Portland chief: Dispute with stepson 'not my finest hour'

AP News
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Posted: Jul 06, 2016 5:05 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The new police chief in Portland, Oregon said a 2002 confrontation with a stepson that led to an allegation of physical abuse was not his "finest hour," but he doesn't plan to quit over it.

Mike Marshman issued the statement Tuesday after complying with a media request to release details from the investigation, the existence of which came to light days after Marshman replaced scandal-plagued Larry O'Dea on June 27.

"In reading the investigative reports for the first time this weekend, I was reminded of and felt sadness over a failed relationship," Marshman said. "It was a volatile situation and I grabbed my stepson and shoved him up against the wall. I realize that this encounter was not my finest hour as a parent and is a moment that I regret."

The disclosure has yet to cause any widespread call for Marshman to follow O'Dea out the door, a development that would mirror the situation in Oakland, California, where the mayor last month replaced two chiefs in less than a week amid a sex scandal involving officers and a teenage prostitute.

Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler said before the accusation became known that he would conduct a national search for a police chief when he takes over in January. Portland's most recent five chiefs, including Marshman, have come up through the ranks.

The investigation into Marshman's conduct began in June 2006, coincidentally the same month then-Chief Derrick Foxworth lost his position because of a scandal.

Police received an anonymous letter alleging Marshman, a sergeant at the time, abused a stepson in 2002. Marshman and the stepson's mother were divorced in 2005.

After the June letter failed to jumpstart much of probe, a second anonymous note arrived in August. Detectives then contacted the ex-wife and stepson, both of whom denied sending the letters and agreed to submit handwriting samples.

According to the lead detective's report, the ex-wife was hesitant to discuss the allegation before acknowledging the letters contained truth.

The ex-wife said she wasn't home during the altercation, but questioned her son the following day after seeing bruises on his neck. The boy who was 16 or 17 years old at the time told her that Marshman had grabbed him by throat and drove his head into a wall.

The woman took and saved photos of the bruises and the dented wall, providing them to the detective.

The stepson told the detective that the choke happened when Marshman, with whom he had a poor relationship, told him to turn off a light and he responded with an expletive and then repeated it.

The stepson said his relationship with Marshman changed after the choke. He stated that "he felt as if he had one up on his dad and that his dad owed him something because of being 'in deep (trouble),'" the report said.

The troubled family went to three counseling sessions after the altercation, but did not mention the physical contact to the therapist. The ex-wife told the detective it was because they feared divulging such information might hurt Marshman's career.

The Multnomah County District Attorney's office declined to prosecute, saying the injury wasn't serious enough for a felony charge and any misdemeanor charge, such as harassment or attempted criminal mistreatment, was beyond the statute of limitations.

Marshman ascended from captain to the chief's job last week. He replaced O'Dea, who remains under investigation for not being forthright about accidentally shooting his friend in the back during a camping trip on the other side of the state.

City and police officials received strong criticism for not promptly alerting the public that O'Dea had been involved in a shooting. Marshman jumped over several assistant chiefs to get the top job, as they are under scrutiny for not telling the city's Independent Police Review Division about O'Dea's off-duty shooting.

Marshman said he hopes releasing the details of his investigation will boost confidence in the transparency of the department.

Mayor Charlie Hales, who did not seek a second term, continues to support Marshman. He cited work Marshman has done in implementing reforms mandated by the Justice Department after a finding that Portland police too often roughed up the mentally ill.

"I appreciate Chief Marshman's willingness to make his record and this investigation public. It can't be easy to have one's challenges as a stepparent available for public scrutiny," Hales said.