a project of Peace and Justice Works
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
Concerns about PARC report on Portland Police shootings and deaths in custody
Last August, the Police Assessment Resource Center released a report on Portland's Police shootings and deaths in custody (January 1997-June 2000). The report contained 89 recommendations. Portland Copwatch expressed concerns about the report at that time, and has updated that list of concerns below. In addition, Copwatch has analyzed the Portland Police Bureau's most recent response to the report (a May 11, 2004 matrix), noting that of the 89 recommendations, at best 17 of them have been completed as recommended. A more detailed analysis is available in a separate document which is posted on our website at http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/p arcmatrix0604.html.
PARC members will be in Portland on June 28-29 to collect community input and begin work on the July 2000-December 2001 report.
Below are the concerns about the PARC report itself and how the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) and the Auditor (who oversees the IPR) went about the process. New and revised material is indicated in paragraphs beginning with a ">".
1. Lack of Analysis of Police Interactions with Communities of Color
Although the report clearly shows that African American and Latino suspects are shot at twice the rate of their proportion to the general population, it concludes that there are "no indications of racial or ethnic bias" (p. 18). This is the totality of any such consideration given in the report to the role of race in these shootings.
>This is particularly of concern since of the last 5 police shootings, 4 of the victims have been people of color (Kendra James, Eddie Homsombath, Jose Angel Padilla, James Jahar Perez). Two of those victims were unarmed.
2. Lack of Respect for the Community
In the overall report, the word "community" appears only about a dozen times and only once or twice in the context of how police actions may or may not build trust.
To their credit, PARC recommends that the Bureau should create a policy limiting the circumstances in which police can draw their weapons. They note that in Los Angeles, the policy states that "prematurely drawing or exhibiting a firearm limits an officer's alternatives, ...creates unnecessary anxiety on the part of the citizens, and may result in an unwarranted or accidental discharge" (p. 39). Chief Kroeker's response is to disagree with the recommendation, agreeing only to require an officer to report when a firearm is drawn (response p. 4).
>Unfortunately, Chief Foxworth has compromised on this recommendation and is merely asking officers to document times they draw their weapons and point them. There is no mention of a new policy limiting officers' reliance on firearms.
3. Lack of Respect for the Process
> The City Auditor, in an effort to address concerns by community members and members of the Citizen Review Committee who believed the CRC should have purview over shootings and deaths cases, promised they would be involved in reviewing the PARC report.
>That did not happen for three reasons: The first is that the Auditor and Independent Police Review Division Director Richard Rosenthal interpreted this promise to mean the CRC would review the report AFTER it had been published. The second is that 5 of the 9 CRC members resigned in frustration just days before the PARC report was released; after the CRC was re-staffed with new members, the report was never discussed at the CRC again. The third reason is that Chief Kroeker created an entirely new review body in the wake of Kendra James' death, known as the Community Police Organizational Review Team (CPORT).
>To his credit, Chief Foxworth has reconsidered all of the recommendations that Chief Kroeker initially rejected. Unfortunately, the recommendations that have been adopted have not all been passed by any community groups nor do they necessarily reflect PARC's recommendations as written (see separate analysis).
4. Incomplete, Confusing and Contradictory Data
> For some reason, the PARC report refers to the specific cases without using the names of any officers or citizens. The citizens' names have all previously appeared in the newspaper and tracking specific cases to specific critiques would make the report easier to follow. A "Use of Deadly Force Report" generated in 1992 after the shooting of Nathan Thomas gave extraordinary details on all the shootings from 1988-1992, including officer names, how long they had been on the force, how many shots were fired, time of day, location, and whether the suspect was intoxicated or armed.
> We hoped that such a report would be part of PARC's publication.
> When we asked for such a list from the IPR, we only received the last names of the suspects and the officers, which, considering how many officers share the same last name, is not very useful for a community wishing to hold police accountable.
> The last report clearly used the cases of Duane White, who was shot and wounded by an officer who burst into his home and saw him holding a machete, and Richard "Dickie" Dow, a mentally ill 39-year-old who died after a struggle with police in 1998.
> We hope that, even though litigation is still pending in the Damon Lowery case from December 1999, PARC will review the case file on that incident. ( Lowery died after police shot him with lead- pellet bags, emptied pepper spray canisters on him, and stood on him while he was handcuffed and bleeding.)
Furthermore, the 2003 study involves 30 Portland Police shootings from 1997 to June, 2000 (and two shootings by Clark and Clackamas County deputies). This figure contradicts the Bureau's Kendra James report, which shows only 27 shootings in the entire four year period of 1997-2000 (Kendra James Community Forum report, p. 11). There is no explanation for the discrepancy.
Such confusion undercuts the credibility of PARC's report, which is unfortunate again given that some of the recommendations are ones Portland Copwatch supports.
5. Reasonable Requests Ignored
On the part of PARC, several recommendations made by Portland Copwatch and other community groups were ignored.
For example, rather than recommending that every officer be trained to de-escalate situations using Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, PARC only recommended that CIT officers be better deployed and never divert from their tactics (p. 207). While these recommendations make sense, they do not go far enough.
One other recommendation was to get input from advocates in the homeless/low income community. Similar to the lack of analysis on race, there is no analysis of income status in the report.
6. Failure to Highlight Crucial Information
The report acknowledges the fact that the Bureau destroyed records on many of the cases PARC reviewed, simply relating that Bureau policy only required a one-year retention for most records. They did not cross-check Oregon State law, which requires such records be kept for 75 years, and recommended only a 25 year retention (p. 217). The fact that the report was supposed to be a thorough analysis of the Bureau's investigations and these records were destroyed is significant and should not have been buried in the report.
Similarly, the report notes that in nearly half of the cases, the Bureau did not follow its own procedure in reviewing the actions of the involved officers (p. 159), and in 38 percent of the cases unit commanders and their subordinates did not file the appropriate after-action reports (p. 139). It states that ranking officers told them "There's not administrative review in this organization. People are afraid to ask hard questions. People are afraid to hurt feelings."
These are not meaningless statements made by disinterested parties. These are officers who have the power to take away citizens' lives, and who fail to hold one another accountable.
> We look forward to meeting with PARC as they gather information for their July 2000-December 2001 review. We are concerned that the information is being gathered in June, 2004, and that therefore the review should cover the period until June 2002, at least.
> We appreciate the effort that has been made to allow the community access to PARC and hope that access can be expanded to include a longer forum with more input, especially from the families who have been involved in these tragic incidents.
For more information contact Portland Copwatch at 503-236-3065.
To Portland Copwatch's analysis of the Bureau's PARC matrix
Posted June 27, 2004