Copwatch - a project of Peace and Justice Works


Site Navigation

About us
People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Cool links
Other Information
Contact info


Human Rights Commission Caught in Political Shuffle
Future of Community/Police Work on Force, Tasers and Racial Profiling Thrown into Question

At the March 16 Community/Police Relations Committee (CPRC) meeting, María Lisa
Johnson, director of the Office of Human Relations (OHR), announced she would leave her post April 1. Johnson's departure came despite objections from the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which convenes the CPRC. Commissioner Amanda Fritz, whose office is assigned the OHR, made clear she wanted to get rid of Johnson as part of an effort by Fritz and Mayor Sam Adams to subsume the OHR into a new "Office of Equity." All this shuffling came about in a few weeks, with no prior announcement or public input, and despite City law giving the HRC a say in the hiring of their Director. The quick timeline even caught the police members of the CPRC off guard, and forced the Committee to examine its ability to keep going.

Fritz at Feb HRC meeting The HRC is aware that its previous incarnation was dismantled in the late 1990s after Council members claimed there was no place for advocacy in government (PPR #11). Responding to Fritz's request for input on future staffing, the HRC quoted the 2008 professional study that led to its creation and the ordinance, both of which emphasize independence and freedom from the whims of politics. At a February 23 HRC meeting (called about the Joint Terrorism Task Force), Fritz claimed she lost sleep after agreeing to let Adams keep the Equity plan secret until his mid- February State of the City address.

Despite the lofty goals of the Equity office, to combine efforts around diversity hiring, disability and immigration rights advocacy with human rights, the move appears to target what little teeth the HRC has. At the February 23 meeting, Fritz suggested the HRC could gain more independence from Council by becoming a non-profit similar to neighborhood coalitions. This was likely a slap- down for their letter condemning the Sit/Lie ordinance (PPR #52). She also plans to move the office downtown, while OHR's current home is in North Portland--as recommended by the 2008 report.

There has been no vote on this transition, the 2011-12 budget is still in formation, yet the deck chairs are already being shuffled.

Meanwhile, the CPRC left off review of the Bureau's Racial Profiling Plan after just one of five chapters (PPR #52). Instead, they let the City make presentations about Tasers and Use of Force without discus-sing why people of color have so much more force used against them.

In January, Deputy City Attorney David Woboril asked for input on Use of Force policies. Woboril requested CPRC think about a man dashing from a stolen car and climbing over a fence while running from police. Should officers be able to use a Taser? This scenario was designed to narrow the options given to the Committee. If the man was not armed, there is no justification to use a Taser. If he had a weapon, isn't it more likely he would use it once cornered by police? Couldn't they investigate him based on their visual contact and evidence in the car? But Woboril doesn't want questions asked, he wants the CPRC to let the police expand their Taser policy beyond what is allowed by recent court decisions (PPR #50).

Woboril misled the CPRC, reporting that the 1095 reported uses of force in 2007 include police "control holds." One citizen Committee member found that number surprising, as he'd been jacked up a few times himself. When Portland Copwatch wrote Woboril that force statistics only include control holds causing injury, he admitted the error but said it "produces only minutely different results in the characteriza-tion of use of force." He defended the error by noting a 2005 report including all control holds changed the rate from 0.27% to 0.36%. "I appreciate your effort to flyspeck the City's information and my presentation."

We responded that including all control holds, incidents per day jump from three to six: "When you use the term 'flyspeck' to describe the concern that your numbers are off by nearly 50% ... that leads to community distrust of police and of city management. If water bureau employees were engaging in physical violence six times a day against citizens of Portland it would shock the conscience."

Disturbingly, CPRC cancelled its February meeting to head to Camp Withycombe for police training, with less than a quorum attending to avoid public meetings laws. CPRC's agenda indicated the effort would lack dissenting voices, listing an "interactive scenario based training on force tools"--the Bureau continues to avoid the word "weapons."

OHR Director 
receives award In April, CPRC adopted a report about Use of Force with some good recommendations, including having officers report when they point Tasers at people, but others that defend the status quo.

At two meetings in March, the CPRC took stock of their two years of activity, thanked Johnson for her work, and discussed future agenda items. Chair Hector Lopez left the brainstorming to Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea, who emphasized recruiting and retention of diverse candidates, outreach, and communication. Thus, the Committee is heading toward a police-driven agenda, regardless of the Council's actions. Further evidence the Committee may not challenge the Bureau came when they announced CPRC community member Darryl Kelley applied and is passing the tests to become a Portland officer.


May, 2011
Also in PPR #53

Chief: 5 shootings "unacceptable"
Lawsuits rack up against Portland
Rights commission political shuffle
Auditor hires shooting review group
Shootings: DA Forum, Gresham cops kill
Sit/Lie: More selective enforcing
Drug Free Zones revisited
Terrorism task force debate delayed
Ending crisis training for all police?
$5 Million bought PPA contract
Review board hearing lots of cops
PPR Quick Flashes #53
  • Chasse case Sgt guilty of road rage
  • More horses to crush you
  • Legislature considers deadly force bills
Rapping Back 53

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #53 Table of Contents
Back to Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice Works home page
Back to top