People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Training Advisory Council: Missing Data in Use of Force Reports, Presentations on Equity and Youth
The Bureau's Training Advisory Council (TAC), which generally meets once every two months, is required by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement to review force data every quarter and make recommendations based on trends. The quarterly Force Reports have changed format several times over the past year, leading to some confusion and, as one TAC member noted to the Force Inspector team at the November meeting, the loss of data on how many times Tasers are activated more than two cycles (considered a serious use of force). Neither of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)'s presentations on the Q1 data in September* nor the Q2 data in November included any detailed numbers, with the latter meeting dominated by non-sworn analyst Kate Bunn explaining how the data are processed. (This is an ongoing problem with the TAC Force Data presentations.) The annual force report for 2016, which came out in February, has never been presented to the TAC (see sidebar). At the September meeting, PPB Equity and Diversity Program Manager Elle Weatheroy gave a presentation on the Bureau's Equity plan, and in November, two Multnomah County Youth Commissioners presented on their "Youth Educating Police" program.
To their credit, members of the TAC pointed out the disparity in force used against African Americans, particularly pointing of firearms. However, only members of Portland Copwatch (PCW) read out the numbers: 27% of people who had force used on them in Q1 were black, a number that went up to 34% in Q2. Even though data used to be broken out as percentages by force type and race, the firearms pointing is now given only as a raw number-- 27 of 79 incidents in Q2, which is 41%, and up from 31% in Q1. PCW also asked (to no avail) why the reports now explicitly state that the Force data do not include crowd control and officer involved shootings-- are those not uses of force?
Ms. Weatheroy's presentation barely touched on the issue of racial bias when police interact with c ivilians, but mostly focused on internal issues. She asked that PCW go easy on her since this is a long process. But the police have been gathering traffic stop data since 2000, Portland had community listening sessions about profiling in 2006, PCW sat on a City-sanctioned Racial Profiling Committee in 2007-2008, an anti-profiling plan was put into place in 2009, they've given implicit bias training to all officers, and three people shot by police this year were African American.... so there is no reason to stop complaining about a lack of progress. The Equity plan includes "identifying racial disparities" in stop data as one line in a six-page plan.
Weatheroy did mention the Bureau is seeking to create a Youth Advisory Council. This may be in addition to the YEP effort described by Youth Commissioners Britton Masback and Taji Chesimet in November. Even though the Force data reports do not include age, they said 30% of police force is used against people 16-19 years old. They seek to include young people in training through role playing and awareness building on racial bias and identity issues.
Bunn noted the Force analysis is required by the DOJ Agreement, which was ironic since nobody from the DOJ or the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL)'s office was at the meeting. Her presentation included that many civilian injuries have been caused by people hitting their heads on a bolt as they are placed into police cars (she said they are addressing this issue). Bunn also said if an officer acts to inflict force on a person but the person doesn't receive it, it is still counted as a force event. She also noted there was a drop in the number of people considered to be in Mental Health crisis because, for instance, if someone later tells officers they were on Prozac, that doesn't mean they were in a crisis when police used force on them. Her supervisor Lt. Craig Dobson, who took over as the Force Inspector earlier in 2017, noted that takedowns are "popular" among officers, so he asked Training to be sure there is guidance on using them properly.
The COCL's Compliance and Outcomes report (p. 4) notes that in February 2017, the "Force Inspector" said force was used in 1.2% of all custodies when the real number was 3%. The reports adds that Force Data will be moved from being reported quarterly to being placed on a "portal" on the Bureau's website on an ongoing basis, so Portlanders will be able to track officer force as it is reported. While this was yet another development that happened without public input (this move was not discussed at the TAC), it seems the ability to look for demographic, geographic and precinct data might be useful for accountability purposes.
Training Captain Bob Day revealed a few concerning items. First, the Advanced Academy where P ortland supplements state training has been reduced from 14 weeks to 10 to rush 100 or so new recruits through the process. Second, six to ten people are developing a secondary class about "implicit bias." Day says they are trying to avoid speaking directly about race to keep officers from becoming defensive. This makes little sense if there are difficult discussions going on, and leads to the question-- are any of the Training officers people of color?
The Force Inspector stated they are removing what they see as extraneous data because they get no feedback on the quarterly force reports. Find them at portlandoregon.gov/police/62708 and post your comments at: research.net/r/UOFReportFeedback.
Use of Force Annual Report Reveals Violence vs. Protestors
With some difficulty, PCW was able to find the annual Force Data Report for 2016, which was posted in February but nobody mentioned it, even when we raised questions why the force used at City Hall in October 2016 wasn't included in the Q4 2016 Force summary (PPR #72). Crowd Control information was separated from other data, and generally lists how many officers were involved and what force was used. The summary only lists the following force for the City Hall "putsch": 5 takedowns, 1 strike, 1 baton and 2 applications of pepper spray. This seems low considering they pushed the entire crowd down a concrete stairwell, and violently pushed activist Jessie Sponberg onto his hind quarters. All protests after the election were lumped into one section, revealing 42 force reports were filed covering 12 takedowns, five strikes (all by one officer), 11 uses of batons to "move subjects and as an impact weapon," 13 RBDDs (Rubber Ball Distraction Devices, also known as pellet grenades), 12 uses of pepper spray, five smoke canisters, seven pepper spray "vapor" devices and six "CS gas triple chasers." They also list less lethal munitions used: 17 ADDs (Aerial Distraction Devices, aka flash-bangs), four 40-mm impact rounds, and 75 (seventy-five!) FN 303s, the kind of projectiles that killed a protestor in Boston in 2004 (PPR #34). While the community has a clear picture that the PPB uses way too much force, separating out these incidents perpetuates a false impression that force is "only" being used three times a day.
Find the annual report at: portlandoregon.gov/police/article/644832
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.