Clackamas DA: Prudence, truth guide officer investigations
In a recent op-ed, a Happy Valley resident alleges that, despite having reviewed no police reports, he is convinced the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office failed to bring all the facts of an officer involved shooting to the grand jury that reviewed the case. Of course, his allegation is not true.
We send law enforcement officers into harm's way on our behalf every day. They deal with our society's most dangerous individuals. When things go really wrong, we also expect them to run toward the gunfire to keep the rest of us safe. And, when they use their firearms, these same women and men do so knowing their actions will automatically result in an investigation to determine whether their actions constitute a crime.
When an officer-involved shooting occurs in Clackamas County, the Major Crimes Team, which includes detectives from each of the county's nine law enforcement agencies, conducts an investigation. Their reports are then submitted to the District Attorney's Office for review, and ultimately another review by a grand jury. The Clackamas County grand jury is comprised of seven citizens, selected at random by the court. They receive testimony from law-enforcement officers, lay people and experts to determine whether the officer was legally justified in shooting the other person. If not, the officer faces criminal charges.
If the grand jury determines the shooting was justified, the District Attorney's Office issues a report of the investigation's findings that is immediately shared with the press and made available on our website for everyone to read and scrutinize. If a prosecutor engages in a "cover-up" and fails to share all relevant information regarding the shooting to the grand jury, not only would I lose the public's trust as their district attorney, the prosecutors involved and I could lose our licenses to practice law. Such behavior is both unethical and immoral, and I wouldn't be on my 27th year as a prosecutor if I engaged in this type of conduct.
Regarding the Nathan Honeycutt case to which the op-ed writer refers, this procedure was followed, the report is on our website and the reports are public record. Furthermore, I personally met with Mr. Honeycutt's family to offer them any information or answer any questions they might have about the shooting.
Finally, the op-ed author claims (apparently, without any fact checking by Pamplin Media) I have a "0% conviction rate for cops, but nearly a 100% conviction rate if you're poor or Black." He offers no evidence of his claims, because they aren't true. A quick Internet search of my name would reveal as much. Just ask former Gladstone Police Sgt. Lynn Edward Benton, who is spending a true life sentence in prison for the murder of his wife. Or, search YouTube for Clackamas County's recent town hall meeting where I shared that, after reviewing a police report, there is about an 80% chance our office will charge someone with a crime, regardless of their race. White or Black, the number's the same. The truth matters.
This office strives to provide equitable justice for all under the law. While the nature of our work means we will always have detractors, you can rest assured we will always fulfill our mission while adhering to our core principles of prudence, truth and justice.
John Wentworth is the district attorney of Clackamas County.
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