December 2005

Demanding Accountability



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Medford Police Department;
the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By US~Observer Investigative Reporters
Jeanne Wollman & Curt Chancler

Medford, Oregon - Over the last few months we have reported on the causes and effects of bad law enforcement on the citizens of any community when police abuse is allowed to go unchallenged. In our eight-year study of law enforcement the vast majority of the rank and file police officers have been dedicated, honest, hardworking men and women that are doing the best they can with the tools they have. These men and women are asked to do an almost impossible job that is often thankless, dangerous and too often, very frustrating.

Of those interviewed the vast majority have stated that one of the greatest frustrations they endure is the contempt, mistrust, and hatred for police officers that exists in our society. It is our opinion that as long as a police department's hierarchy and a small number of police officers are allowed to act as though they are above the law these feelings will continue.

In our two previous articles on law enforcement, we have attempted to show the need for civilian review of ALL complaints involving a police department. Questions that arise are: Is there a pattern of bad police behavior? How does the department address those problems? Are they open to public scrutiny? Is there an independent citizen's review board?

In looking at our own Medford, Oregon Police Department (MPD) the first thing that jumps out is the lack of accountability to the public. This is confirmed by the lack of an independent review board and the use of secretive measures to hide police wrongdoing. Most recently it involves their efforts to join CALEA, (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) an international organization sponsored by the World Trade Organization. This organization appears to further diminish local control of police departments (simply type in "CALEA" online for more information on this group).

In our investigation of MPD it became apparent that it did not matter whether the complaint of bad police behavior was made by a citizen or a fellow police officer. It would appear that MPD's polices on dealing with these matters has been to lie, deny, cover-up, blame someone else, attack the victim, release misinformation, or just refuse to discuss the problem. The news media has aided and abetted this behavior by not covering these issues nor asking pertinent questions and insisting on definitive answers.

Examples of how MPD Deals With
Police Abuse and Misbehavior

Douglas Blagg Case:

In December 1989, MPD answered a 911 call involving Douglas Blagg, a 26 year old, father of two. When MPD arrived Mr. Blagg was semi-conscious due to a head injury received in an altercation in the OK Market parking lot in Medford. Due to his confused state of mind Mr. Blagg declined medical help when questioned by the MPD responding officer. The MPD officer, smelling beer on Mr. Blagg's breath and observing his confused behavior, assumed he was drunk. Mr. Blagg was then transported to MPD where he was put in a holding cell for the next eight hours without medical attention.

Blagg in the hospital after his ordeal with the Medford Police

We think it is important for our readers to know that we have a tape that contains graphic images of the eight hours of neglect, abuse, and humiliation that Doug Blagg endured while in the custody of MPD.

The images caught by a Medford Police Department camera shows that within minutes of Mr. Blagg's arrival at MPD he became confused; his nose began to bleed, followed by vomiting. These are all symptoms of a head injury.

At this point a female officer called her superior and informed him of Mr. Blagg's condition. She reported that she thought Mr. Bragg could be the victim of a crime, and that he needed monitoring.

The MPD tape clearly shows that for the next eight hours Doug Blagg's cries for help were ignored. He begged for help until he finally lapsed into a coma.

The response to Mr. Blagg's pleas for help were an MPD officer entering the room, calling him a “Weenie” and telling him to “shut up.” This officer also stated that Mr. Blagg was a “pain in the ass to the City of Medford.”

Several other officers came in and out of the room, but offered no help other than to make rude remarks about the way Mr. Blagg smelled.

Over the hours Mr. Blagg's cries for help faded into an un-hinging silence. During this time he lost control of his body functions and lapsed into a coma. Approximately eight hours after Mr. Blagg's ordeal began an officer returned to release him.

For twenty minutes the MPD officer attempted to revive Mr. Blagg by stamping his foot on the floor next to Mr. Blagg's head while shouting his name. Next the officer put his foot on Mr. Blagg’s chest and began shaking and pushing him. With no response to that he took his foot and lifted Mr. Blagg's head and let it drop against the floor. When that did not work the officer began to pull on Mr. Blagg's mustache.

The officer then steps out of camera view, you hear the cell toilet flush, and the officer returns holding two water soaked towels which the officer held over Mr. Blagg's face and let the water drip into his eyes, ears, and mouth with almost no response from Mr. Blagg other than a weak moan.

At this point the obviously frustrated MPD officer calls his superior officer and advises him of the problem. Moments later Sergeant Mike Moran (now Lt. Moran, Chief of Detectives) enters the room.

Sergeant Moran states to the other officer, "Blagg? Douglas Blagg? I think I know this guy. He is a real Prick! Are you sure this guy doesn't have diabetes or some sh** like that?"

Sgt. Moran and the other officer return to Mr. Blagg's cell where they use ammonia sticks and other means in an effort to bring him around. While this was going on a third man came in and tells Sgt. Moran that "this guy" did not get this way from just alcohol. He also told Sgt. Moran "One thing is for sure, he looks like he is freezing to death." He also commented that it was probably too late anyway.

Did any one of the three men in Mr. Blagg's cell even cover him with a blanket? No, they just walked away with Sgt. Mike Moran muttering something to the affect that he didn't need this crap to happen on his shift. They then closed the door and left Mr.Blagg lying unconscious on a cold concrete floor, soaked in his own waste.

The record shows that an ambulance was called a short time later.

Even though the MPD tapes were available to the City Council nothing was done by the Council or Chief Ray Shipley to reprimand the officers. Chief Shipley later stated emphatically that his officers had done nothing wrong or broken any rules.

Today Mr. Blagg is severely disabled and must have 24 hour care. A settlement was made with the Blagg family and all records have been sealed.

The public has an absolute right to know of this severe abuse and the officers involved have absolutely no right to hypocritically “serve and protect” the public. They should have been charged with crimes, prosecuted and then sent straight to jail where they belong. And no records should ever be deceitfully withheld from the public! These acts and all like them are acts of pure immorality and corruption.

Shirley Peters Case:

Medford Police Officer Shirley Peters was hired in 1975, and holds the distinction of being the first women hired by that department. However on Nov. 14 1996, after twenty years of service, Peters filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against her employer, Medford Police Department.

Officer Peter's lawsuit paints a very ugly picture of the Medford Police Department. “A department where sexist and racist comments were tolerated by management. A department where, for two decades harassment, sexual discrimination and racist comments by superiors and fellow officers were commonplace.” Filings by Peter's attorneys included these allegations about her superiors in the department.

It was reported in 1985, that Officer Roy Skinner allegedly stated in Officer Shirley Peter's presence, “We got rid of our niggers and Mexicans and now we are working on getting rid of our women.”

In the mid-80s, Sgt. Ron Norris, now deputy chief, allegedly made unwanted sexual advances to two subordinate dispatchers. One dispatcher claimed that Sgt. Norris threatened to fire her if she disclosed the advances.

In the early 1990's, Lt. Ed Moss allegedly told a dispatcher, "You're a bitch" in front of another employee.

In the mid-1990's when Officer Susan Campbell was promoted to Detective she was allegedly told by Detective Larry Johnson, "We don't want any women here."

The Peters lawsuit also contained serious allegations against then Chief Ray Shipley and then Sgt. Mike Moran.

In rebuttal the MPD defense denied some of the allegations, declared others were unfounded and stated that the two- year statute of limitations on some had run out at the time Officer Peters filed her compliant.

Sadly, the almost one foot-high pile of documents at the U.S. District Court would never be heard by the Court or the public. Just one day before the court case was to be heard the Medford Police Department settled out of court and the records were sealed. Officer Peters was to receive $125,000. However, it has been reported that only $50,000 went to Officer Peters and $75,000 went to her attorneys.

The new police chief, Eric Mellgren, commenting on the Peters case, stated he did not think the City of Medford admitted to any wrongdoing in settling out of court.

Cole Younger Smith Case:

The next case occurred on December 28, 1999 at approximately 7:20 pm when Cole Younger Smith arrived at the Oregon State Police parking lot located just outside of Central Point, Oregon. His wife later said that Cole Smith, 25 years old, married and father of two had a long history of mental and marital problems when he was off his medication.

Mr. Smith, using a telephone outside the OSP building, spoke with dispatcher Donna Arens. Smith told her he wanted to speak with an officer. After a brief question and answer game with dispatch the man crying, told the dispatcher he was going to get back into his vehicle because he was going to kill somebody.

At 8:53 pm Mr. Smith lay unarmed and dead, shot 21 times in the back by three MPD officers. What could have gone so wrong in just 1 hr. and 32 minutes?

Approximately a year after Cole Smith's death OSP released their 1000 plus page report on the incident. The report states that over 30 Officers from five different Police departments were at the scene.

The film and report we obtained makes what happened that evening very clear. The first thing that becomes apparent is that there were far too many officers present who were unclear about any plan of action.

They not only did not know what was going on but they did not know who was in charge.

It was reported in the Medford Mail Tribune that at least 12 MPD officers showed up despite senior officer, Sgt. Roy Skinner, telling an MPD dispatcher that patrol units should stay away unless their presence was requested.

The Oregon State Police (OSP) report indicates that there were two factions of thought. One involved OSP negotiator Tanya Henderson and Jackson County Deputy Sheriff Joe Puckett intent on negotiating with Smith. They contacted Smith's wife and had put in a call for a social service negotiator.

Others, including an OSP officer and several MPD officers, wanted to use a "flash bang grenade" in an attempt to end the standoff. Those negotiating could not hear Smith and wanted to give him a phone but before the phone could be located OSP Lt. Terry Simons authorized MPD Detective Tim Lytel to utilize the flash bang grenade which was thrown into the back of Smith's pickup over the objections of the negotiators.

The grenade did not stun Smith as expected but caused him to accelerate and crash into two patrol cars. At that point Smith exited the pickup causing MPD Officer Lt. Mike Moran and Central Point Officer Sgt. Steven McGee to fire non-lethal bean bag rounds striking Smith in the back. Almost simultaneously MPD Officers Birchfield and Schwab using their service handguns, and Officer First, using an H & K MP5 sub-machine gun, opened fire killing Mr. Smith.

It is interesting to note that with 30 officers present representing 5 different agencies--OSP, MPD, Central Point Police, Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Ashland police--that the first weapon fired was fired by an MPD officer and all subsequent shots striking Mr. Smith were fired by three other MPD officers.

The final report by OSP was very forthcoming regarding the shooting. MPD, however, has still not released their internal investigation of the incident. Originally Chief Melgrin stated he could not speak about the case because of a possible lawsuit brought by the Smith family. Later, Lt. Tim George stated that the case would not be re-opened for additional review even if the Smith family decides not to file a suit against the city. "We are done with it," he exclaimed. What an arrogant and dictatorial attitude by George who wants to be elected Sheriff of Jackson County in the next election. God help that department should he pull it off.

It is interesting to note that in August 1998, when the Medford Mail Tribune reported on Eric Mellgren becoming the new Medford Chief of Police, Chief Mellgren stated that the department “will be open about things when controversies do arise.” Also at that interview he thought an open policy “is one of the best ways to make sure officers stay in line" and "If you know that you are going to be held accountable, that changes behavior."

Whatever became of that philosophy? Today the department is still withholding information from the public.

Editor’s Note: Chief of Detectives Lt. Mike Moran and his buddy Lt. Tim George were right in the mix while the above intentional tragedies took place and they are still on the public payroll. This is not only alarming, it is unacceptable. For Tim George to have the gall to run for the Jackson County Sheriff position shows the US~Observer that he has no conscience whatsoever. We can only wonder how many more cases of severe abuse have occurred and have been swept under the carpet by Moran, George and others of their ilk within the ranks of the MPD.

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