People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Compliance Officer: City Met DOJ Standards,
In a shocking statement at the October meeting of the Portland Committee for Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP), Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum said the City has met all technical requirements of the US Department of Justice Settlement Agreement, but there doesn't have to be a change in outcomes. In other words, Dr. Rosenbaum, the Compliance Oficer/Community Liaison (COCL), is saying the community, city and Bureau have been working for the last seven years to address the unconstitutional use of force the Department of Justice (DOJ) found, but the City only has to create policies, collect and analyze data in order to comply. As PCCEP members pointed out, the large number of people in mental health crisis still being killed by Portland Police is not relevant to the assessment. In early October, Rosenbaum presented the COCL's quarterly report on the progress of the Agreement, finding the City in "Substantial Compliance" with every paragraph. The City, they say, checked all the boxes once the Police Chief presented the Bureau's 2018 Annual Report and Community Engagement Plan at City Council on October 2. At their October meeting, PCCEP members made clear they disagreed, but only singled out one item about mental health issues. Other developments at PCCEP included November's two presentations related to the Police Association contract leading to meaningful discussions, changes to their voting procedures, more turnover in membership, and changes in leadership at their one-year anniversary meeting (also November).
Mental Health Requirements Fall Short, Other Items Too New to Tell
PCCEP's founding documents call on them to independently assess the implementation of the DOJ Agreement. At the October meeting, PCCEP voted on two recommendations directly related to the Agreement. The first disagreed with the COCL's "Substantial Compliance" findings and asked the City to define what outcomes would be needed to fulfill the purpose of the Agreement. The City Attorney defended Rosenbaum's analysis, saying from a legal standpoint all the City has to do is put in place those items outlined in the Agreement; whether or not the outcomes of police encounters change as a result isn't required. Portland Copwatch (PCW) wonders, then, why the COCL's quarterly reports are written into the Agreement as Compliance and Outcome reports (Paragraphs 159 and 170-171). While the PCCEP's public disagreement showed independence and made it onto the news, they were unable to pass the resolution. The vote was four in favor, four against and three abstentions. The second PCCEP recommendation made it clear the Unity Center, a medical facility which centralized treatment of people with mental illness, is not the "walk-in/drop- off center" envisioned in Paragraph 89. Rather, the Unity Center does not allow walk-ins and moreover has been in disarray. The County is working on a downtown facility which might fulfill the need described in the Agreement. PCCEP's recommendation to rethink whether Paragraph 89 is in compliance passed on a vote of 10-2.
PCW analyzed the COCL report and found there were too many generous findings, including that only 90% of misconduct investigations are being completed in 180 days-- when paragraph 121 requires all investigations be done in that time frame. Moreover, the Community Engagement plan which went to City Council did not mention the word "accountability" and did not involve the PCCEP's input in a meaningful way as required. For example, the Bureau included a suggestion from PCCEP made at their September meeting. It calls for a Truth and Reconciliation process between the police and community, but the Bureau promised to "actively engage with the Mayor and City Council, relevant bureaus, as well as other civic leaders to develop a workgroup to explore the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation program." This makes the program three layers deep into this goal.
In addition, this was the first Annual Report to be presented to Council (per paragraph 150), though required since 2014. Public notification was made a mere eight days in advance at PCCEP's September meeting. Even less information was put out in advance of presentations in two of the Bureau's three precincts in August. The Annual Report does not include data on Use of Force, the main focus of the Agreement, nor of traffic stops, one of the flashpoints of community concerns noted in Paragraph 148.
As a point of clarification, the final arbiter of whether the DOJ Agreement's terms have been met is the DOJ itself. They have to present their findings to Judge Michael Simon, whose next status update is set for February 25. Even if the City is found in full compliance, they have to maintain that status for a full year to be released from the terms of the Agreement.
PCCEP Hosts Police Association and Auditor, Shedding Light on Contract Issues
At the November meeting, PCCEP hosted Portland Police Association (PPA) President Daryl Turner to talk about PPA's collective bargaining contract with the City (see PPA Contract article and "Rapping Back"). Turner deferred talking about specifics in the contract for fear of violating the "good faith bargaining" law, but hinted he is willing to change the Discipline Matrix so officers who engage in bias-based policing can face more serious discipline than three weeks off without pay (PPR #78). He also stated that while police are "the same as any public employee with the same rights," they do need to be held "to a higher standard" because of their ability to restrict people's rights and to use force, including deadly force. In December, PCCEP passed recommendations about the contract reflecting community concerns.
The second guest was Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, who along with Elizabeth Pape from her office presented data from their audit of Police Bureau overtime. One main focus of that audit was that various officers worked more than 20 hours of overtime 1100 times in 2018. Much of it was as private security, under a PPA contract provision allowing private businesses to hire uniformed officers to patrol their stores or events (PPR #41+). When pressed, the auditors did not call to end this practice, only saying the Chief's office should be who decides whether such use of police is "in the public benefit." The audit noted officers working so much overtime can lead to lack of community engagement as officers get tired and cranky. When PCW asked whether they would correlate the officers who work 20 hours of overtime regularly to the 400 or so who are subject to complaints, they did not seem to think that was important.
Changes at PCCEP: Resignation, Executive Changes, Questionable but Well Intentioned Bylaws Amendment
At the end of the October meeting, PCCEP member Sam Sachs announced he was resigning from PCCEP. Sachs often came down on the side of defending police-- and in fact was one of the "no" votes on rejecting the COCL report. Yet he made an impassioned speech against officer sweeps of houseless camps during his final meeting after testimony from houseless people attending. However, he also helped coordinate the Race, Ethnicity and Other Subcommittee's early October forum featuring the Gun Violence Reduction Team, where community panelists expressed thanks for the GVRT's actions, but nobody who was racially profiled by the Team was invited to speak.
At the November meeting, previous alternate co-chair Andrew Kalloch was elected to move up to co-chair. Kalloch replaced Lakeesha Dumas, whose main contribution to the group has been implementing a moment of silence at the beginning of each meeting to remember people who have died. The new alternate co-chair is relatively new member Elliott Young, a professor from Lewis and Clark College.
At their August meeting, PCCEP had trouble voting on the Mental Health subcommittee's proposal for the City to offer condolences to families who lose loved ones to police violence, which failed on a 6-0-2 vote because their bylaws require seven votes. In two unusual moves, the subcommittee (a) told the full Committee they would not accept any modifications to their proposal and (b) sent the recommendation to the Chief and Mayor even though it was not approved. At the time of that meeting, only 10 members were able to vote as there were two empty seats and one person had not completed training.
To fix this problem, PCCEP voted to change their bylaws so only a majority of members at a meeting can pass a recommendation. PCW strongly suggested the requirement be a majority of seated members. Otherwise, if only seven members show up, four of thirteen people can make a decision for the whole group. With PCW's plan, when there were only 10 voting members in August, they would have only needed six votes to pass, and the recommendation would have made it through. We have seen such low thresholds cause division, especially in groups with as diverse a membership as PCCEP. Perhaps PCCEP will reconsider their policy before such an issue creates conflict.
Also in December, PCCEP expressed condolences to the family of Koben Henriksen, who was killed by police Dec. 8 (see Shootings article) and began a discussion on body camera recommendations.
See the PCW analysis of the COCL report at
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.