New Report on Portland Police Shootings and Deaths: Positive Suggestions Don't Outweigh Restrictions and Omissions
Analysis of PARC's second follow-up report dated December 2006

by Dan Handelman, Portland Copwatch
January 23, 2007


  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Useful Information and Positive Suggestions (part 1)
  • 3. Concerns: Ommissions, Contraditions and Restrictions
  • 4. Improvements Needed for Force Review Board and Investigations
  • 5. Useful Information and Positive Suggestions (part 2)
  • 6. Analysis of Status of Recommendations
  • 7. Auditor and IPR Underming the Process They Supervise
  • Conclusion


    On January 10, the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) and the City Auditor released the
    second follow-up report on Portland Police shootings by the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC).

    The report contains a scant four recommendations arising from ten shooting incidents studied which took place from February 2002 to October 2003. There are an additional 12 formal (and quite a few informal) recommendations arising from the follow-up on 25 of the recommendations from PARC's original report, mostly regarding the review process now known as the Use of Force Review Board (UFRB).

    We have no doubt that some of the recommendations from PARC have improved the Bureau's handling of shootings, and we applaud their calling the Bureau on the carpet for failing to implement several of their original recommendations. The report, in particular its focus on the UFRB, has been enlightening in many ways.


    PARC revealed the undue influence of the Portland Police Association (PPA-the police "union"). Tucked into the very last pages of the report (60-61) are indications that the PPA "usurped management's role" in at least one Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigation. Specifically, IAD felt that the officers were using "similar phrases, descriptions and conclusions" in their interviews, having been allowed to read the After Action reports beforehand. We agree with PARC's comment that this undermines confidence that the process is fair and objective. Unfortunately, PARC did not make a specific recommendation to remedy this situation.

    We are very pleased to see that one of our major concerns (as raised in our May 12, 2006 follow- up letter to our meeting with PARC),* the secrecy about the names of civilians in a pool of 24 who are chosen to sit on the UFRB two at a time, is reflected as a recommendation by PARC (#2006.2, p. 20). PARC suggests releasing their names when new members are chosen later this year. We hope the Bureau will go further and release the names of the current pool. While we also understand the civilians' reluctance to be tied to any specific case (p. 20), we wonder whether the whole process undermines the spirit of Oregon's public records laws.
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    There are many concerns we have regarding the report and what it does or does not say. In many instances, PARC is being restricted by its contract with the Auditor/IPR/City of Portland. These concerns include:

    --PARC has still not analyzed why more people of color are shot at by police than their white counterparts.

    After PARC's acknowledgment that subconscious racial bias may have played into some of the use of deadly force by police, they immediately dismiss the notion: "speculation on that point would serve no useful purpose" (p. 52). They state that there was "no indication of racial or ethnic bias" in any individual case (p. 53).

    By combining their statistics with our own, we find that at least 19 of 57 suspects in the ten years studied were people of color--33 percent in a city with a non-white population of only 23%. In addition, in a total of 11 incidents (including one not reviewed by PARC), 3 of the four people who died after police actions in 2002-2003 were people of color. Is there some reason people of color are more likely to end up dead after confrontations with Portland Police?

    PARC's own advice under "Management of Records" is for the Bureau to study its officer-involved shooting data to avoid future shootings (2003 recommendation 8.1, p. 47). They emphasize that such an analysis will ultimately save money and benefit the community. It is confusing, then, that they don't apply the same advice that "analyzing data about numerous incidents often reveals patterns and other valuable information that are not readily apparent studying incidents one at a time" (p. 47) to the problem of racial disparity in shootings and deaths cases.

    The possibility of racial bias was an issue we raised in our May 12 follow-up letter.

    --PARC has continued its practice of not using names of civilians or officers involved in specific incidents

    Despite the fact that nearly all of the names of the officers and civilians shot in these incidents are posted on the Police Bureau's website, this new report continues in the earlier vein of not releasing suspects or officers' names.

    The confusion began as PARC's Oren Root was gathering information in Portland for the report. Root asked for public input from the 12 or so folks who came to meet with him in April 2006, particularly about the 10 cases they were reviewing. But when we asked which cases, he replied "I can't tell you."

    Portland Copwatch presented a list of 10 shootings we believed were the ones to be covered. PARC was unable to confirm or deny that the list was accurate. One of the 10 shootings (Byron Hammick) was not reviewed, so there is an eleventh shooting which the community was asked to comment on, but we're not sure what the incident was.

    Oregon Revised Statutes section 195.502 allows for the release of what may otherwise be privileged information in cases where the public interest is served.

    The absurdity of masking the identity of the cases also hinders PARC's ability to support the Bureau's good work. PARC cited one case in which Homicide did a particularly good, thorough job (p. 56) and another in which the Assistant Chiefs appropriately cited problems with officers' actions prior to and following the shooting (p. 32)--but the cases aren't mentioned by name. How can the Bureau be expected to repeat its good performance if they have to guess which case was singled out? (What little we know makes us think this was the Kendra James/Officer McCollister case.)

    The lack of full information was an issue we raised in our May 12 follow-up letter.

    --PARC's report continues to address issues after too long of a delay.

    Due to the restrictions of the Auditor's contract with PARC, the cases reviewed in this report took place in 2002 and 2003--over three years before the report was released, with the earliest shooting nearly five years ago (February 21, 2002). Had the police examined some of the issues in the report, such as the welcome recommendation about emphasizing tactics and taking into account risk factors to the general public (2006.13, p. 54), perhaps some high profile incidents including the death of James Jahar Perez would not have happened. (As PARC writes, "Poor tactics frequently lead to shootings" [p. 42]).

    To make matters worse, the Auditor and IPR director announced at their Jan. 10 news conference that they had decided to formally request PARC only to make reports once every two years, rather than annually. This means that in the future, such recommendations might be coming 4 or 5 years after an incident occurs.

    We believe that this change in PARC's contract is not legal without a formal amendment to the Ordinance which authorized their hiring, #178339 dated April 21, 2004, expiring in 2009.

    The City's interest in protecting itself from a lawsuit should not outweigh the benefits of a speedy public review of the tactics, policy and procedures which could lead to future improvements.

    And, although there were only four shootings in 2004 (and at least one, Perez, is still the subject of a lawsuit), PARC could enhance its next report in any number of ways.
    1) Include the shootings and deaths of 2005 and 2006 without waiting two years.
    2) Backtrack to earlier cases not reviewed. In particular, PARC should look at the in-custody death of Damon Lowery (12/99) and the shooting of Byron Hammick (2/02). The death of Shane Clements in December 2003 should also be included in the next report.
    3. Expand its recommendations to the overall disciplinary process. PARC could analyze, for instance, the use of a limited number of findings used by Internal Affairs in cases other than shootings comparable to the Washington, DC deadly force findings noted on p. 42. IAD currently has no formal way to fault training, policy or supervisory failures which lead to incidents they review for misconduct.
    4. Look at other overall trends such as the discussion of race (above) or the number of bullets/types of guns used (the Bureau first used the AR-15 assault rifle in April, 2002 and in numerous shootings since).
    5. Audit the Bureau's use of "After Action reports." PARC says that shootings and deaths are only two of 16 reasons such reports are supposed to be written. This leaves fourteen categories unaudited.
    6. Review other aspects of shootings and deaths in custody, including the actions of the Medical Examiner's office and its relationship to the police, how surviving family members are treated by officers and the City, and ways in which the arbitration process unfairly favors police.

    In addition, the 36 recommendations from the 2003 report which PARC still has not analyzed for follow-through, along with the 10 made in 2005 and the 16 in this report will not be reviewed for years--unless the IPR's Citizen Review Committee (CRC) exercises its duty to do so (City Code 3.21.070[J]). This is unlikely, as they have never commented on the first two reports.

    The lapse in time, lack of review for cases whose lawsuits are settled after PARC's reports are published, and other proposals in this section were issues we raised in our May 12 follow-up letter.

    --PARC's reports indicate violations may have occurred, but nothing can be done about it

    Related to the issue of the length of time it takes to review shootings is that by contract, PARC is not able to comment on the appropriateness of officers' actions in individual cases. However, PARC makes the broad statement that none of the shootings reviewed seemed "gratuitous" on the same page where they declare "it would be impossible [to determine if the shootings were justified]...based solely upon the material in the files we reviewed" (p. 52). This is a glaring contradiction--if they can't say the shootings were unjustified, they also can't say they were not "gratuitous."

    Adding to this concern is that taken collectively, the PARC reports show that there was no serious review of shootings and deaths in custody for possible administrative violations until 2003. Taking the long view of these studies, it means that officers who used deadly force prior to 2003--many of whom are still with the Bureau--may have violated policies, and yet are still out working the streets. In the criminal justice system, when an accused person on death row is found by DNA evidence to be exonerated, we can go back and free them from jail. But there is no way to go back now and hold officers accountable for their actions in the past.

    So, although PARC's efforts may make things better in the future, the issues they have raised about the Bureau's past history of zero accountability will make many people in the community uncomfortable.

    --PARC has not published a chart analyzing all of the incidents studied to date.

    Despite charts published in the first PARC report showing race, gender and age of suspects and officers, number of shots fired, number of incidents per year, and more, no such chart (or information) was in the first follow-up, and only a long list of statistics in prose form appeared in the new report.

    Now that PARC has reviewed 58 cases (as opposed to the original 34), such a chart could help reveal important trends.

    The need for a chart of this information was an issue we raised in our May 12 follow-up letter.
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    --The Use of Force Review Board needs more citizen involvement

    PARC commended the Bureau for going beyond their recommendation for one civilian to be part of the committee reviewing shootings (2003 #6.8), by having two civilians on the UFRB. However, the inadequacy of this set-up is exposed by a comment by the Portland Police Association, in trying to reassure its members about the "fairness" of the UFRB: "the command staff constitutes a majority- -five of nine--of the votes on the board" (p. 23). This says as much about the flaws of the current structure as it does about the PPA's attitude.

    Phoenix's UFRB, which served as a model for Portland, has three officers and three civilians on it, and unlike Portland, the involved officer's supervisors cannot have a voting role (p. 33). We support PARC's re-emphasizing 2003 recommendation 6.7, that the officer's commander should not vote at the UFRB, particularly because, as they note, the Commander sometimes makes decisions at the scene of the incident in question.

    In terms of reviewing the incident, it is unfair for a proceeding such as this not to allow the civilian who has been shot at (or a representative of the dead) to comment on the case.

    We also note here that while officers are allowed to review the entire files, civilians who file complaints are forced to pay the Portland Police Bureau for copies of their own police reports and are not allowed to read the comments of the officers. Although the IPR has been described as a "quasi-judicial" process, it is clearly not so--in a court setting, both sides would be allowed to review all documents.

    While it is useful to have three current and one former member of the CRC in the UFRB pool (p. 19), the complete separation of reviewing possible misconduct in shooting incidents from all the other complaints the CRC is empowered to review makes no sense.

    Ideally, the entire process will be moved out of the Bureau into a more independent body staffed by civilians and civilian investigators to eliminate all conflicts of interest inherent in the process.

    --The Use of Force Review Board needs to make its functions and decisions clear

    One of the report's harshest criticisms is that rather than implementing 2003 recommendation 6.11, that all UFRB findings be written down and forwarded to the Chief, the Bureau has gone backward and now an Assistant Chief reports orally to the Chief (p. 35). Pointing out that no other City fails to keep written records on these kinds of decisions, this was the only instance in which PARC made a new recommendation essentially repeating their old one (2006.10, p. 37).

    They also note that the directive on the UFRB doesn't specifically call for the minority opinion to be documented (if there is one--all decisions they studied were unanimous). We believe inclusion of a minority report was part of the promise made to the Community Police Organizational Review Team (CPORT) when the UFRB was presented to them as an option in 2003.

    We agree with PARC's recommendation that the Chief should inform the UFRB of the outcome of the case they review (2006.6, p. 26).

    Perhaps the most important thing the UFRB can do, though, is to let the public know that they have reviewed a specific case and what the outcome was. The PARC report shows that the first five Boards were convened and votes taken between 8 and 15 months after incidents occurred. To gain public confidence, the Bureau needs to let the public know that the case has been reviewed and what the outcome is. They also should report any policy, training and tactical recommendations; this was a specific proposal from CPORT in December, 2003.

    We also agree with PARC that the UFRB should meet within six months of a shooting or death in custody (Rec. 2006.7, p. 28). It is unfortunate the Chief Sizer's response indicates that she believes this timeline is not achievable.

    --PARC does not focus on their earlier recommendation for more civilian oversight

    In PARC's 2005 report, they called for more civilian oversight in shootings and deaths cases (2005 p. 44). In the new report, they found that the PPB working with the East County Major Crimes Team has in some cases led to less thorough investigations. Their recommendation is to consider doing all officer-involved shooting investigations within the Bureau (2006.15, p. 58). We are concerned about this recommendation, for a different reason than Chief Sizer, who has pledged to get the officers from Gresham, Troutdale and other agencies better training as PARC suggests. Our concern is that PARC questioned the _objectivity_ of other agencies being involved simply because their interviewing skills weren't up to speed (p. 58). With trained investigators who are not part of the Bureau--perhaps a team of civilian investigators working for an independent police review board--we would assume there will be less "insider" politics and concern of retaliation than there is "in house."
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    Among the information in the report that sheds new light on some of the Bureau's activities:

    --PARC noted that: a few cases, officers' misconduct related to shootings investigation was not investigated. In one case, an officer's car cut in front of other officers conducting a pursuit (p. 56); in others, officers declared themselves part of the "peer support" or "Traumatic Incident Committee" despite the fact that they witnessed the shootings (pp.58- 59). This led to PARC's wise recommendation that involved and witness officers cannot take on these roles (#2006.16, p. 59); one case, the suspect*** complained of abuse by the police, but IAD did not investigate because they chose to "prejudge" the suspect (p. 60); this may be because the suspect *** had shot an officer;

    ...the Bureau gave a Medal of Honor to an officer*** even though his case had not gone through the Use of Force Review Board (p. 46). The Bureau allegedly implemented 2003 recommendation 6.19 requiring the awards committee to hear from the UFRB, although they did not implement 2003 recommendation 6.20, requiring the awards committee to send information to the UFRB;

    ...not as many items were missing from the Bureau's files as were missing in the original report (p. 6);

    ...citizens on the Use of Force Review Board are concerned that their skills may not be utilized if they only hear one case every few years (p. 20);

    ...the UFRBs experienced confusion and a lack of clarity when it came time to vote, with an "abbreviated discussion" some members felt would "undermine confidence in the process" (p. 21);

    ...the UFRB coordinator is tracking follow-through on their recommendations and reminding the Bureau about them (in response to 2003 recommendation 6.18, p. 44)

    We are supportive of PARC's recommendations that:

    ...analyzing the actions of officers leading up to a shooting is an important improvement and should be consistently applied (informal recommendation, p. 16).

    ...peer officers, who had more fear of retaliation than their citizen counterparts sitting on the Use of Force Review Boards, should get more training about the Boards (2006.3, p. 21). PARC cited one case where a commander "harshly attacked" a presenter, making other officers feel intimidated (p. 32).

    ...IAD should interview all officers (and, we would add, witnesses) to be sure "policy, training and tactics" issues are covered, aspects homicide detectives are not investigating in their criminal inquiries (2006.5, p. 24). It is disturbing that PARC found in 55 of 56 shootings the Bureau did not adequately address these issues and that more than half the time IAD conducted no interviews of their own. should be available to those reviewing investigations to look at videotapes, listen to CDs, or otherwise review electronic evidence (informal recommendation, p. 42).
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    The ACLU and Portland Copwatch requested that PARC create a "matrix" similar to the one that Chief Foxworth used to track all of PARC's recommendations. PARC said they were reluctant to create such a document. Making matters worse, Chief Sizer didn't include an updated version of the Bureau's matrix, so it is difficult to tell where PARC stands, where the Bureau stands, and what our separate interpretation is regarding how many recommendations have been adopted.
    For the 25 recommendations in this report, PARC says that "relatively few" have not been adopted by the Bureau. Our analysis, though, shows that PARC itself gives the Bureau credit for adopting only 9 of the 25 recommendations as written, with two more done "in spirit." Three are partially done (meaning some of the recommendation was adopted but not all of it) and one is in progress (meaning its implementation isn't yet complete). Four are either done in practice but aren't written down (meaning that a change in leadership could put an end to the current procedures) or PARC was unable to tell if they were done. And six are listed as not done.,** To be generous, giving a half-credit to the second and third categories would mean 15 are done and 10 are not done, but still this is 40% of the recommendations needing work.

    The lack of a chart on the Bureau's progress was an issue we raised in our May 12 follow-up letter.
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    We now turn our attention to Auditor Gary Blackmer and IPR Director Leslie Stevens, and concerns about their handling of the shootings and deaths in custody reports.

    --Unsupported claims regarding "drop" in shootings

    On January 9th, the IPR published a news release which indicated that the number of police shootings in Portland had dropped as a result of the PARC reports. They asserted that the average shootings from 1997 to 2002 was over 9 per year, while 2003 to 2006 averaged less than 6.

    Our analysis of shootings since 1997 shows an overall average of 7 shootings per year, or one every 52 days.

    A look at the raw numbers shows that although there were only 4 shootings in each of 2003 and 2004, there were 9 in 2005 and 5 in 2006 (bringing us back to the average of 7).

    Furthermore, the news release, like Auditor Blackmer's cover letter, indicates that they believe the new report refers only to the year 2002, while it actually covers 2002 and January to November of 2003. The drop in shootings in 2003 and in 2004 can also be attributed to the huge public outcry following the deaths of Kendra James (nearly 4 months before the PARC report came out, with a pause of 169 days before the next incident) and of James Jahar Perez (after which there was not a shooting for 239 days--the second-longest period since 1991).

    Their claim also fails to hold up regarding the average number of shootings, since they began in 1997 to show a 10-year trend, when just prior to this time in 1996 there were only 5 shootings and in 1995 there was 1.

    But most telling of all is that PARC's report itself in the introduction clearly states that nobody reading the report should expect that any but one of the cases covered in any of the reports were influenced in any way by their recommendations, which didn't go into effect until September of 2003 (p. 4). In other words, the IPR's claim has no foundation whatsoever in the report which it accompanied.

    Beyond those facts, one of PARC's recommendations which was adopted, restricting officers' ability to shoot at moving vehicles (2003 #7.15), was apparently ignored last January when Lt. Jeffrey Kaer shot and killed Dennis Young in a car Young was driving.

    --The authors of the report and the community are not adequately involved in the report's presentation

    PARC explicitly points out that they are not able to comment on the responses from the Mayor and Chief published as part of the report (p. 9). In addition, the request for PARC to send a staff person to publicly present the report to the City was dropped for financial reasons. Oren Root told community members last year that they would be willing to send someone if the City were willing to spend the relatively small amount to make it happen. Apparently, this invitation was not extended this year.

    The members of the community who met with PARC last April, including members of the Citizen Review Committee, were not informed when the report was going to be released in early January. Public notification was sent out roughly 17 hours before the scheduled Council hearing, and the report was released only one hour prior to that time.

    We believe that if the Bureau, the Mayor, the IPR, and the City Attorney get to see drafts of the report, the CRC should also have input prior to its publication.

    --The content of the report was kept out of the public eye, like much of the information about the cases reviewed

    We have described above the rather absurd position the community faces when being asked to comment on particular cases being reviewed by PARC if we cannot know the names of the suspects in those cases. Similarly, the news release and the Executive Summary released by the IPR do not address the actual content of the recommendations made in the report.

    We thank the City Council for delaying the hearing on the PARC report so that community members would have time to make informed comments on the actual content.

    At their news conference, the IPR and the Auditor added to their "average number of shootings" chart by pointing to a survey of how well Portlanders felt the City handled complaints against the police. The numbers have improved recently, but are still below 50%. But more significantly, this information again had nothing to do with the content of the report.
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    When the IPR was created, it was promised to improve police service and restore trust in government (IPR ordinance, section 1). It was intended to "improve effective communication" between citizens and the Police Bureau (section 2). The previous system, PIIAC, was called the community's "window into the Police Bureau." Much of the time, it feels as if the IPR has installed a new window that is not transparent, and is frequently shut.

    We encourage the City to take a closer look at the entire IPR system, as they have had $60,000 set aside since June, 2005 to do. Council should consider assigning shootings reviews to an independent local body including civilians who live in Portland and who can analyze both police policies for best practices and Portland Police policies for what is best for our community. We strongly believe that further integration of the civilian oversight panels, and looking holistically at police actions ranging from mere rudeness to the use of deadly force, is the only way to begin gaining the public's confidence that the system is serving its purpose of holding police accountable and improving police services.

    --Dan Handelman
    for Portland Copwatch

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    *The letter was co-signed by members of the NW Constitutional Rights Center, the Portland Schools Alliance, and the Latino Network.
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    **The 9 "Done" recommendations: 6.1, 6.8, 6.10, 6.14, 6.15, 6.18, 8.2, 8.2, 8.5
    The 2 "Done in spirit": 6.9, 6.19
    The 4 partially done or in progress: 6.2, 6.4, 6.5, 8.4
    The 4 implemented but not written into protocols or PARC can't tell: 6.3, 6.6, 6.12, 6.17
    The 6 which are not done: 6.7, 6.11, 6.13, 6.16, 6.20, 8.1
    (Commander as non-voting member, written findings to the Chief, investigators take lead in presenting case, include policy/tactical comments, awards committee send information to UFRB, analyze trends in shootings data)
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    ***In our original posting of this analysis, we assumed that the suspect in the case where a complaint of retaliation was filed was Dustin Gomez. We also assumed that the officer in that case, George Weseman, was the one awarded with a medal before his case had been reviewed. We wrote: "Since his action of shooting blindly at Gomez endangered the public (p. 55) this should have figured into the new awards process. "
    We stand by the assertion that Officer Weseman should not have received an award given these circumstances, but apologize for any error.
    It should be strongly noted that the main reason we made this mistake was that the Auditor refuses to allow PARC to print or reveal the names of officers and suspects in the cases, as noted in our analysis. In fact, it was Oren Root of PARC who drew our attention to these errors in a phone call on February 5, but he was unable to identify for us the correct names.
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    Portland Copwatch
    a project of Peace and Justice Works
    PO Box 42456
    Portland, OR 97242
    (503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120

    Portland Copwatch shootings and deaths in custody page

    Portland Copwatch home page

    Peace and Justice Works home page

    Posted January 23, 2006; updated February 6, 2007