By Scott McKee
At the beginning of my police career a seasoned training officer uttered words to me that would echo throughout my 35-year Oregon law enforcement career: “If you lie, you die.”
Police officers are human and, like other humans, they can and will screw up in a multitude of ways. But, she said, unlike other humans, police officers must be completely accountable and own their mistakes, being forthcoming and accountable with and to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For in policing you can survive a multitude of mistakes of all shapes and sizes, but if “you lie [about it], you die.”
The sentiment behind those words is more important now than it has ever been in American law enforcement. Now, more than ever, communities demand trustworthy individuals of integrity and credibility in law enforcement. Truth is central to our sworn oath as police officers and, if you are proven to lie, you cannot and should not be trusted by the public you serve.
But truth — especially that which expresses an unwelcome or controversial opinion — is where truth is facing challenge, even oppression in some law enforcement agencies.
As a police manager and internal affairs investigator, I uncovered, spoke out and objected about truth which was supposed to be kept secret in Springfield. My spoken truth exhumed truths that were deliberately and officially buried inside files deep within police department archives by a small but formidable element of good old boys who subscribe to a noble-cause form of justice, wherein they decide to whom and how the Constitution applies.
Resurrected, these ghosted-truths began to open doors, break windows and shake foundations in Springfield and beyond. These truths created justice and constitution where it had been denied: A Springfield man who had been screaming for justice for seven years from inside the Oregon State Prison was suddenly and quietly released 13 years early last November; a former cop with a known predatory history was prevented from practicing law in Oregon; a heavy-handed cop was put on a strict leash; and most recently, the secreted truths surrounding the unpunished intentional murder of Steven Ray Scott, a 51 year-old poor and Black homeless man, beaten to death by known assailants in Springfield in 2017, were revealed in a KEZI 9 News Special Report.
Cowardly men exposed and threatened by these truths attacked me with false allegations, lies and deliberate omissions; their theme, untruthfulness. Inside the police department, after hours, they trespassed, mocked, manipulated, defaced, defamed and fabricated.
While exonerated by truth, I had lost faith and confidence in the honor of men around me.
I collected my personal possessions from my private office inside the secure walls of the Springfield Justice Center. Among them, a personal symbol of American truth and justice, which has deliberately followed my police career for years; a large black and white textured-lithograph image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he delivered his famed “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963.
This is when I discovered a parting cowardly gesture, secretly and permanently penned to the inside back of this proud symbol of truth, hope and justice for all people: “Lt. WiGGER.”
Such a shameful act of cowardly bigotry, I thought at first. Wikipedia defines “Wigger” as a word used in a racist manner, much like the N-word, by the white culture, to belittle a white person perceived as “acting Black,” and also demeaning Black people and culture by association.
On second thought, I had a notion which has caused me to covet this extraordinary and now one-of-a-kind, historical artifact more now than ever before. The ironic symbolism of this ill-intended message of bigoted hate; that sometimes hate and evil does indeed hide behind truth and justice.
The Springfield Police Department is comprised of mostly honorable men and women, but if freedom is to ring the same for everyone in Springfield, in the words of King, there are still “crooked places to be made straight.”
Scott McKee is a 34-year Oregon police veteran. He served with honor as a Eugene police officer for 28 years. He was hired as a police lieutenant in March 2015 by the Springfield Police Department, where he served with honor, dignity and respect; conducting sensitive internal and criminal investigations at times of difficulty and transition within the SPD. He honorably separated from the Springfield Police Department last month after he was completely exonerated of all false allegations against him.
Pursuant a severance agreement Lt. McKee agreed he would not file suit against SPD or its representatives for any activities occurring prior to Sept. 3, 2020. He discovered the King hate message eight days later.