People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
PPB Starts Asking for Input on Policies Again -- on Seemingly Random Timelines
Since 2014, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) has sought community input on its policies ("Directives"), usually posting two to eight proposed revised Directives at the beginning of each month. Starting in January, they have been releasing policies at various times during the month-- mostly in their current form, with no indication what they plan to change. After Portland Copwatch (PCW) complained about their initial concept to give 15 days before and after the Bureau revised the policies, they agreed to allow 30 days up front (as before) with the new 15 day period at the end. Two problems: First, the changed directives are coming back so different from before, 15 days isn't long enough, and second, the Bureau still refuses to put out either a "redline" version showing changes or a conceptual document explaining what is new. However, in April, the Bureau posted a finalized policy on officers in airports including notes on what was changed (or not) and why, and all comments they received.
The biggest issue on the table in the first four months of 2017 was Crowd Control (Directive 635.10), which was posted in its existing form in January, then re-posted mid-March with major revisions. In between, the City invited the ACLU of Oregon, the National Lawyers Guild, and new group Oregon Lawyers for Good Government to meet with them to talk about the policy (Oregonlive, March 3). Days after PCW asked to also have a meeting, the Bureau opted instead to release the new draft. While they incorporated some of our suggestions (such as reminding officers ORS 181A.250 restricts officers from gathering information on people without suspicion of criminal conduct), they left in provisions involving use of force and "riot control agents" to which we formerly and subsequently objected. The revised version put an emphasis on officers remaining neutral at events, which led us to ask why officers were photographed wearing pink pussycat hats at the January 21 Women's March (article) and a "Make America Great Again" hat in Lake Oswego at the March 4 Trump. They also put in a prohibition about the use of horses-- but only when used against people sitting or lying down.
The PPB made steps toward recognizing that permitted events should not necessarily be treated differently than unpermitted ones, but still separated the Directive to cover "Planned Demonstrations" vs. "Spontaneous Events," rather than the NW Constitutional Rights Center's suggested "coordinated with the Bureau/not coordinated with the Bureau" terminology we keep pushing.
The new Directive also refers to "civil disturbances" involving "a threat of collective violence, destruction of property or other criminal acts" as the reason to change from crowd management to crowd control, but suggests using weapons against people engaged in "civil disobedience" (which they acknowledge is generally not a violent tactic). PCW called for the Bureau to better define which "criminal acts" they mean. As for the Bureau's behavior, they tell officers to "maintain a non- confrontational presence to dissuade participants from engaging in disorderly behavior and to encourage crowd self-monitoring," which we noted was paternalistic and ignores people's ability to create their own security without being blessed by the police.
One highlight: They outright ban use of Tasers in crowds,* something they could previously do with a supervisor's ok. They also removed most references to "threats" and "risks," and made it so the Incident Commander (not the Rapid Response Team) is in charge of announcements to the crowd. However, they did not address strongly enough that police give contradictory orders and block exit routes while telling the crowd to disperse.
Also in January, we sent the Bureau ideas on Directives covering Secondary Employment (210.70 and 210.80), Firearms confiscation (1070.00), and two other policies. On Employment rules, we asked the City to be more restrictive on use of cops providing security for a single business, as they have been doing at the Apple Store. About firearms, we expressed concern that confiscated civilians' weapons can be issued from the armory with no criteria.
Late in January, a third posting asked for input on the "Special Weapons Use" policy (1090.00). In describing use of "non-aerosol contained chemical agents, automatic weapons, rifles and other special tactical weapons," which they admit can be lethal, they don't talk about what happens when officers from other agencies use those weapons at protests. (The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office launched a chemical agent on January 20-- also in article) We asked them to specify when certain weapons can be used, pointing them to their own operational plan for a March 2012 protest we posted at PPB_crowd_orders_030112.pdf.
In March, they sent out five more Directives, and we commented on four. The most significant two deal with Arrests of Foreign Nationals (810.10) and video cameras in patrol cars (630.70). The first appears to encourage police to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in violation of state law 181A.820. That law says officers "may" share information with ICE if a person is arrested, adding they should generally cooperate if there is a warrant issued. A number of provisions call for cooperation without either prerequisite. When City Council passed its Sanctuary City resolution on March 22, they called on the Bureau to be sure Directive 810.10 complies with state law. The video camera policy has a lot of the same rules as the draft body camera policy released last fall (PPR #70), allowing officers to review their own footage when writing reports-- even in deadly force cases. There are also numerous times officers are "required" to operate the cameras which, without a criminal predicate, seem to violate ORS 181A.250.
In April, they posted six more Directives, including one on Profiling.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.