Analysis of OIR Group's January 2019 Report on Portland Police Shootings by Portland
Table of contents
March 12, 2019
SIXTEEN YEARS LATER, PPB SHOOTINGS STILL QUESTIONABLE
In 2003, the same year Kendra James, an unarmed 21-year-old African American woman was shot
and killed by a Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officer, the city received its first report looking at
officer involved shootings and deaths in custody. That report by the Police Assessment Resource
Center (PARC) included a recommendation for officers involved in deadly force incidents to be
interviewed immediately after a shooting. The most recent Report, issued in late January 2019 by
the OIR Group, continues to hammer away at this point nearly sixteen years later. Portland
Copwatch (PCW) issued a brief analysis of the 2019 Report in early February, this is a more
OIR Group's 2019 Report Addresses Tactical, Policy Issues and Touches on Race
The OIR Report includes a lot of information that the community had not previously known. The
narratives still report the actions of suspects as fact, even though they are derived from the
testimony of involved officers and, sometimes, eyewitnesses-- but rarely the suspects themselves.
Obviously in cases where people died-- six of the nine incidents reviewed in the Report-- that is not
possible. Even so, OIR presents several of the cases in a way that implies officers violated policy
and/or training, most significantly in the deaths of Quanice Hayes and Terrell Johnson. While OIR
is still unwilling to explicitly look at PPB actions as products of Racial Profiling (such as when
they ignored the implications of the Gang Enforcement Team pulling over Keaton Otis for driving
the wrong kind of car in 2010), they do take some time in the foreword of the Report to note the
distrust of police by the African American community. They encourage the Bureau to engage in
"honest dialogue, receptivity to feedback, transparency and a demonstrable willingness to evolve and
improve." This should have been broken out as a formal recommendation. PCW supports these
ideas, but urges the Bureau to state clearly that until they figure out a way to police non-violently,
there could be another shooting. This would keep a clear delineation between the (indeed) public
relations of the Chief "skipping rope with youngsters" (as cited by OIR) and what it really means to
be a part of the community. Our friends don't kill each other, and even if they did they would likely
be held accountable in a court of law, a kind of accountability which the police in Portland never
The fact is, if a civilian body tasked with reviewing the deadly force cases at the time they happened
used the same expertise and lenses as the OIR Group, there likely would be more examples of
officers being found out of policy and perhaps even disciplined.*-1
In the last Report, OIR took aim at an important aspect of deadly force cases not directly in the
City's control: the biased way in which the District Attorney presents cases to Grand Juries. This
time, they look at yet another institutional apologist for police shootings: the State Medical
Examiner's office. Echoing community concerns, they urge the Bureau to convince the ME not to
label officer-involved shooting deaths as "suicides" (Recommendation #15).
OIR also has suggestions around the secretive, internal Police Review Board (PRB), focusing on
making sure they do thorough analysis, follow up on their recommendations and receive training...
but not the issue that the police treat the civilian members as uninformed because they are not
One tremendously helpful part of the new Report is a table listing all 50 cases the OIR Group has
reviewed since taking over for PARC in 2010. They note that 13 of the 50 people subjected to
deadly force were African American, but do not go further to note this means 26% of people shot or
shot at in Portland are black in a city with a 6% African American population. Much like the PPB's
poor excuse for analysis of stop data, there is no explanation why the disparity is so high.
Similarly, they note that 29 of the 50 people "had a history of mental health issues or were
experiencing some type of mental health crisis." That is 58% of all the subjects who were subjected
to police deadly force. While some may argue that number should be higher to reflect reality, the
salient point here is that beginning in late 2012, the US Department of Justice has been ushering in
reforms to reduce PPB use of force on people with mental illness. The data here show what PCW
and others have been saying for years: the reforms are not making enough of a difference. In the 33
cases they reviewed dating 2004-2012, 55% (18) involved mental health issues. In the 17 cases
since 2013-- post DOJ-- that number is 65% (11).
Significantly, three of the nine incidents in the report happened in 2017 (with one in 2014, three in
2015 and two in 2016), marking among the shortest turnaround times for the policy-related reviews
of these most serious cases. In past years the recommendations were coming three or more years
afterward. Nonetheless, as OIR itself points out, a major change in PPB investigations-- requiring
officers to be interviewed within 48 hours (rather than more than 48 hours later)-- did not happen
until mid-2017. Without a contemporaneous analysis of deadly force events and investigations,
these outside analyses are still coming later than they should to improve the situation in Portland.
Nonetheless, PCW supports most of the OIR's 40 recommendations. Copwatch urges the Citizen
Review Committee (CRC) to get involved in ensuring the recommendations are appropriate for
Portland and are being implemented properly, as required under City Code 3.21.070 L. The OIR
report can be found at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/ipr/article/711306.
TRENDS AND LONGSTANDING CONCERNS
In addition to the items listed above, there are other trends that the OIR Group either did not notice
or finally got around to addressing.
For example, tied to the issue of Portland's racist history, PCW notes that after a break of nearly 7
years after the controversial deaths of Aaron Campbell and Keaton Otis, no African Americans were
killed by the PPB until early 2017. Perhaps related to the election of Donald Trump, there have
been four such deaths in just two years: Hayes and Johnson in early 2017 (five and eight months
before Wheeler hired Danielle Outlaw, an African American woman, as Chief) and Patrick
Kimmons and Andre Gladen in September 2018 and January 2019. Another African American
man, Chase Peeples, was shot and wounded in October 2017. Thus, just looking at Feb 2017 to Jan
2019, five out of 15 incidents, or 33%, involved African American suspects.
OIR reported formally on the three cases in which officers walked backward and tripped, which
precipitated their (or their partners') decision to use deadly force: Terrell Johnson, David Ellis and
Nicholas Davis may all be alive if the officers had followed what the PPB says is their training,
which is to go sideways instead of backward. PCW raised this issue following OIR's 2016 report.
OIR recommends emphasizing "lateral movement techniques" in the Bureau's training (#37).
Interestingly, the Report states that Officer Jose Jiminez, who fell over and was supposedly stabbed
by Ellis, only received "minor injuries," contradicting the Bureau's narrative. On the other hand,
OIR describes Ellis' knife as having a four inch blade, while the photo released by the PPB shows
the actual blade, not the handle, is only about 2.5 inches long. In the Terrell Johnson case, Officer
Ajir claims he fell over after Johnson slashed at him with a knife, but it is not clear whether any
video of or witnesses to the incident confirmed this claim. Ajir said he fired his gun while he was
falling and again after he had gotten back up, though OIR says video shows he fired while he was
on the ground. They think this is an example of faulty memory, though it is more likely Ajir was
trying to save face.
The Report recommends (#3) that the PPB put mug shots and criminal histories of those shot by
police in the back of investigative report files rather than the fronts. Ideally, unless the criminal
history was known to the officers at the time, that information should not be in the files at all, but
the fact that the PPB agreed to move the information back is a good start.
In 2016, OIR recommended that the Bureau define "cover fire" in the force Directive to be clear
when the controversial practice can be used, repeating that recommendation here (#16) based on the
case where they shot at (but did not hit) Timothy Bucher in May 2016. PCW made this
recommendation to the Bureau in March 2013.
PCW has also repeatedly pointed out over the years when officers involved in reviewed shootings
had previously been involved in other incidents, sometimes with similar characteristics. OIR has
now been taking note of this trend and specifically recommends for a second time (after their 2016
report) "consider[ing] any prior uses of deadly force," looking for "parallels between the officer's
tactical decision making" (#39), and debriefing, re-training and/or imposing "corrective action" on
the officer (#40). Just in this report, they note, Officer Russ Corno, who was involved in two
shootings they reviewed three years ago, was involved in the death of Michael Johnson, and Officer
Andrew Hearst, who killed Quanice Hayes, was involved in the shooting of Merle Hatch in 2013.
OIR returns to the problem of officers not rendering medical aid soon enough to people who have
been shot. Recommendation #2 asks that reviewers make sure other strategies could be used to get
aid to subjects quicker; PCW notes that the PPB also should be sure officers followed the policy.
One other ongoing issue, which PCW has noted for years, and which was brought up to City
Council by CRC after an officer from another agency refused to be interviewed in a misconduct
case, is the problem when multiple jurisdictions are involved in shootings. This was highlighted by
the Terrell Johnson case, where Officer Samson Ajir was assigned to the Transit Division along
with his brother, a Clackamas County Deputy. OIR recommended not only that tactical decisions of
any officer, even non-PPB officers, be considered (#30), but also not to assign officers to work with
close family members (#31). They also suggest training and debriefing officers from all agencies in
the Transit Division to ensure they all are prepared for and learn from critical incidents (#27 and
OFFICERS MAY HAVE VIOLATED POLICY / TRAINING: OVERSIGHT ISSUES
The OIR's contract with the city through the Independent Police Review (IPR) limits them to
looking at policies, training, hiring, equipment and management (City Code 3.21. 020[U]). IPR
itself is allowed to conduct "independent" investigations, but for deadly force incidents all they can
do is show up on the scene, then observe the Bureau's actions and interviews (Directive 1010,
Section 126.96.36.199). For its part, the Citizen Review Committee, which can hear appeals about any kind
of misconduct case where the complainant feels a non-sustained finding should be sustained (found
out of policy) against an officer is not supposed to hear appeals of deadly force cases (DOJ
Agreement, Paragraph 43). In part this is because the Bureau refers to investigations of deadly force
as "reviews" rather than "administrative investigations" and limits the findings to "In Policy / Out of
Policy" rather than the four findings available in all other misconduct cases.
With all that as a backdrop, the new OIR Report hints very strongly that Officer Hearst may have
violated policy and/or training when he shot Quanice Hayes and that Officer Ajir likely committed
multiple violations in the shooting of Terrell Johnson.
In Hayes' case, the officers gave 17-year-old Hayes conflicting commands about crawling on his
hands and knees and also having his hands in the air, with one officer reporting Hayes complained
he could not do both. Issues also included failing to take cover and not deciding which officer
would be the one to give commands. PCW's reading of the report is that the confusion caused by
this lack of a plan led directly to the Officer Hearst's decision that Hayes was defying police orders
and killing him.
In Johnson's case, Officer Ajir appears to have violated several facets of the foot pursuit policy, but
that was never considered in the so-called "review" of the young man's death. OIR has pointed out
previously that foot pursuits often end with officer violence and thus should follow strict
limitations. Though those limitations are in PPB policy, Ajir went after Johnson alone, did not radio
in his location, and lost sight of the suspect. When he caught up with Johnson, he found he was in
close quarters, which led to his backing up, tripping, and then shooting and killing the 24-year old.
OIR points out that the review did not include the question of possible violations of the foot pursuit
policy, recommending that specifically be part of deadly force investigations (#28).
The most important observations that OIR makes about the oversight system is that the Police
Review Board does not act as the independent check on officer involved shootings that it is
supposed to be. In multiple cases, they note issues that were either not discussed or not addressed
thoroughly by the PRB, an internal body composed of four PPB personnel, an IPR staff member,
and two civilians.*-2 In addition to adding foot pursuits (#28) and prior
shootings (#39) to PRB's review, OIR asks that they consider tactical decisions made leading up to
shootings (#32), any training issues the Training Division finds were not "sound and effective"
(#33), and recommendations from Training and the officer's Commander (#34). They further ask
the Chief to formally respond to all PRB recommendations and act on them (#35).
The one area PCW takes issue with OIR's recommendations on the Review Board is their
suggestion for all members of the Board to take training (#36). The Chief indicated she already
assigned the Bureau's Professional Standards Division to find a facilitator to train the civilian (and
police) members of the PRB. However, the experiences expressed by Citizen Review Committee
members who have been seated on PRBs indicate that the problem isn't so much a lack of training
as it is a prejudice by the police, who run and dominate the PRB process, against civilians' input.
The implication is that people who are not police cannot offer valid criticisms of officer conduct.
This is nonsense, of course-- not only do juries offer such critiques on a daily basis, but for
example one does not have to be a doctor to know you don't leave a surgical implement in
someone's abdomen after surgery. In other words, the facilitators themselves need to be better
trained to ensure such bias is not allowed at the hearings.
The OIR asks whether Sergeants who put themselves into tactical scenarios they were supervising
should have been disciplined, repeating a recommendation to incorporate such discipline into policy
(#18) and making a new one asking the reviewers of deadly force cases to look at possible policy
violations by the supervisors (#19). In the case where officers were in a standoff with Timothy
Bucher, Sergeant Jim Darby*-3 moved himself close to Bucher, leaving
a place where he was protected by an armored vehicle, went close to Bucher's home which was filled
with tear gas and became overwhelmed by the gas, and fired his gun five times without being able to
see what he was hitting. Bucher was not wounded by police gunfire. Sgt. Kyle Nice *-4 grabbed his AR-15 assault rifle during the time officers were trying to
get Quanice Hayes to surrender, leaving his supervisory role.
In the Michael Johnson case, an officer who was involved in the incident as part of the SERT team
was also part of the investigating team, which should never happen. OIR asks the Bureau to make
that a policy-- it seems odd that it is not already (#13).
When Officer Lawrence Keller*-5 ended up shooting and killing Steven
Liffel, Sgt. John Holbrook*-6 failed to call for a negotiating team early on, even though there was no
immediate threat when he and Keller first arrived, but that failure was not discussed by reviewers
(other than OIR).
In a footnote, OIR reveals that investigators stopped looking into the Healy case 50 days before the
180 day timeline to finish investigations even though not all witnesses had been interviewed. This
should have been in the main body of the Report as it is quite disturbing. One witness never
responded to police contacts about the shooting, it is likely they would have responded better to a
civilian investigating agency than to the police. OIR comes close to this idea by suggesting IPR
should use it subpoena power to get people to talk to Internal Affairs (#8). The better plan would be
to let IPR or another civilian group run the investigation or conduct at least the civilian interviews.
Side note: The Chief's response indicates the Bureau is already having IPR subpoena civilian
Another important item highlighted by both the Training Division and OIR is that the officer in
charge of the Michael Johnson incident was Robin Dunbar, who was there in the capacity of an
acting Sergeant, but she had not yet been to Sergeant's academy to learn about critical incident
The OIR Group reveals various other issues that were not reviewed by the PRB and others. PCW
thinks the reviewers should have asked:
--whether it was appropriate to fire 19 tear gas canisters into Bucher's mobile home; and
--why officers didn't think about using a bullhorn to try talking to Michael Johnson (even though
one was used, albeit unsuccessfully, trying to talk to Merle Hatch about four years earlier).
In their 2016 Report, OIR told the Bureau to stop using the term "suicide by cop" as it implies that
there was a pre-determined outcome driven by the suspect.*-7 PCW
commends the OIR Group for the new Report, which cautions the Bureau against using the phrase
"the officer had no other option," which similarly implies the officers were unable to make a choice
about using deadly force (#25).
As noted above, the Report calls out the Medical Examiner for ruling Michael Johnson's death a
suicide despite the fact that he was killed by Portland Police bullets. OIR raises the excellent
question of why a District Attorney would even have to hold a Grand Jury if the community
member killed themselves. PCW has long been concerned about the ME's role in downplaying
officer responsibility in deadly force incidents and hope the City follows through on this issue.
OIR also calls into question two officer memes which have been debunked, yet surface from time to
time to justify deadly force. One is the "21 foot rule" where cops, thinking a person holding a sharp
object can rush and injure them if they are less than 21 feet away, fire their weapons even if there is
no imminent threat. OIR addressed this already in 2016, but raises the issue again (#6) since
Officer Thomas Clark used the concept to justify his shooting at Christopher Healy, a houseless
man who allegedly confronted officers with a knife.
The other is the "action / reaction principle" which is related to what PCW has referred to in the
past as the "Superman theory," that says a suspect can draw a weapon, point and fire it before an
officer can draw their own gun in self-defense. Officer Hearst claimed that he shot Quanice Hayes
because he feared Hayes could draw and fire a weapon before the police had a chance to respond.
The OIR does a great job of debunking this claim (#24), but misses the key salient point: Officer
Hearst had his AR-15 pointed at Hayes at the time, meaning he already had the tactical advantage
which the "action / reaction" theory uses as its premise.
Regarding the Don Perkins non-fatal shooting the same day Hayes was killed, the OIR Group
describes officers fetching less lethal weapons as a form of "de-escalation." As we have written
many times, de-escalation should only be used to describe using words and body language to lower
the tension in a confrontation. Doing something to use less force once force is applied (or less
force than the maximum possible) should be called "mitigation of force." As a side note, the Report
reveals that when officers first approached Perkins, his hands were empty-- even though officers
ultimately shot him because he supposedly reached for a replica gun.
In describing the foot pursuit after Terrell Johnson, OIR notes that disengaging from a pursuit does
not mean the police are letting the "bad guy" go. Although they also use scare quotes here, PCW
continues to discourage the use of the term "bad guy" to describe what is at best a criminal suspect
and at worst a criminal. Just as officers cannot shoot guns out of people's hands in the movies, the
concept of "good guys" and "bad guys" is not based in reality.
As a point of clarification, OIR's discussion of video improperly shown to officers at roll call in the
Bucher case implies that PPB air support is a helicopter. Unless something has changed, the
Bureau has two fixed-wing airplanes that they use for surveillance. Regardless, OIR is quite right to
reaffirm that videos should not be shown before all Bureau witnesses have been interviewed (#20).
One final note on language: PCW has stated before and still believes that Portland's version of a
SWAT team should be referred to as the Special Emergency Response Team, rather than the
Special Emergency Reaction Team. It's much better to respond than to be reactionary.
POLICE ASSOCIATION CONTRACT RULES ALL
The OIR Group's suggestion that officer interviews be video recorded (#10) led the Chief to say
such a change would require collective bargaining. While PCW is not sure why video versus audio
makes for a mandatory bargaining issue, it is telling that the Bureau was willing to open up
negotiations right away for this issue while the City continues to drag their heels on changing the
Citizen Review Committee's standard of review, partly based on the assertion that the PPA has to
negotiate over that item as well. If the various issues surrounding the contract-- including that IPR
and CRC should be able to investigate and hear appeals on deadly force cases-- were consolidated,
such piecemeal bargaining would not keep happening.
As noted above, OIR states over and over that all of these cases happened before the City fixed the
"48 hour rule" to require officers to be interviewed _within_ 48 hours of a shooting rather than
_after_ those two days.*-8 The District Attorney's understandable concern about not tainting a
criminal investigation with compelled administrative testimony, however, seems to have led to a few
side effects, one of which is in the Report: several officers refused to be interviewed by homicide
detectives, and instead spoke for the first time to the Grand Jury on the criminal question. In the
Quanice Hayes case, the Grand Jury took place over a month after the incident.*-9 The other is that the community has been getting a lot less information
from the Bureau immediately after shootings, which leads to unrest and speculation. The City needs
to meet immediately with the DA after deadly force incidents to formulate a presentation which
doesn't jeopardize the process, but which lets people know what is going on. (Not that the DA has
successfully prosecuted an officer for an on duty shooting in the last 50 years anyway.)
INVOLVE COMMUNITY VOICES, AND SOONER
The OIR's report was finished early enough that the Chief issued a response dated January 17.
There is no reason the community shouldn't have been given copies right away after that rather than
15 days later.
Moreover, the City is always talking about Community Engagement and Community Policing, but
the community had no direct voice in the recommendations made by OIR. Most of the
recommendations are useful and are concepts Portland Copwatch can support-- in fact, several of
them are ideas PCW has made for years. However, recommendations such as the one asking for
more training for Police Review Board members would be best served by a community discussion
The lack of community input is only compounded by Mayor Wheeler's policy not to allow public
input on Reports. Fortunately, because Donna Hayes, grandmother of Quanice Hayes, was present
to testify on February 6, the Mayor also allowed the AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform
and Portland Copwatch to say a few words. Despite the Mayor stating this should not be a
precedent, it should be clear that the discussion at Council was richer because of the public input
Portland Copwatch continues to urge the PPB will slow down implementation until there has been a
reasonable period of time for community and advisory groups to look at the recommendations,
similar to the 45 days total people are given to review proposed Directives. As PCW noted in the
discussion about OIR's contract, the Report was released right after a four month period
(September to January) in which the PPB was involved in more deadly force incidents than any
entire year since 2006, when James Chasse was killed. As OIR points out in their
*1- The only officer fired for use of deadly force whose firing was not overturned was Dane
Reister, who loaded live rounds into a "beanbag" shotgun and permanently injured William Monroe
in 2011. Reister was facing possible criminal charges when he killed himself.
Back to text
*2- The PRBs for deadly force and other high profile cases involve one civilian from a pool of
about 15 and one member of the CRC. On lower-level cases, there are only five members-- three
from the PPB, one from IPR and one from the civilian pool.
Back to text
*3- Darby was one of the officers who piled on Richard "Dickie" Dow in 1998, which led to the
man, who had schizophrenia, dying the next day.
Back to text
*4- Nice was one of the officers involved in the beating of James Chasse, Jr., leading to his death in
Back to text
*5- Keller was also involved in the October 2000 shooting of 19-year-old Justyn Gallegos and
fired a Taser at the wounded body of Dennis Lamar Young after Lt. Jeffrey Kaer shot him.
Back to text
*6- Holbrook was one of the two officers who shot and killed Brad Lee Morgan in January 2012.
Back to text
*7- Unfortunately, OIR uses that term in a section heading of the Michael Johnson case, albeit in
Back to text
*8- OIR credits IPR with pushing the City to fix the 48 hour rule after the DA tried to get Internal
Affairs to wait until after the Grand Jury, while it was the community taking action that helped make
Back to text
*9- OIR lists this as being 47 days later, but since their timeline on the case shows the Grand Jury
ended 40 days after the incident, it was probably 37 days.
Back to text
and deaths page
Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice
Works home page
Posted March 12, 2019