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Sunday, March 8, 2009

[OR] Learning from the loss of Michael Pimentel's Portland cop job

While looking up old articles on the ex-Portland officer in the last post, I ran into an old article on Officer Michael P. Pimentel. That led to a few more.


...[Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Stacy] Heyworth castigated members of the Police Bureau for failing to intervene in the rocky, sometimes violent relationship between Pimentel, then a popular 10-year veteran, and his girlfriend... Had someone done something earlier, Pimentel might still have his job, she said. Had someone done something earlier, Pimentel might still have his job... "People around him, in August 2001, had a chance to stop this, and they failed to do that. They set him up and they set his victim up for a situation that was intolerable for both of them"...


City of Portland
Public Information Office
Date 07/03/2002
[Excerpts] ...On July 25, 2002, the Multnomah County District's Office released a 15-count indictment in the investigation involving 37-year-old Portland Police Officer Michael P. Pimentel. The charges include: Four Counts of Burglary in the First Degree, Two Counts of Assault in the Fourth Degree, Two Counts of Coercion, and Two Counts of Official Misconduct, One Count of Interference with Making a Report, One Count of Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, Two Counts of Harassment, and One Count of Tampering With Public Records... [LINK]

..."Mostly, they keep it pretty secret"...

The Oregonian, (Portland, OR)-
Robin Franzen
July 4, 2002
[Excerpts] In the latest blow to an agency stung by scandal, a well-liked 10-year Portland police veteran was arrested on the job at Southeast Precinct late Tuesday on accusations of domestic violence after the victim, a laid-off bureau employee, reported abuse. Patrol Officer Michael P. Pimentel, 37, was arraigned Wednesday on three counts of first-degree burglary, two counts of fourth-degree assault, one count of coercion and one count of official misconduct. He was put on paid administrative leave while a criminal investigation continues... The case underscores the increasing attention being paid nationally to domestic abuse perpetrated by law enforcement officials -- people who carry weapons and, in some cases, lots of job-related stress. "State law requires an arrest if there is probable cause to believe a domestic assault occurred, and there is no exemption for police," Sgt. Brian Schmautz, police spokesman, said Wednesday. Added Lt. Jay Drum of the Family Services Division: "We get on (officer-involved cases) right away -- no if, ands or buts, because of the chance of lethal force being used"... About 20 colleagues who showed up at Pimentel's arraignment were stunned. "I like him," said Detective Sgt. Kevin Warren. "He's been a good guy, a very fine officer. I was always impressed with his work, and, of all the people, he was the one who kept his head. This is completely out of character -- pretty shocking." Robert King, president of the Portland Police Association, called Pimentel "a solid Police Bureau employee," emphasizing that his arrest was just the beginning of a legal process. The union is providing a support role as the investigation continues, he said... Police officials declined to discuss the specific allegations, the nature of Pimentel's relationship with the victim or any injuries she suffered. However, the official misconduct charge relates to an allegation that at least some abuse occurred while Pimentel was on the job. Under the criminal code, fourth-degree assault occurs when a person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes physical injury to another. "The information that came to us was that there had been a prior history" of abuse, Drum said, noting that accounts came from the victim and her friends... The bureau receives more than 700 domestic violence complaints every month, but statistics showing how many involve police officers were unavailable Wednesday. Officials said the last time a Portland officer was arrested on such charges was in December 1999. "Police officers are hired because they can go in and take control of situations, but sometimes, with regard to domestic violence, that controlling aspect is not kept in check in their personal relationships," Drum said. Two Family Services Division investigators have been trained specifically in officer-involved domestic violence, and other agencies routinely use them in such investigations, Drum said. In 1997, former Portland police officer Steven B. Gomez shot his wife in the buttocks with a 12-gauge shotgun he said he thought was unloaded, causing her massive internal injuries. He later resigned. Three years earlier, Portland officer John Michael Aichele killed his wife in a murder-suicide... Chiquita Rollins, domestic violence service coordinator for Multnomah County, said not all abuse by police is reported, because of the victim's fear that close-knit law enforcement agencies will protect their own, and a fear that the abuser will use his gun. "I think the Portland Police Bureau is like many other communities: A high percentage of the people who work there are men, and some proportion of them are going to be abusers," she said. "Mostly, they keep it pretty secret." Even so, Rollins said, during the past five years, Portland police have developed better ways of intervening in domestic-violence cases involving officers. "I know they are doing more than they did five years ago, and that's good."...

...He did not have to post bail, which Circuit Judge Douglas Beckman had set at $60,000...


The Oregonian
Robin Franzen
Saturday, July 6, 2002
[Excerpts] While on duty in a sergeant's rig last month, Portland patrol Officer Michael P. Pimentel pulled his girlfriend's car over without legal justification -- lights flashing, speaker horn blaring -- and launched into a tirade, according to an affidavit detailing the woman's account of domestic violence. The affidavit says about 5 a.m. the next day, Pimentel showed up, agitated, at her apartment, where he occasionally stayed. At a stressful point in their 2-1/2 year relationship, the woman, a laid-off Police Bureau employee, asked him to leave, the affidavit states. The affidavit says he failed to comply several times during the next four hours, at one point slamming her finger in a window as she repeatedly tried to open it. When she tried to call 9-1-1, he reportedly picked up the phone and threw it down. He then put his hands on her biceps, wrists, shoulder and breast, causing bruising to her biceps "consistent with someone using a hand and gripping with a great amount of force," according to a probable-cause affidavit prosecutors filed based on information given to police. The woman fell to the ground... After the alleged incident, the woman, who has worked as a nonsworn member of the bureau, reportedly ran to her bedroom and locked her door. Pimentel then forced the door open, damaging the frame, and got into bed with her. "She indicated that she was extremely fearful at this time," the affidavit states. He left about 9 a.m. but returned about 1:30 p.m. When she tried to leave in her car to avoid him, Pimentel stood behind it to block her, the affidavit states. The document says she finally succeeded, but he followed her in his vehicle. Frightened, she pulled into the parking lot of Southeast Precinct, where he was assigned. He tried to talk to her, then left. When she felt safe, she also left, only to discover him following her again. Still fearing for her safety, she returned to the precinct. This time, Pimentel didn't enter the parking lot. Pimentel, who remained on paid administrative leave from his job Friday, was released from jail Wednesday into the Close-Street Supervision program, which will place strict conditions on his activities and whereabouts. He did not have to post bail, which Circuit Judge Douglas Beckman had set at $60,000. However, the judge ordered him to have no contact with the woman, no alcohol and no access to firearms...

.. MEANWHILE, MANY BUREAU COLLEAGUES AND THE POLICE UNION HAVE RALLIED AROUND PIMENTEL, even as those groups have condemned the societal problem of domestic violence...

The Oregonian
Robin Franzen
Friday, July 26, 2002
[Excerpts] A Multnomah County grand jury on Thursday issued a 15-count indictment against Portland police officer Michael Pimentel, accusing the 10-year police employee of domestic violence-related felonies and misuse of his official position. Several of the counts accuse Pimentel of fourth-degree assault against a girlfriend on June 26 and 27, burglary and official misconduct. But the indictment contains new charges as well, including an accusation that, late last summer, Pimentel made a false entry in and altered a police report. That alleged incident of tampering with public records is said to have happened between Aug. 11 and Sept. 1. Aug. 11 is also the date on which, according to the indictment, he allegedly harassed his girlfriend by subjecting her to offensive physical contact. Stacy Heyworth, a senior deputy district attorney, said she was not free to discuss details of the alleged incidents, or the grand jury proceedings... MEANWHILE, MANY BUREAU COLLEAGUES AND THE POLICE UNION HAVE RALLIED AROUND PIMENTEL, even as those groups have condemned the societal problem of domestic violence. Earlier this month, SUPPORTERS HELD A BENEFIT TO RAISE MONEY FOR HIS LEGAL DEFENSE... Pimentel's accuser testified twice before the grand jury, which also heard testimony from other police bureau employees, including the records manager, and friends of the accuser. By law, those proceedings are secret. After her first appearance, the case took a different turn when the woman - whom The Oregonian is not naming -- hired defense lawyer Clayton Lance to represent her personal interests


The Oregonian
Robin Franzen
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
[Excerpt] Michael Pimentel, the Portland police officer accused of domestic-violence-related charges and misuse of his official position, entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment Tuesday...

...In exchange for his plea, prosecutors will dismiss the remaining 14 counts in the indictment...

The Oregonian
Robin Franzen
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
[Excerpts] A Portland police officer accused of a slate of domestic violence-related charges pleaded guilty to a single felony on Tuesday, requiring him to resign from the bureau. Michael Pimentel, 37, a well-regarded 10-year patrol veteran, will be sentenced Dec. 17 for coercion. The felony charge is for preventing his girlfriend from leaving her Portland apartment on June 26 and 27 by making her believe she would be physically injured if she did so. The conviction, and subsequent professional decertification, will prohibit Pimentel from serving in law enforcement in Oregon. However, authorities were uncertain whether the conviction would prevent him from gaining a police job in another state in the future. The terms of his sentence are part of the plea: 300 hours of community service, three years of formal probation, anger-management counseling and alcohol treatment, and he must avoid alcohol and alcohol establishments. He must also prove he has disposed of any firearms he possesses and have no contact with his victim, who is also employed by the police bureau... In a probable-cause affidavit filed in the case, Pimentel's girlfriend told investigators that Pimentel -- while on duty in a sergeant's uniform -- pulled her car over without legal cause and berated her. He then allegedly showed up at her apartment the next day and refused to leave, slamming her finger in a window. Later, when the woman ran to her bedroom and locked the door, Pimentel allegedly forced it open. He then tried to block her car with his body to prevent her from driving away... In exchange for his plea, prosecutors will dismiss the remaining 14 counts in the indictment...

The Oregonian
Robin Franzen
December 18, 2002
[Excerpts] The girlfriend of a Portland police officer prosecuted for domestic violence said at his sentencing Tuesday that she never wanted to see him prosecuted or lose his job - calling it "a grave injustice" - and that she wanted their relationship to survive. But Stacy Heyworth, a senior Multnomah County deputy district attorney, said she could not turn "a blind eye" to the situation involving Southeast Precinct Officer Michael Pimentel simply because it involved police and a victim who later decided not to cooperate. Not only were there documented bruises, Heyworth said, but the victim's initial statements to police showed she had a real fear that Pimentel would physically harm her. Heyworth castigated members of the Police Bureau for failing to intervene in the rocky, sometimes violent relationship between Pimentel, then a popular 10-year veteran, and his girlfriend after an altercation involving the couple was documented in an August 2001 Portland police report. Had someone done something earlier, Pimentel might still have his job, she said. "This man, who I consider an exceptional police officer, made a very grave error in his life," Heyworth said. "People around him, in August 2001, had a chance to stop this, and they failed to do that. . . . They set him up and they set his victim up for a situation that was intolerable for both of them." Under pressure from a police sergeant, and Pimentel, the August 2001 report was later reclassified by the bureau's records manager from a domestic violence incident -- which can spell trouble for an officer's career -- to a noise disturbance, according to police reports obtained by The Oregonian. Heyworth characterized three bureau employees' handling of the situation as a series of "mistakes," a misguided "attempt to sweep some dirty laundry under the rug" and an "anomaly" that didn't represent the Police Bureau overall. Though she didn't detect "nefarious intent" by those involved, she said, they didn't follow their own protocols simply because "they didn't think it was that big a deal"... In court Tuesday, the girlfriend's lawyer, Clayton Lance, said his client "has never been afraid (of Pimentel) and she is not afraid of him today." However, in police reports the girlfriend characterized Pimentel's behavior as controlling, suspicious and jealous, escalating over the course of their 2-1/2-year relationship. She described him as having a violent temper that she said could be triggered by the smallest things. After an August 2001 wedding, the girlfriend and Pimentel got into an argument, with Pimentel "yelling, screaming and pounding" the steering wheel as they drove home. When she tried to get out of her car, he grabbed her, then blocked her from outside the passenger door until bystanders intervened and called police, the reports say. Pimentel flashed his badge at the bystanders, she said. Officers wrote a special report on the incident, later reclassified by the records manager to a noise disturbance... Although the woman is now downplaying what occurred, Heyworth said, statements she made to police show that the dynamics of their relationship were typical of the domestic violence cases police officers respond to every day. Victims, she said, often "feel responsible, and they want to shield (their abuser) from harm. I understand that's part of the psyche of someone who has been abused."


The Oregonian
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
[Excerpts] ...As The Oregonian has reported in recent weeks, Pimentel and his Southeast Precinct sergeant, Charles Brown, both called the bureau's records manager and asked her to downgrade the seriousness of a previous charge against him in the official police record. Brown and Pimentel told Debra Haugen, the records manager, that an August 2001 incident - in which witnesses said Pimentel grabbed Clanton by the hair to prevent her from leaving his car, then came around to her passenger door and pushed her back inside the vehicle - wasn't serious enough to be tagged a domestic dispute. Haugen eventually agreed, changing the domestic violence report to a "noise disturbance." As a result, said Stacy Heyworth, a senior Multnomah County deputy district attorney, Pimentel never had to submit to the anger and violence counseling that might have prevented a subsequent arrest for assault and harassment and possibly saved his job... If you read the transcripts of police investigators' interviews with Clanton, Pimentel comes off like a walking time bomb. Over the course of their relationship, Clanton said, a furious Pimentel punched a hole in her apartment wall ("He told me that was a normal reaction"); threatened to kill her former husband; picked her up and threw her onto a bed or the floor; and ripped the chain off her front door while forcing his way into her apartment. Yet, there was good ol' Sgt. Brown, twice calling Haugen and insisting that the witnesses in the August 2001 incident - whom he never talked to - had blown things out of proportion, then asking her to delete Pimentel's name from the case in the police computer system. And there was Haugen, while noting that cops often call and ask that their names and addresses be removed from reports of off-duty incidents, quietly altering the record...

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