Portland Copwatch Analyzes Compliance Officer and DOJ Reports on US DOJ Agreement February 2021
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Table of contents
Out of Policy (/Out of Control) Use of Force
Accountability, or Lack Thereof
Training: Lack of Compliance Let Slide
Racism and Police Stops
Calls for More Cops and Money, Tempered a Bit
Crisis Training: Lingering and New Questions
Employee Information System continues to Bewilder
Community Engagement: COCL Gives a Pass, DOJ Finds Violation
To: Compliance Officer/Community Liaison
YOU'RE OUT... OF COMPLIANCE: CONSULTANT, DOJ SAY CITY NOT MEETING
In late January, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL), the office charged with assessing whether the City of Portland and the Police Bureau have met requirements of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement, released its fourth quarter 2020 Report,*-1 finding the City has failed to maintain its commitments. A few weeks later, the DOJ released their own Report*-2 . Overall, both Reports find the Bureau out of compliance for use of force and misconduct investigations, the latter of which is based on, in part, the "Independent" Police Review (IPR) only completing 20% (3 of 15) of its investigations in the mandated 180 day timeline. The DOJ, however, added that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is not in compliance on Training (which the COCL prematurely approved), and found they failed to properly present their annual report under the terms of the Agreement, while the COCL originally gave the City a passing grade. Unlike the last COCL Report, where the force finding was related to lack of reporting during the George Floyd racial justice protests, this time there are serious questions about whether the force was justifiably used (p. 4).
The Compliance Officer seems rather conflicted about their role in judging the Bureau's failures, staving off anger by calling themselves a "detached independent evaluator" like an umpire in baseball (p. 3). In Portland Copwatch's view, this metaphor is, at best, stretched to its limits in the Report due to bias and unsupported conclusions. For instance, similar to their first findings of lack of compliance, the COCL blames the Bureau's problems on protests and "disorder," by which we assume they mean what they call "civil unrest" (p. 4), not the disorder of the Bureau itself. Surprisingly, they list issues with federal law enforcement as one factor in the PPB's trouble keeping up with compliance, though that is not explored in the Report. Once again, the COCL seems to ignore public outcry demanding defunding of the police by saying the budget cuts made to the PPB are partly to blame; the DOJ also blames the cuts in part for failures in training (DOJ p. 23). The COCL also cites the wildfires in September as an issue.
As a side note, the COCL continues their longstanding tradition of labeling community members in disparaging ways, in this case splitting demonstrators into three categories: "Peaceful protestors, agitators and rioters" (pp. 4 & 11). They note that there were 2412 uses of force against protestors in May/June and 3729 from July to September, then adding that there were over 600 officer injuries including broken bones, lacerations, contusions, and fractures. Yet this umpire doesn't note that there were hundreds of civilian injuries reported as a result of the PPB's use of force. The also refer to people who engaged in property damage (listed here as "destruction") as "extremists" (p. 15). This was in the context of explaining that police tried to use de-escalation at protests by "waiting out those who were committing certain criminal acts" but that it was destined to fail because of the "intent" of the "extremists." The DOJ also separates out "peaceful protestors" (citing a 1968 court case defining First Amendment activities) from "violent demonstrators who employed arson... projectiles... and makeshift weapons" (DOJ p. 2). That said, the DOJ agrees with the COCL that officers weren't properly scrutinized for justifying their use of force, including that they considered people walking away too slowly to be a form of "active aggression" (DOJ p. 9).
Though officer use of deadly force was the impetus for these protests, the COCL does not follow up on the shooting where a PPB officer missed hitting Gray Stockton on June 28, which was only briefly mentioned in the Q3 report. The DOJ, on the other hand, adds information that Stockton allegedly pointed a replica pistol at the officer before the police gunfire and a negotiated "surrender" (DOJ p. 55). In early August, the DA (Mike Schmidt) decided not to present that case to a Grand Jury. The COCL and DOJ both are unable to report on the shooting in which an officer shot at (and again, missed) David Dahlen on December 24 because it happened so close to the end of this quarter. They do, however, note that the involved officer was not interviewed within 48 hours as required by policy (p. 51) because she was incapacitated (when hit by the vehicle the suspect was driving).
The COCL also found that the PPB is back in compliance with the entire Training section of the Settlement Agreement even though all they have done is make a plan on how to train officers who were unable to attend once COVID hit in early 2020 (pp. 6 & 29). This is a bit like calling the baseball game in the 7th inning when one team is ahead but the game's not over. It might also be considered like promising to pay back a loan and then having the lender declare the agreement satisfied. The DOJ agrees with Portland Copwatch, and notes that making a plan is not in and of itself implementation by definition (DOJ p. 25).
In a "did they really say that with a straight face?" moment, the Bureau told the COCL they didn't have to conduct skills training for officers in crowd management because they received "on the job" training during the protests (p. 25). The Bureau has promised a public report on police actions at these protests; the COCL calls for a video debrief for all officers.
With regard to accountability, the Portland Police Association has made the request during contract negotiations to make the 180 day timeline for investigating misconduct enforceable by dropping the case if it hasn't been finished in that time. It's important that the COCL repeats that accuracy is more important than speed. The Compliance Officer says this both about the investigation system lagging behind after being overwhelmed by protest-related complaints (p. 49) and the Supervisors who filed reports about protests before getting officer input (p. 17).
Confusingly, while the COCL's Report is for Q4 2020, a lot of the data discussed are from either Q2 or Q3. We try to be clear about this in our analysis, below, where we put page numbers in (parentheses) and Settlement Agreement paragraph numbers in [brackets], and indicate which references are from the DOJ.
As noted above, the COCL and DOJ found the Bureau out of compliance with the Agreement's conditions on Use of Force. This is both because officers were making claims in their reports about "active aggression" by protestors without describing specifics and because they did not show their skills to resolve conflict without using force, or by using the least force necessary [paragraphs 66, 67 and 69] (pp. 4 &14). One example they use is an officer justifying using an "Inert Rubber Ball Distraction Device" because a crowd "continued" to move northward at one protest, with the COCL asking why the weapon was used if the crowd was already moving (p. 14). Another example is a report saying a protestor subjected to force was "at least complicit in criminal activity, and therefore participated in active aggression" (p. 15). The DOJ reports on one person hit with a less lethal weapon after having a "furtive conversation" and running away, getting hit with a less lethal weapon half a mile from the supposedly threatened Justice Center (DOJ pp. 8-9).
In another strong statement last time, the COCL had pointed out an officer who deliberately hit a protestor in the head with a baton should have been investigated for use of deadly force; the new Report indicates that investigation is now underway. In addition, they say they met with the DOJ, City and PPB to discuss "intent" with regard to force and are planning to revise the Force Directive (pp. 15-16). The DOJ explains this means the policy will be revised to require claims about intent to be reviewed for reasonableness (DOJ p. 51).
The COCL also deserves credit for saying that the PPB was using force indiscriminately in crowd situations, noting officers made no distinction between people engaged in criminal acts and others who were simply in the area once a dispersal order was given but did not make any threats or resist police (p. 19). We're not sure we agree with their assertion that "forceful intervention is appropriate" if a person "destroys" property or assaults an officer; as we note often state-sanctioned violence may be legal but that doesn't make it right.
Perhaps its amusing that the COCL team, which last time used a phrase about "both sides of the fence" referring to the protests, this time said the PPB needs to come up with a longterm plan for ongoing demonstrations, not an "in case of emergency, break glass" setup (p. 19). Need we explain that people seeing an emergency about police violence broke a lot of glass in downtown Portland? Regardless, the COCL warns the City that they can only say such ongoing resistance can only be "unprecedented" one time. However, once the first few weeks were over, such a claim was already inexcusable. The Report says the Bureau began a review of protest tactics in November, once things calmed down, with the COCL noting they could have used such reviews to inform their responses and avoid using force inappropriately all along had they done analysis in real time (p. 14).
The DOJ adds that officers were given specific instructions before each day's protest, but not all officers followed those guidelines. It made them wonder whether officers "broke ranks to engage with demonstrators" (DOJ p. 9).
We took issue last time with the COCL's assertion that the "force to custody" ratio had gone up from 3.5% to 4.1% of custodies because interactions with the public were down. They make the same claim here, saying they are not worried even with the ratio now having climbed to 4.6%. This indicates police are proportionally using more force when taking people into custody-- it has nothing to do with the overall number of people being contacted. The COCL's own numbers show that custodies are down 25% but force is only down 16%, meaning there has not been a proportional drop in use of force (p. 12).
To expand on our comment on the last Report, this analysis also ignores that 6141 uses of force were initiated against people at protests with far fewer people (roughly 1000) being arrested. This makes a force to custody ratio of 614.1%, in other words, over six times more force used than custodies made and 133 times more than non-protest force. Moreover, the COCL minimizes the Bureau's admitted inaccuracy of the 6141 figure, saying commanders got an idea of the type of force used but not the amount, including how many less lethal weapons were fired. This is an oblique reference to the Force Inspector analysis that said if an officer reported they used force repeatedly but didn't enumerate it, or if they said they used force on multiple people without knowing how many, each instance was only listed as one use of force.
In their Q2 2020 Report, the COCL called on the Bureau to limit the use of tear gas, then failed to note that the Mayor banned its use in September in the Q3 Report. This time they say that the Mayor's ban led to confusion because the policies weren't changed. The Chief sent out a special order on November 30 (p. 11), when the protests had more or less subsided. PCW is troubled by the DOJ's insistence that the Mayor deciding to institute this ban is a violation of the Agreement. There is some nuance because part of their concern is that he didn't run the plan by the DOJ before instituting it, the Bureau didn't turn the order into a written policy for over two months, and that order actually had an exemption if officers directly called the Mayor for approval, so his ban was misleading. However, the implication is that the DOJ thinks officers' ability to deploy chemical weapons is inherent in the current Crowd Control policy and the ban negatively affected their force options (DOJ pp. 11-12).
In analyzing the last Report, we wondered whether the DOJ would give a pass to the PPB for violating paragraph 74 and skipping the Force Inspector's audit of use of force for 2020, as the COCL did. The DOJ's Report indicates they will assess the Inspector's audit in the future, thus not finding the lapse a violation. Apparently the Inspector caught up with reviewing the June events by October (p. 4). The COCL says the reviews include "thoughtful evaluation of force events" and recommendations to fix problems found, with no examples given (p. 14). The COCL declared Paragraph 74 back in compliance, while the DOJ found no lack of compliance (DOJ p. 17).
Supervisors are required to file After Action Reports based on officers' Force Collection Data Reports (FCDRs) per paragraphs 70 and 73. The COCL found that some supervisors completed their Reports before getting the officers' FCDRs (p. 17). Perhaps the supervisors were trying to make up for their inability to keep up with filing AARs early in the protests (Q3 Report/analysis), though the COCL says the reporting later became "more consistent" (pp. 5 & 16).
For context, the COCL urges readers to take pity on the police for having to deal with protests which were "sizable and hectic" (p. 11). These are not excuses for violating civil rights, much less the Settlement Agreement. However, they push back on a commander excusing supervisors who failed to file reports in the required 72 hours due to "operational tempo" by noting solutions could have been designed to address timeliness (p. 16). The COCL notes that officers' memories fade, especially when trying to separate out one protest from another. One supervisor claimed it was "unreasonable" to expect to keep filing reports once the protests lasted 90 days. They could also have told their officers to stop using force, which would have solved that problem.
On a related note, in addition to supervisors who filled out After Actions before getting officer reports, about half never bothered to talk to the officers, relying only on the reports, or else didn't document the interviews (p. 17). Supervisors found officers weren't reviewing videos that were available to them (p 19).
The DOJ says that the Bureau claimed to have "misplaced" the After Action Report for the June protest that was key to the Don't Shoot Portland lawsuit leading to Judge Hernandez finding in November the City had violated his June restraining order against the Bureau (DOJ p. 7). That AAR then magically appeared in the Chief's office and was approved three days after the hearing.
Even though quarterly Use of Force Reports have included protest force data since the second quarter of 2018, the COCL says those reports don't include protest data (p. 11). However they find that quarterly reporting [paragraph 76] is in compliance. For the record, the Q2 protest force data were not included with the original August 11 publication, but were released at the Training Advisory Council (TAC)'s November 11 meeting. The DOJ explains that the annual force reports provide more analysis than the quarterly reports (DOJ p. 17).
The COCL also found (p. 13) that under Paragraph 68 the PPB was properly using Tasers (Conductive Energy Weapons) as evidenced by reports they didn't have in Q3 but now show (a) Tasers were used were used within policy, (b) officers are warning people before deploying electroshocks and (c) Tasers were not used at protests (which is against PPB policy). So 68 was declared back in compliance.
Other issues we have with the COCL's analysis of force include:
--In trying to praise the Bureau for "only" using level II and III force against people with mental illness in 0.27% of interactions, they ignore that it came to 144 times in two years, or more than once per week (p. 12, DOJ. p. 12).
--They say using the PPB's sound truck to issue warnings that they would use force is a form of de-escalation (p. 15). PCW is not alone in believing that threats to use force are not means of peaceful conflict resolution. While the DOJ indicates agreement that warnings can be de-escalation, they note the Bureau can't just attack a crowd assuming that everyone heard the warnings (DOJ p. 9).
--In reviewing a random sample of cases, they say they found "corrective action was taken" around Use of Force incidents (p. 13), even though it's extremely rare for officers to be found out of policy (as we noted in the analysis of the Q3 Report). For example, in the August 2020 Police Review Board Report, an officer was found out of policy for improperly documenting their pushing a protestor, but not for the force itself.*-3
--The COCL describes force which happened outside of protests as "routine" (p. 11), which feeds into the normalization of violence.
The largest contributor to the Bureau being found out of compliance with the Accountability provisions is the inability of the civilian-staffed "Independent" Police Review (IPR) to meet deadlines outlined in the Agreement. While a new civilian agency is being designed, the IPR is the only buffer between the community and the Bureau's Professional Standards/Internal Affairs Division (IA) for investigating misconduct complaints. In addition to having a larger caseload than usual in June and September, IPR lost an investigator and hasn't replaced them.*-4 As noted above, the COCL says that quality is more important than speed, but the Agreement clearly gives a 180 day timeline to finish investigations [paragraph 121].
The Compliance Officer finds that cases making it through the system are mostly being handled properly, with the exception of a few which were handled poorly by the Bureau's Police Review Board (PRB). Unfortunately, the COCL did not find those cases contributed to the lack of compliance, citing the Chief's ability to overturn the Board's recommendations.
In one of the dubious cases, a supervisor used a 40mm projectile launcher (likely at a protest), but a 4-3 PRB vote found it was in policy. The Directive requires "active aggression" by a suspect before firing the weapons, but the supervisor didn't identify such behavior (p. 51). The Chief had not made a decision on this case when the COCL Report was published. In another case, all the parties conducting the original review of an officer driving up to 88 miles per hour to catch a suspect thought the cop violated the pursuit policy. However, the PRB voted 5-0 to declare that it was not a pursuit (!), but found the officer guilty of "driving without due regard." The Chief apparently went along with the Board's faulty analysis.
The Bureau told the COCL that the Chief had over-ruled the Board in four cases related to Force in recent years. PCW regularly reviews PRB reports and finds there are frequently cases that involve Use of Force, but the violence is not reviewed, only issues such as failing to file a report or violations of the foot pursuit policy. Moreover, the Chief lowers the seriousness of violations as often as they over-rule the Board.
It's amusing how the Report calls the oversight system (a) "largely" accessible, while inaccurately saying a person can file a complaint in person with IPR, which hasn't been true since the pandemic struck a year ago (pp. 8 & 44), and (b) "largely" transparent, while noting that Police Review Board reports are redacted when they're posted (p. 49).*-5
In brief, IPR takes complaints from community members, then does an intake investigation to be sure they're talking about a Portland Officer and that the described action might violate a policy. That intake investigation is supposed to last 14 days, and IPR usually handles 35 in a month (p. 44).*-6 According to the Report, there were 82 investigations started in June and 42 in September. (Other summer months seem to be on par with the average, at 35 and 33 in July and August). Of those, about 50% were of protests at first, but that came down to 27% (7 of 26 cases) by October. But IPR took more than 70 days to complete intake in 21 cases, or five times what's allotted, the COCL points out. Apparently the intake timelines went down to 16 days by November (p. 46).
The COCL wisely urges the City to keep funding IPR until the new oversight system is ready to start functioning, even suggesting they use City investigators or hire outside investigators temporarily to keep IPR staffed (p. 48). They take no position on the new Board so long as it meets the goals of the Agreement (p. 51).
On the other hand, the COCL alarmingly raises the concern that a proposal to move the controversial Service Coordination Team (SCT) away from the Police to another Bureau might be a violation of the Agreement (p. 38). PCW continues to urge all the parties involved not to use the Settlement Agreement as a hindrance to creative new solutions, and that social service programs like SCT should not be run by police officers. The DOJ's Report indicates that the contracting activity of SCT was indeed moved to another Bureau, but the PPB still manages the operations; while they pledge to monitor the program, they seem ok with the change (DOJ p. 33).
PCW was glad to see the COCL praise the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) for using their (restricted by City Code and the Agreement) standard of review at an appeal hearing in November (p. 50).*-7 In that case, retired Sgt. Liana Reyna accused two officers of retaliation, discrimination and mishandling complaints she had filed against another officer. As the COCL notes, the CRC upheld one finding (that the Professional Standards Captain failed to notify Reyna of the outcome of a complaint), challenged two (to change the discrimination allegations from "Unfounded" to "Not Sustained [insufficient evidence] with a debriefing"), and send one back for more investigation (wondering whether dismissing Reyna's allegation about the other officer's truthfulness was a violation of investigative policy).
The fact that Internal Affairs met the 180 day timeline about 90% of the time should not be used as an excuse to move cases from the civilian IPR back to the Bureau, which was one way IPR cut down on its workload (p. 47). Instead, as the COCL suggested, more resources should be given to civilian oversight, while, we would add, shrinking the police budget.
Even though the DOJ and COCL believe that the oversight system is structurally compliant with the Agreement, the COCL notes how Police Review Board hearings had to be rescheduled because CRC members were unable to access files without physically going to Central Precinct-- in the middle of a pandemic. They report that using specific software, CRC can now access the files remotely, but have to sign non-disclosure agreements (pp. 50-51). This seems odd since CRC has full access to the files they review for their misconduct appeal hearings and are, we believe, covered by a pledge to keep those files confidential already. The COCL recommends making remote access a permanent protocol, which the DOJ agrees should help ensure the current and future oversight systems aren't hampered (DOJ p. 58) by what PCW sees as an over-abundance of caution.
Other issues we have with the COCL's analysis of Accountability include:
--They mention that IPR can controvert a commander's findings and send misconduct cases to the Police Review Board, but not that the Assistant Chiefs and Internal Affairs also have that power (pp. 9 & 49).
--The COCL "understands" why the Auditor put a hold on appointing new members to the CRC while the ballot measure to replace the oversight system was underway, then picked up again after the vote (p. 50). Objectively speaking, this decision was ill-advised, as the CRC needed to fill the seats left by three members who resigned in September whether or not the ballot measure passed.
--The COCL's very brief review of deadly force protocols makes it sound as if the 48 hour period in which involved officers are interviewed comes after a Grand Jury is held, even though that's not the case (p. 51 ), and once again shrugs off that no involved officer has agreed to conduct a walk-through of the scene when requested .
As noted above, the fact that the Bureau has plans to make up for hundreds of officers not yet receiving their 2020 "in service" training led the Compliance Officer to find much of the Training section back in line with the Agreement prematurely. In part this is based on the creation of an annual needs assessment  with input from the Force Inspector, audit team, Internal Affairs, precinct managers, the policy team, Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP), Training Advisory Council, IPR, the OIR Group's study of deadly force incidents, and the BHU Advisory Council (p. 20). Notably, despite our repeatedly calling attention to the lack of a venue for input from the general public, the community at large is not on this list. PCW would be interested to learn in what ways the Training Division used the IPR's Annual Report, which was essentially a five page infographic, to inform their plan.
Some items of interest mentioned by the COCL that the PPB is covering in training are officer-on- officer intervention "to prevent or stop harmful actions such as excessive force" (p. 25), the recent state law passed limiting the use of choke holds (HB 4201), and videos made addressing issues such as "white supremacy and racism" (p. 23)-- presumably to explain why these things are bad. It is important that the COCL acknowledges making a useful video can take as long as 40 hours, though PCW would add that may include fancy editing and graphics which are not necessary to cover personal stories, lectures and roll call briefings (p. 23).
Another fancy, and questionable, use of technology is a "Virtra De-escalation and Use of Force simulator" which uses virtual reality for role playing (p. 24). It's not clear whether the scenarios in the simulator can be generated by the PPB to fit the needs of the community.
It's not clear why the COCL changed their minds about the Community Engagement section because the Bureau promised to, but did not, hold an annual report presentation in East Precinct, while they stand by their decision to find compliance even though the make-up training could still be derailed.
Other issues we have with the COCL's analysis of Training include:
--The COCL is ok that the Bureau did not audit the Training program in 2020 (as required by paragraph 85), but says they can wait until 2022 to do an audit of two years' data (p. 28). Since the COCL is obligated to help create those audits, it's not clear who holds the COCL accountable for their role in maintaining compliance. They claim the audit happens informally through the needs assessment and officer evaluations of Training, which seems pretty unscientific (p. 27).
--The Report calls for readers to find out which training will be done in person and which ones will be done online by looking at lists in the 2020 training plan, without giving a link (p. 22), and talks about the expanded topics being covered online referring to, presumably, the same list, also without a link (p. 23).*-8
--We have asked the COCL to explain why the City Attorney has to do 35 sessions with only 24 officers to train all 850 PPB members (p. 24). It seems if you increase the class sizes, there can be fewer sessions. To their credit, the COCL notes (in a footnote) that to avoid overtime, the trainings should be done during officers' regular shifts.
--It's not clear what (if any) corrective actions happened for seven officers who were reported to the Chief's office for not completing their training in a timely manner between September and December (p. 26).
Paragraph 148 requires the PPB to collect demographic data, including about race and mental health status, for "police encounters." The 2019 annual report on traffic and pedestrian stops (which wasn't published until November 2020) revealed a disproportionate number of searches done on African American Portlanders. (It also shows a disproportionate number of stops, but the COCL does not find that statistically significant.) The PPB changed its data collection application starting in January to include questions about why officers are conducting a search. The COCL thinks the question will diminish bias by making the officers "think" about the reasons (p. 10). Implementation was held up while the Bureau worked on a way to fulfill the Mayor's request to inform people of their right to refuse a "consent search." Notably, however, the PCCEP and the community were not involved in this discussion; new training was also developed without input from the Training Advisory Council. In part this is because paragraph 148 originally called for a now defunct advisory group (the Community/Police Relations Committee) to play that role, and when it was amended in 2018 the community's role was pared down to PPB sending stop data to the PCCEP.
The solution to the Mayor's consent concept is that officers will hand out cards to people explaining their right to refuse a search, and record the results on a smart phone app (p. 59). This system is not yet in place even though the new data collection has begun. The COCL points out that 70% of searches are consent searches, meaning police are asking to search without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
To their credit, the COCL does note that (a) "hot spot" policing leads to bias (citing an article by lead Compliance Officer Dr. Rosenbaum), and (b) while comparing traffic stops to traffic collision data makes sense for demographic comparisons, they are "less enthusiastic" about the Bureau's assertion that stops should be compared to crime victimization numbers (p. 60). PCW has repeatedly denounced the latter statistic as nonsensical, since pulling people over for being crime victims is not (supposedly) what police are hired to do. The 2019 report showed that African American drivers were asked to submit to consent searches twice as often as white drivers, and Black and Latinx drivers were far less likely to refuse a search (12.4%/11.2%) than whites (22.4%).
Interestingly, the COCL notes, a quarterly report from 2020 shows there was a 79% decrease in stops from Q2 to Q3, from nearly 11,000 to just under 2300. But African American drivers, who made up 18.4% of stops in the Q2 report "only" made up 15.3% of stops in Q3. This is still unacceptable in a City where are only 6% of residents and 11% of those involved in traffic crashes are Black. The COCL rightly considers (in a footnote) that the drop could be in part due to the end of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, for whom over 50%of stops included Black drivers, after budget cuts starting on July 1. They also speculate it could have been due to the protests, or "de-policing," which is to say that officers decided not to do as much work because of all the criticism they face.
For what it's worth, the four member Behavioral Health Response Team attended BIPOC-specific webinars called "Impact of Racism and Trauma on Black Mental health" and "Suicide: Cultural Considerations When Working With Indigenous Populations" (DOJ p. 44). It seems that more officers should have been given this information.
In our last analysis, we noted numerous times where the Compliance Officer asked the City to throw more money at the police despite community calls to defund. Before we get to the examples in the new Report, it is crucial for PCW to express support for the COCL's request that IPR be fully funded up until the new oversight system is put in place (p. 48). While arguably using taxpayer money to fund investigations of police is taking resources away from human needs, so long as we have police, Portland must adequately fund any system set up to investigate misconduct.
For their part, the DOJ also points to issues they say arise from the City cutting the budget, such as overtime pay normally given to officers to attend training (DOJ p. 25) and one of the five Behavioral Health Response Teams being cut (DOJ p. 43).
So here are some calls by the COCL to "re-fund" the police:
--In the Force section, they say more resources may be needed to evaluate force, including a new video team, audit team and a team to review tactics (p. 19).
--In the Training section, they call for more resources to overcome "asynchronous" videos (meaning "not interactive," rather than that the person's mouth doesn't move with the audio track). The PPB is working with a "motion graphic designer/videographer" (which seems a bit extravagant) and attended "Adobe Max conference classes," but COCL suggests they should think about adding even more staff (p. 23).
On the other hand:
--In the Q3 Report the COCL indicated the span of control for Sergeants falling from 5.2 to 4.8 officers showed that more hiring needed to be done; this time they say current staffing is "adequate" (p. 12).
Because the COCL continues to find the Crisis Intervention program in compliance with the Agreement, PCW is making limited comments on this section.
Here are some of our ongoing or new comments about this important aspect of the Agreement.
--13 of 130 calls that were routed from the 911 center to the Multnomah County Crisis Line came back for police dispatch, which is 10% of the calls. In the last report that was 12 of 132, or 9%. The COCL continues to reference a review of whether the initial routing was appropriate, but does not explain what happens to that information (p. 32).
--Seven officers with Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT) training retired, but no new expanded training has been offered since November 2019 (p. 33). In the last Report we raised the question of whether any of the officers under investigation for excessive force at protests are ECIT officers, which would, if substantiated, disqualify them to be part of the ECIT . The COCL does not address this issue except to say none have been pulled based on their work history (p. 34).
--It is good that officers not given the extra 40 hour ECIT training are now coming closer to the same rate of transporting people with mental illness to a hospital instead of jail-- 32% for ECIT vs. 25% for regular officers (who have half the specialists' CIT training-- p. 34). Looking at the data presented on page 35, PCW sees the proportion by ECIT went down from 1.8:1 to 1.3:1 over two years. However, the COCL is not concerned that ECIT officers are more likely to bring people to jail-- 8.7% of the time vs. 5.3% (p. 35). That seems strange if the specialty officers are supposed to be helping reduce inappropriate incarceration.
--The Service Coordination Team, which PCW has expressed concern about for years as being coercive to people who are repeatedly arrested by officers while those who wish to seek treatment can't qualify, gets high marks again in this Report. The COCL cites a newly-published Portland State University study that says 87% of those who completed the treatment program "reduced" their number of future arrests, but only 12% had no further contact with police. They say each dollar spent on the SCT saves the system $20.61 (pp. 36-37). Imagine if those savings were used to fund more treatment rather than more police!
--The percentages given of people who are moved into housing through an SCT-related program, which hover above 90% over the times included (p. 28), is misleading. The total number of people moved into housing is between 8 and 16 people per year out of only 9 to 17 considered, while the SCT processes a total of about 80 to 150 people per year (p. 37).
--Presumably, the Behavioral Health Unit's Advisory Council, which has continued to keep its meetings closed to the public, has been meeting virtually like most other organizations. The COCL speculates that the reason local ambulance corps AMR and service agency Central City Concern have not assigned people to open seats on the BHUAC is due to the pandemic, with no evidence (p. 39).
--The BHUAC is participating in the Coalition of Advisory Councils, along with the CRC, TAC and other community-member populated groups (p. 39). However, that Coalition, like the BHUAC, does not hold public meetings or seek public input.
----The DOJ acknowledges both the community and Judge Simon's requests for BHUAC to at least open part of their meetings to the public, but since that's not required in the Agreement, refuses to ask them to do so (DOJ p. 35).
--The separate section on Mental Health continues to excuse Portland's inaction by saying there's only so much the City can do, and, as in the Q2 and Q3 Reports, includes the COCL's admission that they are not qualified to determine whether the Unity Center is properly functioning as the drop-off/walk-in center called for in the Agreement (pp. 6 and 30-31). The DOJ acknowledges community concerns but affirms that Unity satisfies the Agreement, claiming the Center's internal troubles were resolved in December 2020 (DOJ p. 29).
The Bureau's Employee Information System (EIS) generated a lot more alerts about officers than in the previous three quarters, mostly due to force and "traumatic" events related to the protests (p. 40). The COCL reports that once certain thresholds were reached, force alerts used to make up 60% of those reports sent to supervisors, but they were up to 77% in Q3.
Traumatic incidents are defined by the COCL for only the second time in the 7 years of review as including incidents related to child abuse, deadly force, homicide, officer assault, suicide or traffic- related deaths (but not, as we've suggested, sexual assault or domestic violence). The trauma-related flags were up 80%, the COCL says, because of assaults on the officers. Overall, also including complaints and commendations, 525 alerts were generated, but only 340 were sent to supervisors (p. 41). The Report says one officer was put on a "monitoring plan" as a result of the alerts.
According to the chart on p. 42, there were only 84 interventions in Q3 2020 but 122 a year prior in Q3 2019, so fewer officers were talked to despite the spike in alerts.
One interesting fact included is that in Q3, the four officers with the most uses of force in East Precinct all had less than three years of service on the Bureau (p. 42). It would be interesting to see a broader examination of tenure and force use.
Side note on the EIS:
--In three previous Reports, the COCL asked the Bureau to exclude lower levels of force during analysis to better determine which units use more force than others, but there is no indication in the new Report either that the Bureau listened to that advice or that the COCL is still suggesting it.
While it may not be the most important aspect of the Community Engagement section of the Agreement, the PPB's annual report presentations are nonetheless a good bellwether to see whether or not, after all these years, they actually "get" what it means to engage. The Agreement outlines specific items that are supposed to be included in presentations at each of the City's three Precincts and at City Council, including force, stops, "biased-free policing" and community members' rights . None of those topics have been adequately addressed in any PPB annual report. Portland Copwatch cannot say what happened in the Precinct presentations, as we've never been suitably informed about them, but those areas were certainly not part of the 8 minute long presentation to City Council in December. Interestingly, the COCL did not attend the Precinct meetings because they also were not informed about them, and the Bureau did not record them (p. 61). The DOJ only focused on the PPB's lack of making a presentation at East Precinct to determine noncompliance, while the COCL originally made the excuse that due to COVID (even though the other presentations happened just fine virtually), the Bureau would get a pass. At the February 23 PCCEP meeting, the COCL declared that they agreed with the DOJ.
However, the COCL's initial analysis also says that the Bureau satisfied the terms of Paragraph 150 by sharing the draft with the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing, while at the same time reporting that the Bureau told the PCCEP their recommendations would not lead to changes in the final product. They rightly note that several items requested by PCCEP in 2019, such as details on discipline and adding charts, did not get included in this year's report, urging the Bureau to consider the group's input more seriously.
The COCL takes it on face value that the Bureau sent invitations about the presentations to "local organizations within each Precinct." PCW has seen a copy of one such invitation, and there were only six people/groups listed in the cc: line. The notification went out six days before the Central Precinct meeting. Both Precinct meetings occurred after the City Council hearing on December 16, on December 28 and 29-- between the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Because of an arbitrary rule put in place by Mayor Wheeler, no public input was taken at the Council hearing, undermining the concept of Community Engagement even more. Moreover, the COCL ignores that only the Settlement Agreement and Policy Subcommittee, not the full PCCEP, reviewed the Report in November. So overall, the Annual Report is indicative of the Bureau and the City's failure to truly seek to communicate to and hear from the community.
Here are some other aspects of the Community Engagement section:
--The PCCEP is given credit for starting to work on a Truth and Reconciliation plan for the Bureau and the community (pp. 9 & 53). However, the road to their special subcommittee on that matter came when the Mayor took a PCCEP recommendation and asked them to take the responsibility to organize the plan, despite his having said from day one that PCCEP gets to choose its own path forward.
--Like the tempered praise of the oversight system's transparency and accessibility, the COCL finds the PCCEP is "fairly" representative of the community (p. 10).
--The COCL lavishes commendations on the PPB for "exceeding" their requirement to share information and having statistics and maps on their website which are "exemplary in the policing field" (p. 10). If that is true, we feel bad for other cities, as what the PPB presents should be a basic minimum, not a shining beacon to aspire to.
--The COCL notes that the Mayor supported most of the recommendations from PCCEP, including a condemnation of use of force against peaceful protestors (p. 54).
----However, the Mayor tempered his support of PCCEP's call to defund the police by pointing to the Portland Street Response and Black youth leadership programs, and only partially supported their call to ban chemical weapons. PCW was unable to find the Mayor's response to that recommendation on the PCCEP website.*-9
--The new Latinx Advisory Council has fifteen members and meets monthly, but appears to be spending time learning about the Bureau's existing structure rather than relaying information about concerns from their community (p. 56).
----There still has been no public explanation of how the Latino community reconciled that the PPB gave medals to the officers involved in killing Jose Mejia Poot, an incident which happened almost exactly 20 years ago, leading to the original advisory board dissolving.
--New training videos will include members of the Black and immigrant/refugee community sharing stories, including issues around fear, distrust and police bias (p. 58).
As we noted when the COCL first found the Bureau out of compliance, these new Reports from their office and the DOJ will have ramifications for a few years. The Bureau first has to come back into compliance, then not stray for an entire year before the DOJ will release them from the Agreement. PCW calls upon the DOJ to be clear that the City is allowed to make changes beyond what is written in the Agreement, so long as those changes do not undermine efforts to reduce unconstitutional use of force and mistreatment of people, especially those in mental health crisis. The City cannot continue to hide behind the Agreement to stall change, and conversely the DOJ should not stand in the way of the City implementing the new oversight system adopted by voters in November.
It is also notable that the Oregon US Attorney will soon be replaced, and the new President's Attorney General will likely take the efforts to reform local law enforcement more seriously than President Trump's DOJ.
While PCW urges the parties to continue efforts to address excessive force and bias, we are well aware that the Agreement does not set any metrics around reduction of these issues. The COCL made that point clear in a talk with the PCCEP, saying no outcomes are required by the Agreement, only creating new policies, training, and systems to track force and other police behavior. The fact that 2020 was only the third year since Portland Copwatch began in which officers did not kill any civilians (the others being 1995 and 2009) is tempered by the fact that the COCL and DOJ treat deadly force as statistical anomalies and/or "good shootings," not recognizing the impact they have on the communities directly affected and the City at large.*-10 Since we're stuck with this situation for at least another 18 months, we hope to see a more sympathetic approach, which could lead to more trust in the system-- a stated goal of the entire enterprise.
*1- find the COCL's draft Report at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/pccep/article/780538
*2- find the DOJ's Report at https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/PortlandPD-DOJReport.pdf
Portland Copwatch DOJ page Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice Works home page
Posted February 27, 2021