Portland's Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee ( PIIAC ) has shown a fairly consistent strength in the last few months. Their second and third quarter monitoring reports highlighted several important issues. However, they are still forbidden from using case numbers or details about appealed cases, making statistics more or less meaningless to the general public. The combined second and third quarter reports indicate that PIIAC heard 11 new appeals. In eight of the cases, they affirmed bureau findings; one other case was held over til the fourth quarter, and one was sent back for more investigation. The other case was sent to City Council to change the finding (as reported in PPR #9).
This was a case in which police removed a teenager suspected of a sex crime from school without notifying the boy's parents. The Internal Affairs representatives came up with at least three separate reasons why they felt it was OK for the officers to have clearly violated a General Order regarding parental notification. (It should be pointed out that at the time Captain Bill Bennington was still in charge of IAD, and that Capt. C.W. Jensen has been a lot more forthcoming since taking over in June.) One reason given was that the Oregon Revised Statute [ORS] regarding this procedure says to contact the parents "when practicable", versus the General Order [G.O.] which says "when possible." Lieutenant Radcliffe of the Detectives Division noted that the ORS was newer than the G.O., and that since the G.O. was written in 1988 it clearly needed to be updated. (That pesky old constitution must need a few tweaks too after 200 plus years!)
The next explanation was that the child's parents or legal guardians are required to be contacted-- and the police claimed that they felt the school principal was acting as the child's legal guardian at the time.
But PIIAC's citizen advisors were outraged. Citing their own feelings as parents and citizens, they chided Internal Affairs for not finding misconduct, and sent a recommendation to City Council to change the findings to "sustained."
With Earl Blumenauer in Washington, only 4 Council members were present. The Mayor voted not to change the findings in order to allow Chief Moose to make the decision himself. The other three voted yes and the finding was changed, the officers found to have violated General Orders.
The fallout from this case was very interesting--Jeff Barker, then the Portland Police Association President, wrote a long diatribe in the July Rap Sheet titled "Cop does his job, Committee demands discipline." The gist of the article is that Barker feels PIIAC was being "nit-picky" for insisting the Bureau take action when a G.O. was violated. He contends that the detective "does a good job, gets a predatory child molester out of circulation, and gets in trouble for a technical violation." This attitude may seem righteous since the crime described is heinous--but if we indeed are innocent until proven guilty, imagine if your rights were violated as you were brought into custody.
What makes Barker's article more interesting is a piece he wrote for the August 6, 1996 Oregonian, singing PIIAC's praises. It appears that when the Oregonian printed an editorial calling for public inquests into police misconduct, Barker suddenly became a big fan of the "nit-pickers." He wrote that PIIAC could not be confused as "a rubber-stamp-organization reluctant to criticize the Police Bureau." He goes on to detail ways in which "the auditing committee has produced significant changes in the way the Police Bureau investigates allegations of police misconduct." Hmm. Wonder which Jeff Barker just lost his bid for another term as President of the police union?
Also reflected in the monitoring reports is that PIIAC is taking the mediation program for complaints against police very seriously. [For a first-hand account of the mediation process, click here .] They had people from the Office of Neighborhood Mediation appear at PIIAC meetings in August and November to report on the status. While the presentations were confusing, they were able to determine that only 3 cases had been successfully mediated while seventeen were left open as of late September (three more were completed by November). While the program has excellent potential to lower tensions between the community and the police, six mediations in three years is, as noted by PIIAC, "completely unacceptable." Apparently other cases dropped off the list because one or the other party withdrew or the complainant could not be found.
Also in the Third Quarter report: A reserve officer called into IAD for questioning resigned his badge in the middle of an Internal Affairs interview when the investigator pointed out the inconsistencies in his story. This is encouraging in terms of Internal Affairs taking their role seriously, although an independent investigative body would still be preferable.
PIIAC's second quarter monitoring report contained a response from Chief Moose regarding the "Distraction technique," a term used by officers to describe blows or other pain doled out to suspects while trying to gain compliance (see PPR #9 for other info). Moose explained that police need a way to "justify and document the rationale for an increase in the level of force used," despite the fact that the training division and Internal Affairs both admit that "Distraction technique" and "Distraction blows" are terms and actions which are not bureau-approved.
We would like to encourage you all to attend the PIIAC meetings. While they can get bogged down in process, and sometimes details are kept from the general public, they are quite informative and sometimes entertaining. Two police officers (including Capt Webber from the Training Division) came in and demonstrated police tactics for removing a suspect from a vehicle. The sight of an officer getting compliance holds on his supervisor was amusing, while at the same time informative and provocative--where do we draw the line between "necessary" actions to take a suspect into custody and misuse of force?
PIIAC can be reached at (503) 823-4126.
People's Police Report #10 Table of Contents