On this day, June 4, 1990, Janet Adkins, age 54, of Portland, became the first person to use a suicide machine developed by Dr. Kevorkian. This began a national debate over the right to die.
Also on this day, June 4, 1999 a federal judge in Portland ruled that AT&T must open its cable lines to competitors. Also on this day, June 4, 2017, a pro-Trump rally and counter-protest in Portland was marked by multiple arrests and clashes.
Oregon State Bar refuses to investigate -- or protect the public
In March 2020, two complaints were filed with the Oregon State Bar’s Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee alleging outrageous criminal conduct by a pair of inmates in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections. The two unrelated complaints alleged that the inmates were performing legal work, without a license, and in violation of Oregon law, punishable by fine or imprisonment under ORS 9.990.
Each of the two complaints was submitted by a government official with direct knowledge of the situation. The disturbing details of the complaints—and the credibility of the officials who filed them -- did not stop the Oregon State Bar from refusing to do even a basic investigation, and summarily dismissing the complaints.
The first complaint was against inmate Robert Jerome Byers, a violent rapist who injected his victim with methamphetamine and who will die in jail before his release date in 2083. The complaint alleges that Byers assisted other inmates “with their [legal] filings, specifically small claims, for a fee.” This is the kind of standard jailhouse lawyering that commonly happens in every prison.
But alarmingly, Byers had graduated by last March to far more predatory behavior: According to the complaint, Byer sought “to establish himself as the legal guardian of other inmates” by claiming that he had witnessed “abuse of individuals” that Byers had himself decided were “vulnerable or disabled.” These guardianships seem to have been designed by Byers to gain control over his fellow inmates’ prison funds.
The complaint against Byers was submitted by Morrow and Umatilla County Circuit Court Trial Court Administrator Roy Blaine, who brought it to the Bar’s attention after receiving a handwritten letter from Byers requesting copies of court forms for guardianships and “restraining orders” to be imposed upon “vulnerable or disabled” people. “I felt, based on paperwork received in several cases, that all were prepared by Mr. Byers’” Mr. Blaine told me. “[The Bar] did not feel it warranted further action.”
But most would agree with Mr. Blaine: that a violent rapist like Robert Jerome Byers, convicted for drugging his victim into submission, should not be permitted to do legal work for fellow inmates, particularly by becoming the legal guardian of vulnerable people and gaining access to their prison funds.
The Oregon State Bar, however, disagreed. Their summary dismissal of Mr. Blaine’s complaint, without conducting any investigation whatsoever, was memorialized by letter from the Bar’s Deputy General Counsel, Nik Chourey, thanking Mr. Blaine for his “interest in Oregon consumer protection.”
The second of the two egregious Unlicensed Practice of Law complaints the Bar ignored was against Joshua Vincent Walsh, a convicted burglar eligible for release from the Oregon State Penitentiary as early as March, 2022. The complaint, filed by Oregon Department of Justice Investigator Debra Seeck, alleges that Walsh may have accepted payment from other inmates for his help in filing up to 31 copies of his own lawsuit—one for which he received $27,000 in state settlement funds.
Ms. Seeck stated, that as of March 2020, two of the 31 clones of Walsh’s lawsuit that had been filed in the courts—under the names of inmates Chris Hoffman and Blake Humphers—had already settled. “The vast majority” of the other suits, Ms. Seeck said, were awaiting summary judgment or trial in the circuit courts.
Ms. Seeck told the Bar that she had “listened to Walsh’s recorded phone calls,” including a conversation between Walsh and his father about the Hoffman and Humphers suits, in which Walsh described the compensation he expected from his fellow inmates for his unlawful legal work. Walsh stated:
“Chris [Hoffman] got out about eight months ago and I gave him $500. He settled out, two of my friends, one got $18,000 and then Christopher, my one friend, we don't know what he got. He won't answer his phone. And so, he's not going to have the money until a couple weeks from now, probably about a week. Here's the thing. I have this number for him. You know how it would be for getting a large sum of money. He might not get around to giving me my cut. Would you give him a call and ask him if he is okay and why he's not answering his phone? He's supposed to pay back that $500 and then I'm supposed to get a third and it will be anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000.”
Ms. Seeck also alerted the Bar that Walsh’s trust account was being monitored for “any large sums of money transferred” to him, and that officials were “taking other actions to thwart further ‘counseling’ by Walsh.” Acting officially as a DOJ Investigator, Ms. Seeck explicitly stated, “We are asking for help from the Oregon Bar to investigate the actions of Joshua Walsh for his Unlawful Practice of Law.”
The Oregon State Bar’s Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee is a committee of twenty lawyers and judges whose sole duty is to investigate such reports of individuals, like Walsh, illegally acting as attorneys in Oregon. The Bar is required under ORS 9.164 to “investigate any alleged violation” of those laws.
Most would agree with Ms. Seeck that a convicted felon operating an illegal scheme to file multiple copies of a lawsuit under the names of other inmates should not be permitted to continue doing so. After the Bar refused to investigate, and summarily dismissed the complaint against Walsh, the Bar’s attorney Nik Chourey also thanked Ms. Seeck for her “interest in Oregon consumer protection.”
Only time will tell how much this blizzard of copied-and-pasted lawsuits may end up costing the State of Oregon, but generally, basic math suggests that 31 lawsuits x $27,000 settlements = $837,000.
Basic logic tells us that the Oregon State Bar is beyond negligent in failing to perform what Oregon law defines as is its most basic function: that of a state regulatory agency obligated by law to protect the public—including those who are incarcerated—from the harm inflicted by illegal and unlicensed practice of law, and the financial fraud and victimization that it enables.
A search of the e-court registry shows that to date, no injunctive or criminal proceedings have been brought against Robert Byers or Joshua Walsh for the conduct reported by officials from the Oregon Judicial Department and the Department of Justice. If the Oregon State Bar is derelict enough to ignore such shocking complaints by such credible sources, then the Oregon State Bar cannot be trusted to protect you and me—and should not be in the business of regulation.
And there is absolutely no need to thank them for their lack of interest in Oregon consumer protection.
In case you haven't been paying attention, let's bring you up to speed. So far, SB 554 is to be combined with HB 2510 to create one bill that would restrict Concealed Handgun License holders from carrying in public buildings, including the Capitol and commercial airports as well as mandate some safe storage policies. Both bills survived mostly intact -- with a few fixes and changes around the edges. One of the major changes is that there are no longer any felonies defined in the bill, which is good, but hardly and adequate consolation prize to people who are passionate about their gun rights.
When SB 554 passed the Senate, the Republican caucus was split over whether to walk out on the bill and deny a quorum. Six of the 12 caucus members walked out, that wasn't enough to deny quorum, so the bill passed, though it was valiantly fought on the floor. All Republicans in attendance voted against the bill.
Firearms advocates -- feeling betrayed -- launched a recall campaign against Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod (R-Lyons). Analysts see an uphill battle, for several reasons. COVID-19 restrictions make signature gathering tough. And Girod is fairly popular in his district. Other recent recalls have failed to even get on the ballot. Even if it gets on the ballot, the voters of his district have to decide that his "no" vote and vigorous objection on the floor wasn't enough.
The bill then moved over to the House where it sat on the desk of House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) for a week, which is unusual. Insiders surmise that she was working on the combination and securing Senate support for the firearm storage restrictions contained in HB 2510. It's now being heard in the House Committee on Rules, where the combined bill is expected to emerge.
It's an understatement to say that the temperature is hot among the grassroots. Understandably, they see walkouts as effective and the political price paid for doing so is slim or non-existent. When SB 554 was heard in committee in the end of February, the end of the session in late June seemed far off and a prolonged walkout seemed difficult. As the end of the session gets closer, these options get easier.
Legislators who are being asked to walk out -- and being chided for not doing so -- have pushed back noting that while it's useful and appropriate to fight legislation during the session, if one party has control, leverage and options are limited. They've called for Second Amendment activists to engage more in elections. Even a few seats could make a difference on this kind of legislation.
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The combined bill is not helpful. CHL holders protect themselves and others when police are unavailable. Opponents of these concepts correctly point out that these policies will create an opportunity to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens, though in the amended bill it will no longer make them felons. Not to minimize this, but these concepts are about making it less convenient to carry. They don't take away your right to bear arms -- well, mostly.
Ironically, as Second Amendment activists celebrated the six Senators who "walked out" on the day that SB 554 had a vote on the Senate floor, that "walkout" was symbolic and everyone was back the next day with the bill passed and on to the House.
For further irony, in the 2017 session, SB 719, was introduced by Senator Brian Boquist (R-Dallas). On the heels of the tragic suicide of his step-son, he authored a bill to allow, what many claim is a law without sufficient due-process protections, allowing a police officer or someone close to the person -- a jilted ex-girlfriend comes to mind -- to present a case to a judge, in which the subject is not invited to defend themselves, and upon a favorable ruling, requires the police to seize all firearms from the subject. And just like that, your ex-girlfriend or ex-wife has cancelled hunting season for you.
The compound irony is that Senator Boquist is now one of the celebrated Senators who staged a symbolic one-day walkout, while SB 554 passed.
The level of seriousness between SB 554 combined with HB 2510 and SB 719 is huge. Losing hunting season because your ex-girlfriend complains to a judge is bad enough. When they decide that you should no longer have guns, all it takes is one corrupt police officer and one corrupt judge in possession of the Oregon Firearms Federation mailing list, and you have a legal gun seizure program.
If Senator Girod is worthy of a recall, after voting no on SB 554 and fighting it on the floor, why does Senator Boquist get a pass on SB 719?
Senator Boquist was re-elected in November for another four-year term against tepid opposition. Maybe voters have short memories. Maybe Senator Girod is hoping for the same. The lesson: If Second Amendment activists want better policy, they need to play harder in elections.
Secretary of State Audits Division doesn’t have it on the radar
The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles is still closed to walk-up customers, despite nearly every transaction-type system in Oregon being allowed to function with safety measures in place.
The Secretary of State's Audit Division is responsible for performing audits of State Agencies, including ODOT and the DMV, but we just elected Shemia Fagan to that office on the backs of massive financial support from public employee unions and a pledge not to do "gotcha" audits on State Agencies, which to me means that she isn't going to put pressure on them to perform. So, maybe it is a little bit of a left/right issue.
According to one Capitol insider who declined to be identified, "We just spent $90 million dollars on a software system for the DMV so they could perform better. One way or another, they need to do better."
According to their website,
DMV office visits are by appointment only.
Some services MUST be done online or by mail.
Even with an appointment, you may have to wait outside for some period of time before being helped. Please dress appropriately for all weather conditions.
The DMV has not released a public plan to return to normal services
As if it weren't bad enough that the Oregon Department of Education was denied a waiver for testing by the Biden administration, At a loss for how to actually improve education in Oregon, Democrats have finally resolved to do something concrete: Burn down the entire system. Today Senate Democrats voted in lockstep to scrap graduation requirements for the next two school years and order a study to give them cover to do away with them permanently.
Empirical data has shown that school closures have done significant damage to student’s learning. Evidence from Vermont, a state with one of the highest graduation rates in the country, shows that proficiency-based education promotes equity and the learning of valuable skills for students.
SB 744 would cover up the damage of school closures and hurt kid’s future potential. One suspects that the Democrat’s position is that if they hold our students to no standard, that a diploma will mean more and our students will be better served.
“Democrats figure that the best way to cover up their responsibility for decades of public education system failures is to trash all traditional standards of learning,” Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod (R-Lyons) said. “This bill tries to pull a fast one on Oregonians by allowing Democrats to claim victory for improving our education system. The reality is that this bill will artificially inflate graduation rates at the cost to our students’ futures.”
In order to avoid blowback, no Democrat was willing to put their name as a sponsor of the bill, though it was introduced by the Senate Committee on Education, which is chaired by Michael Dembrow. SB 744 would do away with all essential learning skill requirements and ban the State Board of Education from requiring students to show any competency in any academic content area.
“Republicans are the party of educational opportunity,” Girod continued. “Rather than scrap standards for learning, Republicans have introduced several measures to allow students to choose the education that best fits their learning needs. Democrats would prefer to trap our kids in a failing system that doesn’t demand anything from them than do the hard work to reform education and set our kids up for future success.”
A recent analysis by Policy Analysis for California Education found that second graders were 26% behind where they would have been absent school closures in their ability to read aloud. Third graders were 33% behind. Another study shows that kids are lagging in reading and writing.
Recent polling shows that 71% of voters nationwide back school choice. 65% support getting a portion of their tax dollars back to help families afford other options if public schools don’t reopen for full-time in-person instruction. A recent report from the University of Arkansas established that the more school choice, the better students do academically.
SB 744 passed over bipartisan opposition and now heads to the House for further consideration.
The Oregon Legislature learned that an individual who was present at the Capitol has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Potential exposure may have occurred on the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives on April 15.
Human resources for the branch is notifying all individuals who appear to have had close contact with the individual.
The House adjourned this morning until Monday, April 26 at 11am. Committee work, which is being done remotely, will continue as planned.
Anyone who shows symptoms should be tested and quarantine. Legislators and staff who are known to have had close contact with the individual who tested positive have been notified and encouraged to quarantine and get tested. Facilities staff will fumigate the House chamber and wings and continue to diligently, thoroughly and regularly clean the Capitol in line with the CDC’s guidance on environmental cleaning and disinfection.
The priority for the session continues to be to keep people safe and do the people’s work.
“This is about treating all Oregonian’s health plans equally”
The Oregon Senate passed SB 699 today with overwhelming bipartisan support. Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) authored the legislation and carried it on the Senate floor.
SB 699 would prohibit grandfathered health insurance plans from imposing a preexisting condition exclusion. Under current law, health plans that are older than 2010, are exempt from certain requirements and can refuse coverage to those with preexisting conditions.
“This bill is about treating all Oregonian’s health plans equally,” Senator Knopp said. “Some people’s health coverage is operating under a different set of rules than most Oregonians. We should protect Oregonians with preexisting conditions, regardless of how old their plan is.”
SB 699 now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Would increase access to health care for rural Oregonians
Oregon is the only state west of Texas that doesn’t allow the practice of telepharamacy. Senator Bill Hansell’s SB 629 allows the practice in Oregon and expands access to pharmaceutical services to rural, elderly, and disabled Oregonians.
In small cities that cannot support a full-time pharmacist, many residents must travel considerable distances to pick up their prescriptions or depend on others to pick them up for them. This can cause many to either go without their needed medication or have their treatment delayed. SB 629 would allow a pharmacist to consult over electronic means with pharmacy techs to fill prescriptions and communicate with patients.
“The pandemic has made us realize that many services we depend on can be provided online or over the phone,” said Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena), chief sponsor of the bill. “We can leverage these tools to expand access to health care for rural, elderly, and disabled Oregonians. This is a chance for Oregon to evolve in our delivery of health care.”
SB 629 passed on a 29-1 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
On Saturday, April 17th, at about 10:00p.m., a group of about 70 people formed in front of Portland Police East Precinct, 737 Southeast 106th Avenue. The group began moving into the street, blocking traffic. Many in the group wore helmets, body armor, and had heavy backpacks, which was consistent with the characteristics of those intent on criminal behavior.
Some individuals began to roll two large dumpsters from a nearby school into the street toward the precinct. Because dumpsters have been used many times as vessels to start fires, the Unified Command of Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue determined it was likely that this group's intent was the same.
East Precinct is part of the city's critical public safety infrastructure and a working precinct 24 hours a day.
The crowd was warned by loudspeaker not to restrict access to the precinct, not to start fires, or block traffic. Despite the warnings, one dumpster was pushed up close to the front door and the other near the garage door.
Due to the criminal activity and clear intent to block access to the precinct, the group was advised by loudspeaker that it had become an unlawful assembly and they were directed to leave to the north. They did not comply so officers moved in and the group moved away as instructed. The officers discovered that one of the dumpsters smelled of smoke but had not caught fire. A collapsible baton and some other gear was dropped when they ran away.
The City of Portland and downtown businesses are totaling up the most recent damage from rioting, arson, theft, and vandalism. Reports are being compiled and there is no cost estimate, but it appears to be significant damage.
The woman must be believed. Unless the man is a powerful Democrat
After applying the harshest of interim safety measures to then-Representative Diego Hernandez -- not punitive, because interim safety measures aren't meant to be punitive -- including removing him from committees, and then beating down Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) by taking his access to the building away, the House Committee on Conduct has finally found a limit to the extent of their punishments, er, uh, I mean safety measures. Both Hernandez and Nearman are no friends to House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), so it's fun to dish out harsh measures. Additionally, Witt barely hung on to his seat in fairly conservative Columbia County.
Now, Representative Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), who is not out of favor with the Speaker stands accused by some sort of misconduct and has to appear before the House Committee on Conduct to get his interim safety measures. His victim serves on a committee that he chairs. It's not certain that the victim is a Republican, but if you want the video, can you imagine if the victim was a Democrat that two women on the committee would choose to not implement a recommendation of the investigator, who recommended that Representative Witt step down as chair of the committee. This, even after Representative Witt offered to be removed as chair of the committee.
Maybe we're done with the #MeToo movement and "the woman must be believed" and when the committee convenes, the victim will have to attend with her accuser. According to Representative Julie Fahey (D-Eugene), Representative Witt need not step down as committee chair because that would be "punitive" as she hems and haws her way through a weak explanation. According to Representative Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland), Representative Witt need not step down as committee chair, because, after all, the committee meets virtually.
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) had this to say. “Co-chair Fahey’s rejection of the independent investigator’s recommendation to temporarily remove Chair Witt from his committee shows a shameful disregard for the pressing need for interim safety measures to protect the victim. This is a sham process if the committee rejects the recommendations of the independent investigator with no basis for that rejection. This is not, in fact, a “tricky situation” as co-chair Fahey indicated. It is traumatizing a victim and protecting those in power—and it is completely unacceptable. The responsibility now falls to the Speaker to ensure that Chair Witt is removed, to ensure the safety of the victim.
"Allowing the accused to choose the actions they will voluntarily take to protect their victim is not how this process should work.”
The war is over, but the battles continue in Yamhill County
Friends of the Yamhelas-Westsider Trail in Yamhill County, a project that the courts have decided does not comply with various laws, are circulating a petition to support an illegal action. These are good citizens who are continually misled and not informed of relevant factors by selfish interests, elected idealists and senior County staff interested in their personal power. Sowing the seeds of resentment and evoking divisive emotions distracts from rational thought causing animosity among neighbors.
Petition statements are corrected below.
"Commissioners are doing a favor for a small, well-funded group."
Commissioners are recognizing the County has wasted huge dollars pursuing a project deemed illegal on four occasions by LUBA. They have stopped that continued law breaking and financial waste by officials.
"Stopping the Trail could cause the County to repay $3 million."
$3 million is a wild guess intended to stampede decision makers. Omitted is a discussion of who authorized the illegal expenditures. ODOT was compliant in facilitating the illegal expenditures. The amount to repay and terms of repayment are negotiable.
Not having a trail to maintain, police, need fire protection, emergency services and require legal costs from litigating liability claims conservatively saves the County $150k/year perpetually. The savings far exceed even the “wild guess” largest claimed financial liabilities.
"A sale would funnel money out of the County."
A lease or sale to adjacent land owners would keep everything in Yamhill County. It would allow more agriculture on acres now idled, enhancing Yamhill County’s economy and largest primary industry.
"The Trail is not illegal because on one occasion the Land Use Board of Appeals did not fully rebuke the County."
The Trail is illegal because it cannot pass an Agriculture Impact Study showing no harm to existing farm practices. Failure to pass the Study results in no Conditional Use Permit and makes a Trail operation impossible. The plaintiffs were awarded attorney’s fees in the case of a Stay on Construction. Fees are only awarded if the plaintiff is correct on all of several counts. The County was wrong on all counts.
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"The Masterplan will answer many LUBA questions."
The Masterplan cannot change the requirement for a Conditional Use Permit. It will not change LUBA’s ruling. You don’t build something and then draw up the plans afterward. The Masterplan was a ruse.
"This is not a property rights issue because the Right of Way was owned by the railroad for 150 years."
Land use laws have changed since 1872 when the farmers were forced to sell to the railroad. The transport of commerce has changed since 1872. Now farmers have property rights equal to those of the railroad. This issue is at the core of individual and private property rights.
Cyclists can access over 200 very safe and scenic public and private bike paths in Oregon. Those facilities are already built and maintained. They offer cycling opportunities for all ages and skill levels. Cyclists can discover a beautiful state for themselves and their families by taking some initiative, or not.
We’re past halfway. There’s still lots of ideologically charged bills to come
The Oregon House of Representatives is more than halfway through the 2021 session, held in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
This session Republicans have pushed bills that provide wildfire relief and mitigation, fund educational enrichment to address gaps from distanced learning, and investment for Navigation Centers to support unsheltered individuals.
Republicans from the start of session this year have held the majority party accountable for a misguided agenda that they say includes far reaching and unrelated bills that do not address immediate problems Oregonians are facing.
Meanwhile, Republican members voted to expedite the passage of essential budget bills, as well as policies related to wildfire recovery such as HB 2341.
“It’s important for Republicans to continue standing up for the Oregonians who can’t be here, pushing for real solutions and bipartisan consensus,” said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby.) “Unfortunately, the majority party is still pushing an aggressive agenda that threatens personal safety, freedoms, and the recovery of our communities across the state. We’re halfway through this session, with a long way to go.”
At the end of March, House Republican Leader Drazan issued a call for the Legislature to refocus on priority issues that continue to be an immediate need for Oregonians. The Legislature responded by moving up the 2019-2021 budget rebalance to expedite important funding for communities.
A group of an estimated several hundred people started marching from Director's Park in Portland, Oregon at about 9:30 p.m. on April 16th, 2021. Participants in this march started breaking windows of businesses, including the Nordstrom, Verizon, Nike, the Oregon Historical Society and more. In addition to burglary and vandalism, individuals engaged in the crime of criminal mischief by damaging planters and applying graffiti. Looting was reported as well.
Windows were also broken at the First Christian Church, a location known for their generosity in feeding over a thousand meals weekly to the homeless.
A riot was declared due to the widespread criminal activity. Warnings were provided via sound truck that a riot had been declared. The rioters were ordered to disperse and were warned they were subject to arrest and/or force.
Some of the individuals in the group were observed changing clothing in an attempt to disguise themselves and elude police actions.
At about 10:49 p.m., there were 79 holding police calls for service in the City of Portland, including priority welfare check calls, at least three calls of shots, a priority hit and run, and three burglaries. Two burglaries have been holding for over 13 hours. Police resources were stretched across the City to manage the calls for emergency calls for service and the riot.
Officers worked to encourage dispersal and make arrests when they could. In addition to the destruction to businesses and non-profits, multiple fires were set at various locations. Police Bureau Officers dispersed the crowds to allow Portland Fire & Rescue to gain access to the fire locations to safely extinguish them.
At about midnight a portable toilet fire near SW 4th Avenue and Yamhill Street presented a significant life safety threat. The fire was near an occupied building and a propane tank, which increased the danger. Portland Fire & Rescue personnel responded and doused the fire.
A community member's vehicle sustained a flattened tire when they struck a rebar spike device known as a "caltrop" while driving downtown. These devices have been used to target first responder vehicles during other events in the past.
During the dispersal, pepper spray was deployed. No CS was deployed.
"Damage to businesses hurts our City. Our community has made it clear that it will not tolerate wanton violence and destruction" said Acting Chief Chris Davis. "No one is entitled to break windows, set fires, or attack police officers. If you choose to participate in this kind of criminal activity, you can expect to be arrested and prosecuted. None of this destruction tonight has anything to do with the important work of racial justice and reconciliation our community and our nation need at this critical time in our history."
The following people were arrested, booked, and charged:
Cameron Millar-Griffin, 24 years-old, from Portland- Riot, Criminal Mischief I, Resist Arrest, Disorderly Conduct II
Theodore O'Brien, 22 years-old, from Portland-Criminal Mischief I
Skye Sodja, 43 years-old, from Portland-Assault a Public Safety Officer, Disorderly Conduct II