1111 S.W. 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204
August 17, 2007 00:00
On Friday, August 17, 2007, the Oregonian ran a front page story relating to the Police Bureau’s investigation of a recent sexual assault. The focus of the story appears to be the Portland Police Bureau’s decision not to publicly identify the suspect and “warn the public.”
The Police Bureau makes public notification decisions on a case by case basis. Frequently, these decisions weigh risk to the community versus the ability to compile an investigation that will lead to a successful prosecution. In this case, the suspect already had a felony warrant for his arrest and police were actively looking for him. Investigators were extremely concerned that if he became aware that the victim had reported the crime, he would destroy evidence associated with the sexual assault. Without additional evidence, investigators believed they had little if no hope of successfully prosecuting this case. One additional concern that the Oregonian did not mention in their article was the possibility that if the suspect knew the victim had reported the assault, he would attempt to locate and harm her.
This crime wasn’t immediately reported and investigators began an investigation built on very little evidence. However, despite the challenges, investigators successfully apprehended the suspect, and due to their thorough investigation, a dangerous suspect may be sentenced to prison for life.
During the investigation, the Police Bureau became aware that the Oregonian had learned about this sexual assault through another law enforcement source. The Oregonian also knew that the suspect had a felony warrant for his arrest. The Oregonian contacted the Police Bureau in an attempt to confirm information regarding this ongoing sexual assault investigation. Based on decisions made by the investigator, the Police Bureau confirmed the suspect had a felony warrant for his arrest and was armed and dangerous, but chose not to disclose information regarding the sexual assault investigation and compromise the investigation. Repeatedly, the Police Bureau asked the Oregonian to publish the suspect’s photo and warrant information to alert the community about the warrant and hopefully, assist in his capture. The Police Bureau was told that the Oregonian would not print this information unless the Police Bureau confirmed the connection to the sexual assault.
Concerning this investigation, investigators and the Chief of Police believe that the correct decision was made. The Police Bureau remains committed to informing the public if there is a threat of imminent danger to the community. The decision to not release information is never easy and is thoroughly reviewed internally. This is a responsibility that the Police Bureau takes very seriously and ask for the public’s continued support.
Sgt. Pete Simpson