People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Committee Challenges Domestic Violence and Videographer
Incidents, Leaves Protest Force Findings Intact
The Citizen Review Committee (CRC) held hearings on three cases from September to December. They likely could have heard a fourth case except the "Independent" Police Review (IPR), which intakes complaints and houses CRC, caused a hearing to be delayed by administrative mishap for the third time in a year and a half. The Committee challenged two findings among the three cases-- to find an officer at a domestic violence scene acted unprofessionally and another wrongly threatened to arrest a videographer-- but made no changes in a case involving force used at a protest. CRC's mostly mothballed Work Groups got a slight but rocky revival as the Crowd Control Work Group consisting of one CRC member met in September, the Policy Work Group met briefly in December, and the Use of Deadly Force Work Group tried to exclude the public from its November meeting, but reversed the decision on site. And, with the appointment of two more members who are under the age of 40 and the third resignation of the year, the 10-person group now only has one member who is over 43.
Case #2017-X-0006: "He Was a Bit Unprofessional"-- Officer Laughs During Domestic Assault Investigation
At their October meeting, CRC heard Case #2017-x-0006, the appeal of a domestic violence survivor who says an officer was unprofessional and failed to make an arrest after her husband assaulted her. The Bureau found both allegations "Not Sustained" (insufficient evidence) with a debriefing on the failure to make an arrest. Lt. Jason Pearce, the officer's supervisor, implied that because no visible bruises proved the woman's claim her husband had picked her up by the neck and thrown her down, but there were scratches on the man's neck, the officer could be debriefed for failing to arrest the Appellant. The way in which the Lieutenant dismissed a lot of the concerns only added to the fact that after the Appellant called 911 twice, both officers responding to the scene were men. From context, it appears they were regular patrol officers and not Domestic Violence specialists.
The accusation of rude behavior asserts the officer asked the Appellant what she did to provoke the violence, told the second officer the call amounted to "just some drama," and laughed with the husband during the investigation. Moreover, the landlady, who arrived after the officers, asked if she could get the husband's name taken off the lease. She claims rather than saying "no, it's a civil matter," Officer A laughed and said "that's not going to happen." The landlady told investigators the officer was "a bit unprofessional," with the qualifying "a bit" leading to the decision the officer may or may not have been out of policy. Pearce stated they can't tell officers not to engage in levity, or else they should just not talk to anyone. (Chief Marshman put forward a similar all-or-nothing theory at a hearing in 2016-- PPR #70.)
The fact that the supervisor did not recognize joking was not appropriate in this situation where a woman was fearing for her safety shows PPB training on gender equity is still much needed. Side note: Officers did not follow up with the Appellant to see how she was doing or if bruises appeared a few days later, citing a "lack of resources."
Oddly, the Lieutenant, IPR staff and Internal Affairs all could not tell CRC whether a supplemental report, which was likely required by the Bureau's policies, had been written. Pearce said he remembered reading one but didn't have it in his file that night.
After much discussion, CRC voted 4-2 to affirm the "Not Sustained with a debriefing" finding for the failure to arrest allegation, with Roberto Rivera and new member Candice Avalos voting no. Kiosha Ford abstained citing her discomfort with the missing report, even though the City Attorney advised abstentions should only happen if there is a conflict of interest.
CRC voted 6-1 to Sustain the allegation of unprofessional behavior, with a "no" vote from Chair Kristin Malone, saying under CRC's restrictive "reasonable person standard" it was reasonable for Pearce to make his finding. The Chief could agree or push back against CRC.
Case # 2017-x-0005: Violent Push-out at City Hall: "I'm Really Proud of My Officers for Their Restraint"
After spending many hours reading the case file and reviewing videos, CRC was notified in September that their materials-- and the file sent to the supervisor reviewing the complaint in case #2017-x-0005-- were missing a video that was part of the investigation. Rather than use a Case File Review to send the case back for that omission and any other shortcomings, CRC postponed the hearing until November. IPR previously forgot to invite a supervisor to a hearing (PPR #68) and was complicit in the Bureau using the wrong policy to determine whether use of a Taser was excessive force (PPR #69) .
The case involves a man who was at the protest against the police "union" contract ratification in October 2016 (PPR #70), who said he was pushed in the throat by an officer, thrown to the ground by that officer and one other, and had handcuffs applied too tight by two other officers. All five findings were "Not Sustained." The Appellant also complained about being pepper-sprayed in the face by Portland Police officers. The IPR, which conducted this investigation because it was protest-related, may have told him no Portland Police used pepper spray at the incident-- even though there's copious evidence they did. At the hearing, IPR Director Constantin Severe said investigators were unable to determine whether it was a Portland officer or Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy who deployed the spray. The Appellant, who'd been video-ing the incident, also complained because police confiscated his cell phone and never returned it. IPR dismissed that allegation, saying the Appellant's claim to the City's Risk Management department for property loss (which was granted) resolved that issue. However, the Appellant used a locator to find his phone was at East Precinct before its battery died, and noted officers "losing" it could amount to destruction of evidence.
A poor decision by Internal Affairs Captain Jeff Bell led to Central Precinct Commander Larry Graham sitting in for the supervisor who made the findings on the case (and was out of town). The problem? Graham was the Incident Commander on scene at City Hall and gave the orders authorizing use of force. Adding to his various mis-steps at CRC meetings (PPRs #57&58), Graham made a speech about how proud he was of his officers for showing "restraint" in the face of what he called "taunts" from protestors. CRC member Julie Falk questioned whether Graham should be at the hearing defending the Bureau's position given his role that day. It wasn't until after the final decisions were made Graham admitted it wasn't such a good idea.
Graham was the person who revoked the permit on May Day, leading to chaos (PPR #72).
Some CRC members seemed to buy Graham's argument the protestors deserved to be pushed down the stairs of a public building and get pepper sprayed for wanting a say in the controversial contract vote. One asked why the Appellant turned toward the police rather than face the exit door. The Appellant calmly explained the danger police posed by pushing everyone made him afraid to turn his back. Portland Copwatch (PCW) noted the Compliance Officer's report (p. 4) revealed the officers didn't realize there was a stairwell behind the protestors until after they started pushing them out the door. CRC member Neil Simon made an odd speech about people needing to be civilized at deliberative hearings, not recognizing Council had locked everyone out of the Chambers. Chair Malone said what the Council did was irrelevant-- even though the decision on misconduct is required to be based on the "totality of the circumstances." Earlier in the evening, CRC decided (8- 0) to move forward with the Appeal Hearing even though the case summary does not mention interviews with any civilian witnesses-- just the officers and the Appellant, and notes about various videos. IPR stated they interviewed many witnesses about what happened October 12 (acknowledging the day was "traumatic") because they received multiple complaints. Two witnesses spoke during the Hearing but weren't specific about what the Appellant personally experienced, just giving the general impression the cops were out of control.
Graham also claimed other agencies around the country want training on the PPB's "model" crowd control. The Bureau thinks Graham was referring to the state police academy, where PPB is helping create a crowd training program (Portland Mercury , November 8).
With regard to the specific allegations, none of the videos showed the officer pushing the Appellant in the throat. The Bureau said they did not push him to the ground near the MAX light rail tracks, but rather they were trying to pull him up on the sidewalk, and because he is a "bigger person" they let him go for his safety and theirs. Capt. Bell stated the "Not Sustained" finding covered his being dropped rather than pushed, even though the Bureau has been persnickety about language lately. The Appellant said his wrist turned purple from the "flex cuffs" (plastic zip ties) that were on him, but Graham claimed officers were able to put a finger between the cuffs and his wrist.
The votes were: #1 force (to neck): Affirmed "Not Sustained" finding 7-1 with Rivera voting no. #2&3 force (push to the ground): ultimately affirmed the "Not Sustained" finding 5-3 with Michael Luna, Andrea Chiller and Rivera voting to Sustain. #4&5 Procedure (cuffs too tight): Affirmed "Not Sustained" finding 8-0.
At least two other people who filed complaints about October 12 say they did not receive the IPR findings letter in time to appeal. Rather than make an exception based on their claims, IPR refused to let them file appeals.
Case #2017-x-0007: Copwatching is Not a Crime
In December, CRC heard a case involving the same Appellant from the City Hall incident, who was at a different protest when a Sergeant told him videotaping police without informing them was a crime, and threatened to arrest him. Captain Mike Crebs told CRC he "Sustained" the first allegation because it is not, in fact, a crime to video police in Oregon (PPR #66). He found the second allegation "Not Sustained" because the officer saying "I could arrest you" did not, in his opinion, constitute a threat. New member Daniel Schwartz compared the officer's statement to a mafia enforcer saying "you could meet with an untimely accident [if you don't play ball]." The rest of the CRC agreed, and voted 7-0 to Sustain the finding.
Also of note: Crebs said (a) police lie all the time, but it has to be in order to prevent unlawful behavior, which wasn't the case in this incident, and (b) that police constantly monitor Facebook posts about planned protest actions, which should confirm to readers why PCW doesn't use Facebook.
CRC Work Groups: Too Few People At Public Meeting, Too Many at Intended "Private" One
Even with the ongoing concerns about the Bureau's crowd control tactics (above and p. 9), CRC's Crowd Control Work Group has only met once since June. The meeting was attended by three members of PCW and CRC member Michael Luna. No real follow up was planned, though new member Avalos said she will join the Group. The Bureau's Crowd Control policy went into effect on August 30 (p. 11), a week before the Work Group met.
The Use of Deadly Force Work Group, which released its report months ago calling for the Bureau to foreground de-escalation in its Force policy (PPR #71), included notice of an "Executive Session" for their meeting on November 14. Oregon law allows public bodies to go into Executive Session for a number of reasons, but allows members of the media to attend so the deliberating body does not conduct public business privately. Deputy City Attorney Mark Amberg balked when Dan Handelman of Flying Focus Video Collective (and PCW) said he agreed not to report on the parts of the Session covered by state law, but would not agree to a blanket "no reporting" rule. Eventually, Amberg and CRC held the meeting in open session, referring a few times to theoretical situations (such as whether the City would hold an officer out of policy for, say, failing to de- escalate) which could have been discussed as attorney-client privileged information. However, they didn't go back into Executive Session to discuss those matters. Attending the meeting were three former CRC members (David Denecke, Rochelle Silver and Jim Young), three current members (Kristin Malone, Roberto Rivera and Andrea Chiller), and KBOO reporter Jasmin Moneymaker.
Amberg came to the September general meeting and spoke in vague terms about how CRC could go about changing their standard of review. In short, a City Council member or the Auditor has to present a proposed change for consideration on Council agenda. He also claimed the Portland Police Association has to approve any changes because it is a party to the DOJ Settlement Agreement. The Policy Work Group met for about 40 minutes in December disussing next steps.
Vice Chair Resigns, New Members Sworn In
At the October meeting, it was announced Vice Chair Julie Ramos-- whose term ends in February 2018-- had resigned. Since new members will be chosen for terms staring in February anyway, IPR left her seat open, leaving CRC with just 10 members of the authorized 11.
Two of those members are new-- Schwartz was confirmed by Council on August 9 after attending many CRC meetings before being moved up from his role as an "alternate." Avalos, a student life staff person at Portland State University, replaced Jim Young, a retired District Attorney from Michigan who quit in July (PPR #72).
While PCW expressed concern in the early days of CRC that it was made up of so many retirees there were no youth voices, the pendulum has swung the other way. The lack of retirees and inability of CRC to maintain its Work Groups are not unrelated issues. Avalos, a Latinx/African American woman in the 18-25 year old category, helps build toward the ethnic diversity of CRC, which is now made up of three white men, three women of color, three white women--one who identifies as LGBTQ+, and a Latino man. Still, no one on CRC represents the houseless community.
ALSO AT IPR/CRC:
--At the September meeting, members discussed their experiences sitting in on Police Review Board hearings, which are closed to the public and, when CRC members are involved, generally involve deadly force or other serious matters. Chair Malone reported that being in a room with so many uniformed officers can be intimidating, and that Bureau members seemed to be talking down to the two civilians in the room as though they needed to be educated (Mr. Rivera agreed with that perception). Malone also said they received an "aggressive lecture" from the PPA President.
--The IPR's Third Quarter 2017 report had little useful information, but noted they were hiring two new full time investigators. Rather than expanding their ranks, PCW determined through an internet search that two investigators have left IPR (Ramsi AlQaisi and Casey Bieberich), replaced by Andrew Pease and Casey Clithero.
--Although the IPR's annual report has not been presented to City Council perhaps since 2011, Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, who oversees IPR, spoke to Council on August 30 regarding audits on trees, Risk Management and Portland's finances. That day, Council approved an ordinance allowing the Auditor to hire an independent staff attorney, something the community has called for over many years since it will help IPR be truly independent. PCW wrote a letter asking why the Auditor is refusing to bring the important information about accountability to a public discussion, since the IPR annual report was released in May (PPR #72). We received no reply.
Contact IPR at 503-823-0146.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.