personally.

I agree with Sgt. Schmautz that it is better to hear both sides, but in this case I decided to present the story with the information I had at the time. Because this is a traffic citation, it wouldn’t even have risen to the level that the PIO would have known about.

I would also point out that there are countless stories reported in the media that come directly and solely through statements and interviews with Sgt. Schmautz and include no other perspective whatsoever. That was the case with the big road rage story back in July that was sensationalized by the Oregonian and then sparked international interest.

It is also worth noting that covering the police is a tricky job. The PPB is often unable to share details of a case until well after the news cycle is complete, making it impossible for a reporter to share both sides of a story. That’s why I take the utmost care and deliberation in presenting stories like this and I try to present them in an objective light.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
80 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
bDave
bDave
13 years ago

Jonathan,
I have always admired your unbiased approach when reporting on bikeportland. If it weren’t for your finely crafted objectivity, your site wouldn’t be what it has become today.

Blair
Blair
13 years ago

Five paragraphs to say nothing? Why bother responding if there are no details? To scold Bike Portland commenters like an authoritarian school teacher? I think so, because the letter provides no further insights on the matter. And the officer never said he read all 143 comments, just that he had read “several of the postings in this current thread” (Schmautz).

K'Tesh
K'Tesh
13 years ago

I think bDave says it well…

Keep up the good work!

matt picio
13 years ago

I’m curious about the “threatening statements”. I did read all 143 comments and can’t recall any threats of violence. Are we not allowed to criticize anymore? Some of the statements could potentially be libelous, but I’m curious which ones are potentially threatening.

I don’t envy Sgt. Schmautz, however – PIO is a thankless job, and PPB has a serious image problem in much of the community and many of its various sub-communities. I certainly hope that the PPB takes the general tone of people’s responses to the actions of PPB officers into consideration and not get bogged down by the individual manifestations.

matt picio
13 years ago

Oh, and I agree – Jonathan, you do a great job of being as objective and unbiased as your sources allow.

patrickz
patrickz
13 years ago

As stated above, Jonathan, you do a fine, accurate and unbiased job.

Adam
Adam
13 years ago

Jonathan, you have no reason to have to justify your reporting. You do an excellent job. If Schmautz wants both sides to be heard why doesn’t he release an official statement telling his officer’s side?

brettoo
brettoo
13 years ago

Jonathan: you reported the story fairly and objectively. You’ve never claimed to be a mainstream journalist, but there’s no ethical rule in journalism that forbids you from presenting facts alleged by people involved in news. You should try to get all (it’s usually more than just two) sides of any story, but if you’ve done that (i.e asked PPB to comment), and one side refuses or is unable to give its version, well, there’s not much else you can do except report that version later when it becomes available. We readers need to be aware that we’re hearing only one side and reserve judgment accordingly. Keep up the good work.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
13 years ago

Jonathan – keep up the good work and getting the word out. Stay the course on promoting discussion.

N.I.K.
N.I.K.
13 years ago

Reading his statement, I can only conclude that Sgt. Schmautz has so little to say on the incident because there *is* so little to say. What’s more, for someone quick to decry the accusations of people who weren’t present at the occurrence of said incident, he sure is quick to pull out his own blanket accusations about who has/hasn’t dealt with the PPB. Looks like the new era of the sarky rhetorical “does that really happen” is being upheld.

Hart
13 years ago

Did this just cop just threaten the people posting on this site? The noive!

toddistic
toddistic
13 years ago

One fact remains, apart from either side of the story. Ainsworth is a dangerous street to cycle on due to impatient drivers. It lacks proper traffic control devices compared with similar streets in NE. If we put in a few more four way stop signs it would make a world of difference.

Kathleen McDade
13 years ago

Jonathan, I think the reporting was fine. I think the important think to note is what Sgt. Schmautz said about commenters. Even if there were no actual threats of violence made, there IS a strong tendency for internet commenters to jump to conclusions and make statements that they perhaps would not make to a person’s face. We do have to remember that people are people, even on the internet. Whether talking about a police officer, cyclist, pedestrian, driver, government official — even if they DID make a mistake, that person is a human being.

Argentius
13 years ago

The problem with this, in part, is the standard of proof required.

Unlike prosecutions for crimes, police have a very low standard of proof for traffic violations. I don’t think it’s possible for a driver or rider to operate their vehicle without commiting dozens of putative violations that could meet the “preponderance of evidence” standard required.

The problem, then, is that the combination of the cost of the tickets, the value of the time involved in contesting them, and the potentially large raise in auto insurance rate, if the cyclists in question are rider / drivers, is largely without oversight.

Without having been there, how many tickets of this nature are reasonably legitimately issued?

How is it even reasonably possible to be cited for failing to update the information on a document one is not required to carry?

CMyers
CMyers
13 years ago

Blair #2 is right!
He didn’t say anything in those five paragraphs. I would expect a lot more from the PIO of the PPB. You get a sense that he is starting to circle the wagons. Do our tax dollars actually pay for Sergeant Schmautz?! I can’t believe that a trained Public Information Officer commented in such a manner.

Interesting that this whole thing could have been avoided if the officer had just waited to pass the riders.

Whatever happened to doing the right thing!

I have been studying Portland history for a while (kind of a hobby) and it’s interesting to note that since Portland’s incorporation in 1851, we have had a very long tradition of corrupt and negative activities within the police department. I’m not saying they are corrupt now. But they still have that attitude that they can and will do anything they want. It’s disgusting.

Keep up the great work J!

N.I.K.
N.I.K.
13 years ago

Kathleen, that bit about being human’s a perfectly valid point. Point out where Sgt. Schmautz actually says this instead of being acridly contrarian towards the acridly contrarian and you’ll alter my perspective drastically. Regrettably, the Sergeant has little to say here that goes beyond adversarial finger-wagging, and even less to say regarding the incident itself. Comparatively speaking, he would have been better off not having said anything at all.

bjorn
bjorn
13 years ago

Jonathan, I would encourage you to see about getting a copy of any dashboard camera footage that may exist of the incident and posting it online. This footage might show both how close the officer came to the cyclists as well as any gesture that was made etc.

Bjorn

-b
-b
13 years ago

“I would also point out that there are countless stories reported in the media that come directly and solely through statements and interviews with Sgt. Schmautz and include no other perspective whatsoever. That was the case with the big road rage story back in July that was sensationalized by the Oregonian and then sparked international interest.”

thank you for pointing that out. seems like schmautz is starting to get a little worried. which is pretty hilarious. afterall, he knows that, “The final word on this incident will be by a Traffic Court judge who hears both sides of the story and applies the law to the facts provided.”
therefore, why is he so invested in what the public thinks?
maybe it’s because he fears the power of the people.
schmautz complaining about a one-sided perspective is hella livin’ in a glass house.

we’re one of the most pro-active larger cities in this nation. we’re not going to blindly bow down to ascribed authority figures.
little beirut represent!

long live the independent media!

N.I.K.
N.I.K.
13 years ago

Interesting that this whole thing could have been avoided if the officer had just waited to pass the riders.

That one sentence is possibly the most loaded and worth-while statement I’ve seen on the entire episode. Indeed, it is a sad day when simple impatience -particularly concerning circumstances not at all unusual in a place such as Portland!- swallows up time, words, and tax dollars.

Dave
13 years ago

I completely second what Kathleen said – I’ve found on my own blog and this blog and a number of others, that it’s easy for people to make really angry statements about things (I’ve done it myself without thinking), and it only serves to stir everyone up and create a tense situation. Even if you disagree with how the police officer treated the situation, that’s all you need to say. You don’t need to start making judgements about his character or of police officers in general, just say you don’t agree with how he handled the situation, end of story.

Kathleen McDade
13 years ago

N.I.K. I based my comments on paragraphs 2-3 of Sgt. Schmautz’s statement.

borgbike
13 years ago

Sez Sgt. Schmautz: “The final word on this incident will be by a Traffic Court judge who hears both sides of the story”

Well, yes and no. The bicyclists should go to trial. That will be a form of justice, but I wouldn’t get snookered by the fact that that will do anything to change the offending officer’s attitude towards bicyclists. The only way to get justice in this sense is to file a complaint with the PPD.

gabriel amadeus
13 years ago

Based merely on the citations that were issued to the cyclists I have successfully concluded that Officer Pryce is a jerk. I really want to go to court for this one, just so I can see a judge make fun of him.

N.I.K.
N.I.K.
13 years ago

Kathleen: you mean gems like, “It is difficult for officers to engage in a meaningful or productive dialogue when people are making such broadly sweeping, and in some cases, threatening statements.”? Pot, kettle, etc. Again, 100% valid point on your end, but if enacting constructive dialog what the Sargeant was really getting at, he ought to approach things from that angle, particularly as a servant of the public at large. Instead, he writes *everybody* off as a bunch of hostile myth-peddlers who don’t know what they’re talking about and goes on to say how tough it is to talk about things when a story is “one sided”. That’s it, and it’s weak in the extreme. Either talk about the incident or don’t, FFS.

Coyote
Coyote
13 years ago

When I read the story Jonathon, I was a little surprised you posted it. It was kind of a us vs. them powder keg with little to be gained, and little hope of resolution.

Cops often react poorly when challenged. That has nothing to with bicycles, that is just a cop/citizen thing. In my experience, many cops act significantly more poorly than Officer Pryce apparently did. No judgment on my part for either party, just an observation.

k.
k.
13 years ago

Jonathan unbiased?! Obviously you’ve never read any of his coverage of the Sprockettes. 😉

bobcycle
bobcycle
13 years ago

“Interesting that this whole thing could have been avoided if the officer had just waited to pass the riders.”
Also could have been avoided if the cyclist didn’t display his displeasure at the police officer

Also could have been avoided if police officer ignored said display of displeasure

(this here incident would make a great song with 3 part harmonies by Arlo Guthrie)
The show down of the college bicycle team and the PDX Police community officer. A wise judge would suggest this be solved by some sort of contest held on bikes… (use your imagination)

joe
joe
13 years ago

+1 for props to JMaus for covering this sort of incident. Even though he knows that he will catch a bunch of flak for it on all sides, he has the sprockets to research and write it.

This sort of event is a nexus of infrastructure, legality, PPB’s attitude toward cycling, safe riding, and group rides.

He always gives both sides an opportunity to talk. I do not know of another reporter who does this with such commitment. damn, I wish I could think of something accusatory or inflammatory. but, in any case, good job.

anonymous.
anonymous.
13 years ago

“How many of the individuals posting have ever had direct contact with the officer involved in this event or for that matter, any police officer?”

Well, -I- certainly have.

“Would you be willing to make such blanket and far-reaching conclusions about any other group of human beings?”

Generally speaking? No.

Ian
Ian
13 years ago

Unfortunately, the comments of Sgt. Schmautz would lead us to believe we have heard only half of a two sided story and that both parties should be allowed equal consideration for their version of the events. The fallacy in his statement is that when both parties do have their full story heard in a court of law, the police officer’s word will be given significantly more weight. I’m not saying I disagree with our court system giving more credence to the word of a sworn officer. I’m simply trying to point out that Sgt. Schmautz’s comments are misleading.

As to the incident, well, I think enough has been said about that already. I look forward to the trial results and I hope the outcome is a respectable one.

Thanks for your continuing hard work, Jonathan.

RyNO Dan
RyNO Dan
13 years ago

Schmautz – In fact many of us /have/ had interactions with your collegues, and many of them /have/ been unpleasant with bad outcomes where cyclists were treated
unnecessarily poorly. That’s what makes the portrayal of this event SO believable. There is ample precedent for situation, and the responses should be completely understandable.
Very simple – Why did the officer stop the cyclists after the officer had passed the cyclists in the patrol car ?
You are the information officer. Please add the factual information that you mention to be missing. Happy Day !!

ss29er
ss29er
13 years ago

“Respectful dialogue” for people to learn about each other??? Tell that to the officers who got pissed off and simply started issuing tickets. There’s no respectful dialogue there – just one sided arrogant abuse of authority. No “blanket” meaning here. But who is going to disagree that this isn’t common of police in situations like this. I don’t care who you are – if you’re in a car making life dangerous for a cyclist, you deserve a huge earful, and if you can’t get over a middle finger in the process, figure out a way. There is zero excuse for driving like this around cyclists. Period.

matt picio
13 years ago

k. (#25) – Oh, I *know* you didn’t just diss the Sprockettes.

We’re going to have to throw down, you and I. 😉

L
L
13 years ago

Jonathan,

Please change this post’s title. In no way did Officer Schmautz respond to the Ainsworth incident. He merely responded to your reporting and the comments made on BP.

I agree as well that it is best to hear all sides. We still haven’t heard the PPD’s yet…

PdxMark
PdxMark
13 years ago

I agree with Sgt. Schmaultz’s comment that “individuals learn about each other by a respectful dialogue. Opinions are changed and lessons are learned by finding points of mutual agreement and then working toward changing hearts and minds.”

My problem with this whole story is that it doesn’t sound like the officer had any intention to cite anyone until he got tired of the discussion. Rather than knowing how to end a “respectful dialogue” it sounds much more like the officer resorted to an unprofessional abuse of authority when he got frustrated with the dialogue. In this case it seems that the cyclists were cited more BECAUSE they were discussing the situation than because of how they were riding their bikes.

Rixtir
Rixtir
13 years ago

Sgt. Schmautz is personally aware of several stories that were one-sided, and where it was eventually determined that the facts differed dramatically from the original story?

So, Sgt, Schmautz, how’d that Kyle Egertson case turn out?

*deafening silence*

James Ceccorulli
James Ceccorulli
13 years ago

I had a police officer make a right on red, entering burnside as I was proceeding straight through the green light. He did not stop at the red but mereley slowed and made the turn. I grabbed ahold of the brakes and made a similar gesture to the police officer. This officer actually pulled up next to me and appoligized. Sgt Schmautz, why can’t this happen more often when an officer shows poor judgement?

Feh
Feh
13 years ago

I’d sooner believe Hank Paulson is telling the truth about the TARP bailouts than believe anything that comes out of Sgt. Schmautz’s mouth (or keyboard).

And yes, I would indeed say that to his face.

Mick
13 years ago

One-sided? How about Bob Verrinder’s case, Sgt. Schmautz?

Those in glass houses…

dan
dan
13 years ago

This is the Portland Police Bureau, the home of cops who feel free to flip on their lights any time they want to run a red light. That behavior leaves a pretty poor impression of how police act towards other users of the road.

So, which is more likely?
1) The police officer rode too close to the bikes, got called out on it, got ticked off and threw the book at a group of cyclists. Or,
2) The cyclists are falsely claiming police persecution.

Sorry Sergeant Schmautz, based on my experience with the PPD, the first is many times more likely than the second. If you want to prove that’s not the case, perhaps you could release the footage from the patrol car’s video camera.

Please

dan
dan
13 years ago

This is the Portland Police Bureau, the home of cops who feel free to flip on their lights any time they want to run a red light. That behavior leaves a pretty poor impression of how police act towards other users of the road.

So, which is more likely?
1) The police officer drove too close to the bikes, got called out on it, got ticked off and threw the book at a group of cyclists. Or,
2) The cyclists are falsely claiming police persecution.

Sorry Sergeant Schmautz, based on my experience with the PPD, the first is many times more likely than the second. If you want to prove that’s not the case, perhaps you could release the footage from the patrol car’s video camera.

marc in pdx
marc in pdx
13 years ago

jonathan keep up the great work.

improperly place this
improperly place this
13 years ago

i will tell you what. when a cop gives you a ticket for “improper placement on roadway”, that means they are giving you a ticket because they can. because they want to make you suffer. period. it has nothing to do with safety or the law or anything.

about 8 years ago two cops gave me this same ticket as i stood between two parked cars filming (“copwatching”) them bust people during critical mass. they debated openly in front of me what they should give me a ticket for. it was nothing but pure spite and punishment.

and let the traffic court decide? yeah, right. i went to court for that. the short version is: the judge shrugs and says “we gotta take the cops word for it”. case dismissed.

i will NEVER forget that farcical incident, and have NO doubt that this was identical. oh, i know we are not in some fascist police state like 3/4 of the world may live in. but lets not kid ourselves, this is nothing but cops abusing their power and they know the system will support them if these cyclists go to the hassle of missing work etc to go to court.

“improper placement on roadway”. ha! right, schmutz.

r.
r.
13 years ago

if a person has to go to traffic court every time a motorist who happens to be a police officer cannot wait three seconds for a safe opportunity to pass . . .

toddistic
toddistic
13 years ago

I don’t see Schmautz respond about the safety issues on Ainsworth, where I am a resident.

Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
13 years ago

I don’t really object to Jonathan’s reporting, but he can’t say he’s reporting objectively when one of the witnesses is someone he “knows and trusts”. That’s not really objective…

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
13 years ago

“he can’t say he’s reporting objectively when one of the witnesses is someone he “knows and trusts”. That’s not really objective…”

rear admiral,

just because I happen to know Mr. Welte, doesn’t not automatically mean that my story cannot be objective. Re-read it and let me know if you think i give him favorable treatment.

the reason it’s important that I know him is because it means he is a more reliable source. I know that Mr. Welte is not the type of person who makes up stories and I trusted that he was telling me truth.

as a reporter, I have to make decisions based on judgments like this.

that being said, it raises an important point. No one is without some bias. reporters are not robots. PIO’s are not robots. We all have bias. What’s important is how we let (or don’t let) that bias influence our work.

because I know and trust Mr. Welte, I was able to have more confidence in sharing his story… although even though I trusted him I still clearly present the story as being from his (and Mr. Vyn’s) point of view (instead of from a factual perspective as if I was there myself).

thanks.

Chris
Chris
13 years ago

The laws of physics are not going to be repealed by bicycle assisted suicide laws. Irrespective of placement, considered proper or not, the bike and rider usually take second place in the contest between motorized and non-motorized vehicle. This isn’t a values judgement, rather, it is an unfortunate statement of fact. The atmosphere in Portland seems to be that the teflon coated bicyclist can do no wrong. The Police Officer who cited the bicyclist did what a lot of us drivers would have liked to do. When will we see more “I Share The Road” bumper stickers on bikes? It isn’t enough that the bicyclist can occupy the sidewalk, bike lane and traffic lane and move between these venues at any given time. Now bicyclists seem to want to make up the rules as they ride
I didn’t get a drivers licence until I was 21. At 45 I still use my bike, still without a helmet, for transportation whenever it is practical to do so. To date, in my life, I have been in 18 accidents. 2 of them I own, I was ‘improperly placed’. Anymore, I consider myself invisible. Drivers don’t see me, even when we make eye contact, I don’t trust them out of my sight. Not because we hate each other, I would rather get were I am trying to go in one piece. I know I can stop my bike quicker than the driver can stop the car. I know I can be hard to spot in a blind spot, even though drafting the #9 down Broadway was a blast in the 80s’. As Portland attracts more residents, bicyclists will have to be more accommodating.
The sooner Portland Bicyclists stop supporting an arrogant, life-threatening and negative stereo type, the sooner Portland can get back to being the number one bike friendly town that it has worked so hard to be. As a driver, I steer clear of bicyclists the way I steer clear of Portland Police, they are both trouble. Funny, I steer clear of cars and cops when I am on my bike.

dan Kearl
dan Kearl
13 years ago

Why argue with with the police? They will always defend their officers. People need to complain to Sam Adams. He has come across as a friend of the bike community although I haven’t seen any evidence that
he will do anything to help the bike community after he gets their vote.

mac
mac
13 years ago

Dear Herr Schmautz,

It is impossible to have a “respectful dialogue” when one party to that dialogue has a firearm, the proven institutional wherewithal to use it and entirely no fear of being held to account for that use.