Portland Copwatch Analyzes Compliance Officer Report on US DOJ Agreement May 2020Table of contents
Significant Things We Learned in the Q1 Report
Ongoing Lack of Attention to Oversight System
Inaccuracies call COCL Expertise into Question
Data Mask Underlying Problems, Questions About Force
COCL Raises Community Concerns but Deflects Them
Lack of Information Leaves Gaps
Language Still Means a Lot
Other Confusing Information
a project of Peace and Justice Works
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
To: Compliance Officer/Community Liaison
ANALYSIS: POLICE STILL "IN COMPLIANCE" WITH FEDERAL AGREEMENT-- BECAUSE OUTCOMES NOT SPECIFIED, SAYS COMPLIANCE OFFICERMay 7, 2020
Sometime around April 9, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) issued its first Quarterly Report for 2020 around the alleged ongoing compliance of the City of Portland with the US Department of Justice's Settlement Agreement. The Report can be found at ( https://www.portlandcocl.com/s/Q1-2020-COCL-Compliance-and-Outcome-Assessment- Quarterly-Report-DRAFT-04062020-a2gw.pdf). In January, the DOJ itself concluded the City is in full compliance, even though community members continue to express concern that the Agreement does not lay out any metrics for determining whether the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) actually has lowered the amount of force they use, particularly against people in mental health crisis. One particular sticking point for the COCL was the fact that Judge Michael Simon refused to approve the 2018 amendments to the Agreement which created the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP). Simon cited his determination that the previous such body, the Community Oversight Advisory Board, had seemed "fair, adequate and reasonable" to him when the Agreement was first submitted in 2013, but that Board fell apart within two years of being created. Elliott Young, a prominent member of the PCCEP, wrote an op-ed to the Oregonian*-1 expressing his concerns that the officer-involved shootings of people in mental health crisis continue in part because there is no requirement in the Agreement for them to stop. Portland Copwatch (PCW) agrees with that analysis, and has once again gone through the COCL's Report and found issues of concern both with how the Bureau is being judged and how the COCL approaches its assessments-- which tend to be more about quantity (did the PPB complete a task in the Agreement) than quality (did it produce results which are beneficial to the community and to community-police relations).
Because the DOJ is the final arbiter of compliance, their January 10 determination set in motion one year under which the PPB has to maintain its systems of review, policies, training, and other tasks set out in the Agreement. That year will end on January 10, 2021, which, as PCW has pointed out, means if a new President is inaugurated with a sincere interest in police reform, the City will be out from under federal scrutiny 10 days before that inauguration takes place.
PCW is still concerned both about the lack of action to prevent bias-based policing across the board-- in traffic stops, arrests, and use of force/ deadly force. The COCL skips quickly over the Agreement's requirements around deadly force investigations, but perhaps that is because (thankfully) there were no officer involved shootings in Q1 2020. Also, as noted in our review of the COCL and DOJ's January 2020 Reports, the City's vision of community engagement has a far way to go to build the trust and transparency which are their stated goals.
In our last analysis, PCW noted there were no tables or charts supporting the COCL's assertions of compliance. This time, while about a dozen tables and graphs are included, most of them have to do with concerns about whether the police are filing certain reports on time and how many mistakes are in them, not how often force is used or, significantly, whether anyone using the complaint process feels their experience was satisfactory.
Despite our criticisms of the COCL, Portland Copwatch continues to be concerned that after the Judge holds what will possibly be the final Status Conference on February 25, 2021, nobody outside of the Bureau will be tasked with reviewing data, training and policies to be sure there is no backsliding. If the City plans to create one or more positions to support the PCCEP being able to continue monitoring the Bureau's progress with implementing the pillars of the Agreement and related reforms, those jobs need to be created and posted before fall 2020 so that someone is in place by early next year.
The COCL's Report also makes weak attempts to address concerns which were raised in the Judge's courtroom this past February, for example explaining away that only two of the original 13 members of the Committee remained one year after it was created*-2 by saying that only one person who resigned expressed frustration with the PCCEP. Longtime activist Sharon Gary Smith made a statement about feeling inadequately supported by the City when she resigned from PCCEP, months prior to People with Mental Illness Subcommittee Chair Patrick Nolen quitting after his presentation to the Judge.
Portland Copwatch's analysis of the Report below looks at significant facts, lack of attention to the oversight system, inaccuracies, data problems, community concerns raised and ignored, lack of information, and the use of language. Page numbers appear in [brackets].
Before looking at some of the many problematic issues with the Quarter 1 2020 Report, here are a few items which Portland Copwatch pulled out which were either new, noteworthy, or both, though in some cases the COCL's analysis did not highlight this information.
--There are 185-219 people subjected to Force by the Portland Police each quarter [p. 13]. That is 60-70 people a month, or two a day. The online dashboard which contains Force data does not include deadly force or force used in crowd control [p. 12]. In other words, the printed annual reports contain data not available in those digital locations, making the latter inaccurate pictures of how often the PPB actually uses force.
--Although overall, the COCL's analysis of Portland's accountability system continues to be a blind spot (more on this below), it is significant that their team talked with members of the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) about issues which the City has failed to address. The most meaningful problems trace themselves back to the elected Auditor, who oversees the "Independent" Police Review (IPR) and CRC. However, the Report frames the lack of change to CRC's authority and failure of an attorney to attend their hearings to offer advice as "differences of opinion" with IPR and "concerns of the degree of collaboration between IPR and CRC" [p. 40]. That said, the fact that the COCL took time to "discuss these issues with CRC members as well as IPR representatives" shows a bit more interest in the accountability system's public face than has been shown in the past. The COCL encourages more dialogue to fix the problems.
--The IPR's online "dashboards" include data on houseless arrests [p. 37].*- 3
--The PPB's online "dashboards' include data on traffic stops [pp. 45 and 47]*-4. However, the traffic dashboard shows reasons for enforcement, not data on race, gender, mental illness, or other items captured in stop data reports.
--Chief Resch accepted PCCEP's input suggesting the Bureau look at best practices on community engagement [p. 46]. Although the City's rules for PCCEP require responses to their recommendations within 60 days, this recommendation was made in May, 2019 and accepted in March, 2020-- 10 months later. This does not bode well for the Bureau's agreeing to the same 60 day guideline for responding to the Training Advisory Council [p. 21].
--The Training Division apparently held classes on "extreme ideology" and "mass hate crime." They were informed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [p. 19]. This is helpful following the indications in 2017-2019 that the PPB cracks down on leftist Anti-Fascist protestors more than right-wing ideologues. However, it is also important to note that SPLC has condemned the Antifa movement, though they do recognize being anti-fascist is not a characteristic of a hate group.*-5
--When supervisors conduct an "intervention" with an officer flagged by the Employee Information System, those take the form of commendations, debriefings, monitoring, referring the officer to an assistance program, training, or temporary reassignment [p. 32]. We do not recall this list of options appearing in print in such detail before.
--In previous analyses, PCW has asked whether the Training Division considers community input from anyone other than their Training Advisory Council (TAC). The new Report indicates they have gotten input from PCCEP and the community survey (though it's not clear what in that survey directly related to training), as well as experts (with the only example being the OIR Group which reviews deadly force incidents) [p. 16]. In other words, it does not appear that anyone in the general public has the ability to suggest changes to Training. At least we have an answer to the question.
--The Training Division is reminding officers that a person in crisis may not have a mental illness, but may just be under high stress; the COCL supports this clarification, and PCW does as well [p. 25].
--To emphasize that the In-Service Training on officer use of knives which began in 2019 but was halted due to a lack of policy, the Bureau made a video for this year's In-Service to explain the mistake [p. 20].
--The Bureau is not conducting a new Audit of its overall Training program because the Agreement only required that to happen once [p. 20].
--The Compliance Officer has attended debriefings with officers who were subjected to interventions after their actions led to alerts in the Employee Information System [p. 33]. It would be helpful to get an idea whether these debriefings are substantive and lead to changes in officer behavior.
--The Mayor appointed two new members to PCCEP at the end of March [p. 43]. This came as news since these appointments are required to be affirmed by City Council, and that has not yet happened as of May 7.
--While their position came as no surprise, it seems odd for the COCL to put into their Compliance Report that Judge Michael Simon "declined to remove the conditionally-approved designation" of PCCEP's structure despite approval by the DOJ and PCCEP itself "defend[ing] its functionality" to the court [p. 43]. If the COCL had listened to the various community members who testified to the judge, expressing reservations about the long term viability of PCCEP, perhaps they would have figured out that this "community engagement" body still has to prove itself.
--FUN FACT: of the 16 city employees included in the "list of personnel" [p. 50], only four of them (including the elected Auditor) are the same people or in the same positions listed in the Q1 2019 Report. Four others are the same people, but they hold new roles.
Although the COCL took time to talk to the "Independent" Police Review and Citizen Review Committee about the issues which precipitated the resignations of the Committee's Chair and another prominent member (resignations which are not noted in the Report), they did not correctly frame the issues behind the dispute. CRC has spent years pushing to make it so the standard which they use to review appeals of misconduct cases would not have to be deferential to the police-- asking to replace the current "reasonable person" standard with a "preponderance of the evidence." They made a formal proposal and presented it to City Council members in early 2019, at first gaining support. But it became clear that Auditor Mary Hull Caballero's opinion, which is at best neutral and at worst hostile to the idea, helped influence Council to drop the plan. CRC was told both that they had to wait until after the DOJ Settlement was completed and that they had to wait until the new Police Association contract was negotiated for the City to consider this change. The DOJ Agreement is all but finished and the police contract is being discussed now, but no movement has happened on the standard. CRC also complained (openly at public meetings) that the City Attorney had stopped coming to their meetings though the Auditor has her own attorney who could attend in their place. Also, even though CRC is in her portfolio, Hull Caballero only attends CRC meetings once a year to thank them for their volunteerism. None of this is reflected in the Report.
Here are other issues with how the COCL addresses accountability.
--Highly problematic is the declaration that when the COCL looked at the Bureau's findings in closed misconduct investigations, they found all were reasonable and supported by preponderance of the evidence, adding that the Bureau correctly used its discipline guide. Yet in one 2019 case, Chief Outlaw agreed with the Citizen Review Committee to hold an officer accountable for lying ("truthfulness"), then changed the underlying allegation to be about Satisfactory Performance, which lowered the presumed discipline of termination to one day off without pay. The oversight system is specifically set up so that if the Chief disagrees with a CRC recommendation after holding a "conference hearing,"*-6 the case then is supposed to head to City Council for final disposition. The lack of analysis of this breakdown in the oversight process throws out the window the COCL's claim there are "good checks and balances" working in Portland [p. 39].
--Related to the issue of oversight, the COCL states CRC can "controvert" the original findings of the Bureau. That is not accurate. CRC's proposals are only recommendations. The "Independent" Police Review, which houses CRC, can controvert a finding and send a case to the Police Review Board for their recommendation to the Chief. This power is mentioned by the COCL, but not that Internal Affairs and the Assistant Chief overseeing the officer can also controvert the original supervisor's finding [also p. 39]. They correctly state that a case presented to the Police Review Board only ends in recommendations to the Chief [p. 40].
--Talking about the oversight system, the COCL claims "CRC hearings, PRB hearings and overall accountability data are accessible to the public" [p. 7]. Looking at the two oversight bodies, it is true that CRC hearings are open to the public. However, the only place we know of where comprehensive reporting is done about the outcomes of those hearings is in the PCW newsletter, the People's Police Report. Even raw data about how many cases are heard and what the outcomes are cannot be easily found on IPR's website, as they are in narrative form within annual reports. PRB hearings are not at all accessible to the public, only the heavily redacted reports of those hearings (as noted by COCL on p. 37).*-7 While IPR did include statistics about PRB outcomes in one annual report, that has not continued, and again only PCW seems to track numbers of cases, how often Sustained findings are upheld, and whether discipline matches recommendations.
--Transparency is defined as the complainant being able to track the progress of their complaint and receive written updates, including letters explaining the findings. That is only transparent to an audience of one. It is mentioned that CRC appeals are public, which is the one sliver of true transparency to the public-- even though the complainant and community have no access to the files CRC gets to review. That includes the complainant's attorney if they have one. The COCL calls the system "largely" transparent [p. 37].
--While it is true IPR is supposed to act in a more collaborative fashion with CRC, per City Code, PCW has never heard CRC openly complain about specific decisions made by IPR without their input. For example, IPR revised its operating procedures on closing out cases [p. 36] but did not ask CRC their advice.
--The COCL accurately reports that in 2019, CRC sent one case back for more investigation and another went to City Council, this Q1 2020 Report doesn't mention that CRC sent a case back for investigation in January 2020. This lack of up to date information is likely because the key members of the COCL team do not live in Portland and mostly get their information from reading minutes rather than attending meetings in person [p. 39].
--The Report claims IPR's rate of closing misconduct complaints has been in "steady decline," but (a) the percentage of cases closed in 2018 was 56%, the same as in 2016 [p. 36], and (b) the COCL has never examined, per our suggestion, how many of the cases now being investigated involve force allegations, which the Agreement prohibits from being dismissed except in rare circumstances. Being required to review more cases obviously would lead to a lower dismissal rate.
--Even though a table is included as evidence of improved timeliness in complaint investigations, the COCL does not mention that Internal Affairs' median age went from 46 days in November 2019 to 61 days in January 2020-- a 33% increase-- before the coronavirus pandemic struck [p. 38].
--The Report indicates that because IPR and Internal Affairs have synchronized their trainings, IPR has been able to conduct "meaningful independent investigations" [p. 39]. It is not mentioned they have to compel officer testimony through the PPB, nor that they are prohibited by the police contract from investigating deadly force cases.
--The COCL did not follow up on the concern they raised in the Q4 2019 Report that IPR does not have access to the state Law Enforcement Data System, which causes some delays in their investigations.
--Despite their enthusiasm for surveys, the COCL has not interviewed any complainants or appellants who have used the oversight system, nor succeeded in having IPR conduct their own survey.
There are a number of bits of information sprinkled throughout the Report which call into question the COCL's supposed expertise, both in specifically reviewing the Portland Police and its attendant oversight systems, and in general as a social scientist who is supposed to make conclusions based on data and facts.
Here is a list of some of these inaccuracies, which range in significance.
--The Report says that supervisors generate After Action reports for all investigations of Use of Force [p. 4], but that is not true-- as deadly force incidents are explicitly excluded per Agreement paragraph 69c.
--When considering that there are fewer alerts from the Employee Information System heading to officers' direct supervisors, the COCL speculates this is "likely" because the EIS and Responsibility Unit managers know which alerts are most meaningful [pp. 5 and 32]. Shouldn't these social scientists examine the data to see whether that is true?
--Similarly, they guess that people refusing services from the Bureau's five Behavioral Health Response Teams went up from about 10% to 20% because there is a new Team focused on the houseless community. There is no evidence to back up this claim [p. 29].
--COCL also speculates that the reason there is less disparity in when officers send people in crisis to the hospital whether or not those officers are specially trained for the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team is that the dispatchers and Bureau now know better whether ECIT is needed [p. 26].
--The COCL claims to have observed the Training Advisory Council meetings in November and "February" where Use of Force data were discussed [p. 20]. However, TAC only meets in odd- numbered months, and the second report was actually in January. Side note: The May TAC meeting was cancelled on April 28, and it is not clear how the Bureau can stay in compliance with the Agreement since they will need to report on both the Q4 2019 and Q1 2020 data at the July meeting, when TAC will be trying to make up for four months of failing to gather.
--In looking at how long certain cases are stuck in the accountability system's pipeline, the COCL refers to the IPR's "quarterly report," but then uses a table from IPR's monthly report to the Citizen Review Committee as an illustration [p. 38]. While the table does reflect one quarter's worth of data, IPR's quarterly reports, which are posted online,*-8 do not address timeliness, usually only the number and types of complaints which they handle.
--As they did last quarter, the COCL asserts that the Bureau adopted a five year strategic plan, but as we noted back then, that plan is not finalized or at least has not been published to the PPB's website.*-9
Some of the data included in the COCL Report distract from asking the very questions at the heart of the Settlement Agreement.
--With regard to Use of Force, the data tables related to Bureau audits refer to 723 Force Data Collection Reports which showed 158 "deficiencies," which is one mistake per five reports. The COCL notes the most mistakes were in sections about Mental Health, injuries and witnesses [p. 10]. These all seem like pretty important areas where mistakes should not happen. Just as importantly, these audits cannot possibly know what actually happened out on the street between the reporting officer and the community member, so the overall 98.5% accuracy rate is about the accuracy in reporting what happened, it is about whether officers filled out the forms in their entirety. Side note: the COCL says they did not find any Force reports in which the reports were "materially deficient and the force used was unreasonable" [p. 15]. Because of the qualifying "and," this doesn't answer whether there were cases where the force was unreasonable even though the reporting was sufficient.
--In discussing how often force is used against people with mental illness, the COCL notes that in 2019, 3.3% (46) of 1398 calls which generated "Mental Health Templates" ended in use of force [p. 14]. They go on to say of those 46 incidents, there were "only" eight where officers used Tasers (Conductive Energy Weapons/CEWs). But that represents 17% of those uses of force. That figure is much higher than the proportion Tasers are used in all use of force incidents, which was 10% in 2019 (84 of 804 incidents).*-10 On the other hand, out of the 84 people subjected to Tasers, only nine of them were identified as having mental health issues, which is 9.5% of Taser use. Overall, people with mental illness were subjected to force (notwithstanding the "Mental Health Templates") 138 times, which is 17% of all force used. So in that sense, there is some validity to examining a lower rate of Taser use against people with mental illness. However, the COCL themselves point out that the goal of such interactions is not to result in taking someone into custody or using force at all.
--In a related issue, the COCL continues to push the theory that the amount of force used by police (804 times a year) isn't as important as the "force to custody ratio," in other words, how often they use force when arresting someone. However, in addition to the people in mental health crisis who are not necessarily being taken into custody, frequently the use of force against protestors (which is not even included in the annual count) is also not related to people being arrested. So in other words, the roughly 3% of time force is used compared to custodies [p. 13] isn't really meaningful as it (a) includes force not leading to custody and (b) doesn't include all uses of force. This raises the question of what percentage of use of force incidents are not related to custody and are therefore probably unwarranted, and how many people subjected to force and arrested are found not guilty or never charged?
--Similarly, the COCL notes that, with the exception of the Chief's office in Q4 2019, supervisors have been reviewing Employee Information System data at 94% or higher rates [p. 34]. This is impressive except there is no analysis of whether those reviews lead to improvements in behavior such as lower rates of force or complaints.
--The COCL has been a huge proponent for years of conducting "contact surveys" to find out how people who interact with the police feel about the Bureau. They once again point to the National Police Foundation's survey of victims of property crime, where 76% found police respectful and 84% found them fair. While they do note that younger people had lower satisfaction rates, they claim this Report is evidence of the City having a comprehensive system to show how PPB training translates to the streets [p. 18]. The fact that the people surveyed did not include those who were subjected to detention, arrest or the use of force makes this survey meaningless to measure effective training. It is also noted that the broader, random surveys related to the Agreement paid for by the City in 2015, 2016 and 2019 had an increase in satisfaction, though no data are shown in the Report. Moreover, the Report reveals that the broader survey was only required to be done once under the terms of the Agreement and, having been done three times, is not happening again [p. 45].
--Although the COCL attributes a 5% drop in responses to Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team calls by ECIT officers to a 25% increase in calls from the preceding six months, the Report shows that from April to September 2018 there were 1877 calls. Compared to the 2200 in April to September 2019 that is only a 17% increase with the same number of officers. It is true there was an increase, but social scientists should look at their own data with more care.
--There is no explanation given for why the percentage of ECIT calls where trained officers did not arrive for undefined "other" reasons went up from 11% to 19% from early 2018 to late 2019. Reasons that _are_ identified include that ECIT officers are called off before arrival, are not dispatched at all, or are not available.
--Even though there is no definition given for either outcome, people who become clients of the Behavioral Health Response Team are funnelled mostly into either "Coordinated Services" or "Systems Coordination." The COCL remarks that the former is down (from 40% to 20% of outcomes) and the other is up (from 0% to 20%). It seems clear that one outcome displaced the other, but it would be even clearer if they would define these "insider baseball" terms [p. 28].
--The COCL remarks that a higher percentage of officers whose Employee Information System (EIS) alerts are sent from Responsibility Unit managers to officers' supervisors are resulting in interventions, but also that fewer alerts are being sent [p. 32]. This seems like a simple enough math problem-- smaller original pool leads to higher percentage outcome, not necessarily reflecting an improvement in the system. In fact, the data presented show there were 122 interventions in Q3 2019 but only 46 in Q4, so while that is 85% of those sent to supervisors, it is the lowest number of interventions for all of 2019 [p. 33]. There were a total of 301 interventions in 2017-2018 (Q3 2018 Report), indicating an average of 75 per quarter, which could mean overall these interventions are not happening as frequently as they used to and/or should.
--The EIS has not identified any group trends in Use of Force, which the COCL speculates may be because low-level force is included in the analysis. They suggest the obvious solution to try running the numbers without those "Category IV" data [p. 34].
Before getting to the various ways the Report brings up issues of importance, only to sidestep any responsibility or deny their validity, it is important to note there are several places, including in the accountability section [p. 36], where the COCL acknowledges issues of concern to the community. This is a vast improvement over early Reports from 2015 where they were dismissive of public input. That said, as noted above the COCL does a terrible job examining or reporting on the oversight system. Here are some other examples of community concerns not properly addressed.
--In the section on Training, the COCL acknowledges that "PPB's own analysis of police data has identified some disparities in police responses to communities of color." This is quite a change from past analyses but likely only refers to the few items in stop data reports (how often consent searches are used, for instance) rather than the broader disparities PCW has noted for years. In any case, the Bureau's solution is apparently to have training which is "designed to increase trust and legitimacy," not to reduce the disparities [pp. 16-17].
--Along those lines, the COCL notes that the Bureau collects traffic stop data and "shares" it with PCCEP [p. 44]. What is not noted is that PCCEP has never discussed these data in a meeting, which is particularly problematic since the Community Police Relations Committee, the only advisory body ever to do so, disbanded in 2016-- and the data show few changes to the over- policing of Portland's black community. Moreover, the City Attorney gave the PPB a "green light" to modify what kinds of data they collect [p. 46] but PCCEP has not been asked to advise them on the changes. Before it was amended in 2018, the Agreement required the PPB to consult with the community body about this exact issue.*-11
--In pushing back against the repeated observation by community members (not to mention the media) that the Unity Center is not adequately meeting the needs of people in mental health crisis, the COCL once again falls back on the notion that creating a "drop-off/walk-in center" was merely "aspirational" in the original Agreement. Because police used to wait an hour to help get people admitted to hospitals, now officers can get an ambulance to transport people rather than arrest them, the Compliance Officer concludes that Unity is enough like a drop-off and walk-in center to substantially comply with the Agreement [pp. 22-23].
--Talking about the mass resignation of every single member of the PCCEP's Subcommittee on People with Mental Illness (SPMI), the COCL incorrectly claims that "several members" resigned, and refers to this as one of the "challenges" PCCEP faced in Q1 2020 [p. 9]. They do specifically cite that members resigned feeling their recommendations weren't being adopted by the full Committee [p. 42].
--The COCL also mentions the high turnover rate at PCCEP, minimizing the fact that of 13 people appointed in November 2018, only two remain on the Committee. Two others trained as alternates at that time are now on PCCEP [p. 42], but this still means that 11 original members left in less than 18 months. The COCL claims the only PCCEP member to resign in frustration was Patrick Nolen, the chair of SPMI (and the only PCCEP member on that subcommittee when they all quit). However, as noted above, at least one other PCCEP member, Sharon Gary Smith, mentioned her frustrations when she resigned in part due to other obligations. COCL notes that one person (former co-chair Lakeesha Dumas) was removed for missing too many meetings, with no mention of whether her lack of attendance was related to any structural problems.
--Not truly falling in this category: the COCL repeats its earlier observation that there is not good gender diversity on PCCEP. Prior to the appointment of one more female in late March, there were only three women out of 11 members (now it is 4 of 13). COCL rightly notes that none of them are any of the three officer positions in the group, although they each chair one of the PCCEP's subcommittees [p. 43]. Where the diversity analysis falls down is the COCL says that seven members are people of color or immigrants, and have done work with or have lived experience with mental illness, not breaking that number down further. Thus, it is confusing when they note the number of people with mental illness (or with relevant work experience) is "down from three in Q4 2019." How many people fit that category is very significant, since the Agreement's main focus is on people with mental illness.
Though the new Report is 50 pages long, there are some passages which open up questions that are never answered. In several places, the COCL suggests that the community can look up information on the City's website to learn more [e.g. pp. 12-13], but the reality is Compliance Officer staff has a job to consolodate such information and present it so the public knows what is going on. To gather up the data, one would have to look at various "dashboards" at the Bureau and IPR websites, as well as force data reports, audits, and numerous other documents which the COCL has to review to create their own Reports. Here are some examples of missing information.
--In discussing Use of Force, the COCL says the Bureau's Force Inspector can use trends to raise "implications" about training, policy, equipment and personnel issues, yet specifics are not given for each of these categories [p. 12]. The example presented is that there were "potential training issues related to suspect safety in patrol vehicles with regards to seatbelts and training on ensuring tasers [sic] are appropriately drawn." What were the issues? Were suspects being too tightly restrained? Not restrained at all so as to bounce about the cars and get injured? Are officers drawing Tasers with the wrong hand, at the wrong time, or toward the wrong people? Who knows, the COCL does not explain what specific policy changes were suggested.
--The COCL notes they asked the Bureau to "reconsider" a section about the purpose of their In- Service Training in the last Report, but doesn't explain what exactly was supposed to be changed [p. 17]. Looking back, PCW found it was a worthy suggestion not only to focus on split-second decision making but also on communication skills and de-escalation [Q4 2019 p. 9].
--As in the past, the COCL did not reveal the nature of the Bureau's In-Service scenarios since not all officers were able to attend. However, they vaguely describe that they involved responding to emergency situations, including "entry to rescue victims" and dealing with suspects. It's not clear how many overall scenarios were presented, but they say two of them allowed officers to work on skills around mental health, de-escalation, communication and procedural justice [pp. 17 and 19].
--It is important to acknowledge that there are places where the COCL describes changes made by the Bureau and includes the details. One example is that the Central Precinct Commander put together a roll call item asking police not to call off cover officers in order to reduce the likelihood of injury to the cops or the community, based on trends they found in the Force reports [p. 13]. This seems like a wise policy.
--The Behavioral Health Unit's Advisory Council continues to meet behind closed doors to discuss important policy issues with no public input. The Report states that in 2019, the BHUAC received information on the BHU, the Behavioral Health Response Teams, ECIT training, Portland Street Response (a pilot program in which people connected to the Fire Bureau will act as first responders to mental health calls), and in December developed a plan for community engagement. That plan involved holding "regular meetings with community members to provide information about the committee's work and seek community feedback," which is something that has been lacking since 2012 when the BHUAC was created [pp. 29-30]. However, to our knowledge there have been no such meetings held or promoted.
--The COCL praises PCCEP for holding a town hall for the presentation of the Q4 2019 Compliance Report [p. 43], but doesn't note it was held at 4:30 PM on a Wednesday during a subcommittee meeting, as we reported in our last analysis.
--The Report also notes that PCCEP subcommittees receive input not just from the community but also from "government officials" [p. 41]. This glosses over the fact that those "government officials" are primarily Mary Claire Buckley, who recently moved up from being an analyst to being the Inspector General in charge of the DOJ changes, and DOJ Attorney Jared Hager, who continues to intervene in PCCEP meetings in a way that undermines their ability to function once the DOJ is gone.
In looking at early COCL Reports, Portland Copwatch pointed out there were negative implications about community members, outdated terms applied to marginalized communities, and other questionable word choices. To their credit, the COCL has adopted using the term "houseless" rather than "homeless" to acknowledge our neighbors who live on streets still have a home in Portland. They also used the term "Latinx" in talking about the Latino/Latina community [p. 45], a term slowly being accepted more broadly.
However there are also occasional word choices which could be better.
--One word that shows up to describe a functioning oversight system is "expediency." While it is true that misconduct investigations should not languish (and, as noted previously, now roughly 90% of investigations happen in the DOJ's required 180 day timeline), perhaps the word "timeliness" is better to describe this trait since "expediency" sounds as if they are willing to rush through cases [pp. 7 and 36].
--Similarly, the COCL talks about how the Bureau "safeguards" deadly force investigations "because of the sensitive nature of such events" [p. 40]. In context, it is clear they are trying to say the Bureau protects the integrity of the investigations, but from outside observers' perspective-- where police are investigating other police in the most serious use of force there is-- the word "safeguard" takes on more of a sinister connotation.
--In the section on community engagement, the COCL reports that the Bureau is looking to "operationalize" their plan, which is a very militaristic term to use around building trust and relationships [p. 46].
--Looking at the Employee Information System, the COCL talks about a computer error which led to "less alerts" [sic] being sent out for officers who experience three or more "traumatic incidents" in a 30 day period [p. 31]. However, despite PCW calling attention previously to the fact that "traumatic incidents' is not defined (Q1 2019, for example), there is no explanation why officers would be experiencing so many.
--When the COCL was still issuing "report cards" to show how many paragraphs were in compliance or not (along with green, yellow and red color coding), Portland Copwatch made more detailed report cards to explain the basic content of each item (rather than just listing paragraph numbers, as COCL did). The COCL did not want to adopt PCW's proposed ideas because they did not capture the breadth of each paragraph. However, in the current Report, they use very similar summaries to explain the content of each paragraph [p. 10, for instance]. Eventually, the COCL does come around to sensible ideas.
--Throughout the Report (starting on p. 8) the non-disciplinary Supervisory Investigations are listed as "supervisor investigations." The name of these low level complaints was formally changed under the auspices of the DOJ Agreement and is listed in Directive 331.00 as "Supervisory Investigations." (Note: The COCL recognizes this error and promises to correct it in the final draft.)
There are other parts of the Report which may be errors or may just need better explanation, even for people like Portland Copwatch members who are deeply versed in PPB policies and practices.
--The Report indicates that supervisors review officers' training records monthly for performance evaluations, even though performance evaluations are done annually [p. 18].
--After describing recommendations made by the PCCEP, the COCL states the group "commented on a widely reported case of racial discrimination regarding the West Linn Police Department" [p. 42]. However, those comments were not documented in any formal statement from the Committee.
As usual, the Compliance Officer's Report paints too rosy of a picture of how policing is actually happening on the streets of Portland. PCCEP Chair Lakayana Drury put it well on April 28 when he said he felt the Report was about a different city than the one he lives in, as a black man working with other people who do not trust the police. The Report concludes the PPB has "clearly" developed systems to increase transparency and create feedback loops [p. 47], though that is far from clear to many still seeing injustice. While there are in fact many changes which have happened both at the Bureau and in the way the COCL approaches writing these Reports, the fact is that the intellectual look at Portland law enforcement inadequately addresses how people are treated and how they feel about the police, the continued shooting of people in mental health crisis, and other outcomes of the systems installed as part of the Agreement.
*1- March 8, 2020, "Police Reform Must Go Beyond 'Substantial Compliance'", at
*3- Albeit only a sample of houseless arrests in 2017-2018: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/ipr/article/737544 .
*4- Traffic data at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/tableau/traffic .
*5- See Portland Copwatch's solidarity statement with anti-fascists at
*7- The COCL writes that PRB hearings are reported in "redacted summaries" [p. 37] which is an understatement; they don't include officer/complainant names, dates, locations, gender pronouns or attributions of which Board member makes what comments or votes.
*8- IPR's reports can be found at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/ipr/27068 .
*9- As of April 30, the Bureau's web page about the strategic plan still indicates it is a work in progress: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/76886 .
*10- Data from the Q1-Q4 Force Summary Reports, retrieved at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/64544 .
Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice Works home page
Posted May 7, 2020