Riding with ‘Cop #1’: A veteran officer responds to a crime – and we were there when he makes the arrest

In part two of our in-the-cruiser, on-patrol interview – you’ll witness “Cop #1” at work, from reported crime to the arrest. . .

Working his Sunday afternoon shift in outer East Portland, Portland Police Bureau’s “Cop #1”, East Precinct Officer Gary Manougian says he always wonders what kind of issues he’ll see today in his district..

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Checking his in-car computer for a dispatch, Officer Gary Manougian said that we were going to visit residents who believed they were given a counterfeit $50 bill.

When we arrived, the reporting party had been holding a garage sale – and explained, “He bought $10 worth of stuff [with a $50 bill] and got $40 change – all of our money. Then later, I looked at it closer, and there’s not a strip inside the bill, and the printing is really pretty jagged and bad looking. I should’ve looked at it a lot closer when I took it.”

Sure enough, Manougian says, it looks like this neighbor is stuck with a fake $50 bill.

The young man looks up from talking with Manougian and cries, “Hey that’s the guy that passed the bill, on the bike!”

We hopped into the patrol car, and followed a man and a woman riding bicycles west along NE Multnomah Street, and watched the man peel off north on NE 78th Avenue. As Manougian navigates between kids playing in the street and parked cars, we notice the man look back at the police car. He cuts east in a driveway and behind a house at 1326 NE 78th Avenue.

Manougian cautiously follows the suspect back behind this house …

… and soon takes the suspect into custody.

Calling for backup as he parks the car, Manougian jogged up the driveway, and cautiously looked behind the house. Moments later, three officers joined him at the location.

Attracted by the phalanx of patrol cars, light racks a-flashing, neighbors came out and spoke with the arriving officers, as Manougian shouted for the man to come out of the house.

“There’s lots of people who go in and out of the house all the time,” one neighbor said.  “People around here are ‘unsavory types’,” another said. Yet another neighbor refers to it speculatively as a “crack and meth house”.

After several tense minutes, the man came out and surrendered without incident.

Sitting in the back of the patrol car, the suspect, later identified as 46-year-old Ronald John Bergevin, admitted that he did make a purchase at a garage sale with a $50 bill. But, says he got the bill as “change from the Safeway” store in Montavilla after being paid with a $100 bill for “doing an odd job.”

Comparing notes with officers with surrounding districts, Manougian finalizes his report notes.

After taking down Bergevin’s statement, Manougian drove downtown to the Justice Center, and into the underground area where prisoners are processed by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

A heavily-armored outer door was buzzed open; we entered and it slammed shut behind us before the inner door was buzzed open, and we entered. In a large, dimly-lit room, the suspect was told to stand in a counter while deputies searched him and removed his personal property to be stored. On the other side of the counter, facing him, Manougian filled in the paperwork.

Manougian radioed to other officers, asking if they’ve had any instances of counterfeit $50s showing up. One by one, they responded – yes, there have been several reports in the area.

As we rode back to East Precinct, Manougian summarized the event.

“This guy, in all likelihood, knowingly passed a bogus $50 bill at a yard sale. I don’t have enough proof to contradict his story. But, as you’ve heard, we do have information that other bogus $50 bills are being passed in this area.”

According to Multnomah County Detention Center information, this man, 46-year-old Ronald John Bergevin, continues to be held on suspicion of several criminal charges.

Note: PPB Sgt. Peter Simpson later reports that Bergevin was held on outstanding warrants for “Identity Theft (4 counts), Forgery in the First Degree, Theft in the Second Degree (3 counts), and Attempted Theft in the Second Degree. “There is an ongoing investigation regarding Bergevin’s connection to counterfeit money racket.” Bergevin remains in custody as of this writing.

Back in his district, Manougian rolled to an assault call near SE 82nd Avenue. The complainant said man in a car near the corner market took exception when he made a remark to the driver’s girlfriend, got out and punched him. Still nursing a bloody nose, the complainant was unable to accurately remember the vehicle’s license plate number.

“Looking at his bloodshot eyes, I suspect he’s ‘had a few’, or perhaps is under the influence of an illicit substance.”

Helps cops adjust to new dispatch system
Because the Bureau’s new Visual Computer Aided Dispatch (V-CAD) system has been in the news, we asked Manougian for his take on the change.

“First of all, I was a system instructor, and helped teach classes for eight weeks. As it turns out, some of the information we were given wasn’t accurate.”

One of the “sore points” officers have with the system is how “Priority 4” calls are dispatched, he said. “They’re being dispatched as single-officer-response calls. Traditionally a single officer is rarely sent to an ‘unwanted person’ call. You just never know, on an unwanted call, whether that person is going to be violent or not.”

The retired system was highly customized, so changing to the new system has been difficult for some officers, Manougian commented. In summary, “It’s different; and different doesn’t necessarily make it bad. But there is some streamlining that needs to be done on this, I believe, to make this a better system.”

The next dispatch took us to the 6800 block of SE Boise Street to provide backup for another officer who’s arrived at a “family beef”.  It was a domestic dispute; a woman was enraged, and her husband claimed that she was drunk and irrational. Sadly, their daughter and her daughter was on hand to watch the situation unfold. The officers did  their best to calm the parties.

Traumatic Incident Committee’s leader
“One of the things that I do is work with our Traumatic Incident Committee (TIC) as its coordinator. Our team responds to Officer-involved shootings and use-of-force incidents, for example. We assist officers learn what the process will be; what ‘happens next’,” Manougian explained.

Each time the officer recounts the incident, he said, “They are reliving the trauma of having to, for example, shoot somebody. It’s a very difficult time for every one of them; there’s a lot of emotion expressed. It’s a side of officers’ lives that aren’t seen, outside of the Police Bureau.”

It’s difficult for him, Manougian adds, to see “less-than-balanced reporting” about such an incident. “Even though I know what actually happened, I’m not authorized to release that information. Fortunately, the TIC team has a really a good mix of experience and interpersonal skills that they are able to draw on, to effectively help officers better deal with this difficult time in their lives.”

Keeping accurate notes and records is an important part of a cop’s job, Manougian says.

We next were off to investigate a “cold theft” call at Courtyard at Mount Tabor on SE Division Street. Although the resident wasn’t available, it later turned into a “Crime Stoppers” case.

We asked Manougian why he hasn’t chosen to move up the ranks into the Bureau’s command staff.

“The big part of it is that I really enjoy this,” he responded. “It is at this level where one has the most freedom in what they do. It’s not just being free to ‘wander around’ – it’s having the opportunity to choose cases, improve investigative and interviewing skills, and look for ways to directly serve the community’s public safety needs. It is almost limitless, the avenues you can pursue in law enforcement at the officer’s level.”

As we came to the end of our ride-along, we asked how he got the nickname “Cop #1”.

“When Officer Carl Rilling retired in November, after 36 years on the force, he was number one in seniority. He left me a very nice message at the time: ‘As of November 9, you’ll be number one in seniority. The papers are in an all signed, and I’m all packed to go.’

“So, I’m now known as Number One. I’ve had other nicknames – especially because even people who know me find my name difficult to pronounce. Having a nickname comes in real handy; this is just my latest one.”

Although he still doesn’t have immediate retirement plans, Manougian conceded retirement isn’t that far off. “I’ve done ’most everything I could reasonably do. I think becoming Hostage Negotiator was interesting; it’s a study of what people do. There’s so much one can do in law enforcement; it’s really endless. Since it’s endless, what are you going to do – be here forever?  Realistically not.”

A cop who’s good cover
Asked what he’d like his “legacy statement” to be when he does retire, Manougian thought for a while before answering.

“That I was ‘good cover’. That’s the biggest honor that can be bestowed on any police officer by another. They can count on you to be there for them.

“I’d also like to be remembered for how I handle calls.”

We asked if there’s anything that hadn’t yet come up in our conversation on which he’d like to comment.

“A lot of the public doesn’t know how high the level of integrity is, in the Police Bureau,” Manougian said. “I work with a bunch of really good people who are trustworthy.”

Cop #1 thought for a moment more, and added, “The biggest thing will affect this job is if the State of Oregon is able to get a better handle on mental health issues.  If they’re able to do that, it will reduce a lot of the hazards out on the street.

“Some people know that if they really, really want to die, just how to create a situation that will make it next to impossible for a police officer not to kill them. The pressure in those situations forces the officer to wait longer and longer.

“What if the person with a mental problem really is armed, and really has the intent to kill somebody – how long does one wait [before taking action]? It’s been a real issue that weighs heavily when I think about it. I don’t want anybody to have to die for any reason.”

Manougian concluded, “Somebody creates the situation, and we get drawn into it, because we’re policemen. We go where they send us. That’s the long and short of it, that’s the way it’s been since I’ve been here, and that’s what it’ll be after I’m long gone.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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