Since our last issue, the Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee (PIIAC) has been very busy, holding two special sessions on policy issues, and hearing an appeal involving a "knock and talk" gone bad (no, not that one).

Informal Session: Chief Maintains Final Word on Misconduct

In an "informal session" on February 10, the Citizen Advisors raised serious questions with City Council, Chief Moose, the Police Association and others. The main issue, whether the Chief should retain the power to decline recommended findings made by PIIAC and City Council, was left in a sad state of affairs.

After having their recommendations to sustain complaints of misconduct rejected by the Chief twice, PIIAC discussed the idea that the City Council's vote should be final. This proposal got watered down to a suggestion that the Chief should appear before Council when he disagrees with such a finding.

At the informal session, Chief Moose decried the idea of coming before Council as a "mockery." Yet at the same time, he named some possible reasons he might exonerate an officer for misconduct, such as if the officer came in the Chief's office and cried. One might consider the ability of officers to do such a thing a mockery of the system.

When the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) decision is being reviewed by City Council, the public expects to have all the information available. In some cases, information comes to light after the Citizen Advisors have reviewed the case and the City Council hears an appeal, leading to an officer's exoneration. As long as that is possible, it cannot be denied that the current investigatory and review system is flawed.

Commissioner Erik Sten pointed out that the Mayor, as Commissioner of Police, has the ultimate authority to force the Chief to change his finding. Unfortunately, in the two cases overturned by the Chief--and in fact in all three cases where the Citizen Advisors have requested sustained complaints--the Mayor was the only person to vote against changing the Police Bureau's findings.

We wonder whether the Mayor will ever disagree with the Bureau's findings, or if she would be willing to contradict the Chief even if she did. We would prefer the decision rest in the hands of an elected group, such as the entire council, rather than those of a single person.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Katz promised to put together a citizens' panel (undefined) to assist in the rewriting of current City Code regarding PIIAC. We hope Copwatch can be a part of that process. We also hope you, our readers, will get involved by voicing your opinions to the Mayor (823-4120). You may also want to testify in City Council when the proposed changes are discussed and voted on.

PIIAC'S Monitoring Report Shows Insight

PIIAC also released their fourth quarter 1997 monitoring report, which included some good recommendations regarding external review, and some disturbing information about how the Chief of Police handles Internal Affairs cases.

"Not Sustained": PIIAC had expressed concern that Chief Moose reversed a sustained finding during "mitigation," a process in which officers can come in to request reduced discipline. In his reply, Moose used the term "not sustained" as a finding in one case and as a proposed outcome in the future. There are 6 possible outcomes for Internal Affairs cases (at this time) and "not sustained" is not one of them. Moose's introduction of this new term brings up numerous questions, especially how this finding will get recorded in the officer's history. If a case is "not sustained" and dropped from an officer's record, can a pattern of behavior be traced?

Off-Duty Conduct: It's important that police be involved in the community--as citizens. Two recent PIIAC cases involved police using their position of power in personal disputes. In one, an off-duty officer wrote a police report on his neighbor, whose children were making noise late one night (see PPR #13). In the other, an off-duty officer turned in the name of a woman whose car may have hit his car's bumper, so that the DMV would subject her to a re-test.

PIIAC's monitoring report does not emphasize strongly enough the inherent power imbalance in any situation where an ordinary citizen realizes they are arguing with a police officer. PIIAC did recommend the creation of more specific guidelines for off-duty officers. These changes should be very specific as to when it is appropriate for an officer to identify him or herself as an officer, and when it is or is not appropriate for him or her to get involved in a situation in which a police report, citation, or arrest may be generated.

CASE #97-22: Even More Reasons PIIAC Needs to Be Changed

In a second special session in late February, the Citizen Advisors discussed their own internal rules and regulations.

The Advisors agreed on the importance of preparing appellants in advance of PIIAC hearings. Sadly, when one such person asked Copwatch to testify on her behalf for a PIIAC appeal at City Council, we were denied permission to do so.

PIIAC case #97-22 involves a woman (let's call her Ms. 97-22) who was approached in a "knock and talk" situation (see articles on the Steven Dons case for more on knock and talks). Standing up for her rights, she asked the several police officers who came to her door to get a search warrant.

Soon thereafter, the one officer in the "Marijuana Task Force" from Vancouver, WA climbed up on a neighbor's fence, to get closer to the appellant's back yard shed. The officer poked a hole in the shed, then reported that he smelled marijuana. Vancouver PD determined this officer's behavior undermined the search warrant process, and the charges against Ms. 97-22 and her husband were dropped.

The appellant told Portland's Internal Affairs that two of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)'s officers were in the area of the shed and probably saw the Vancouver officer's actions. The officers deny that it happened, though they admit being in the area. The appellant was asking PIIAC for the finding here, "unfounded," to be changed to "insufficient evidence," since nobody could prove whether the officers witnessed the illegal evidence gathering or not.

Ms. 97-22 was also yanked from her home when one of the PPB members asked if she still wanted them to get a warrant. As she leaned out to close the screen door, the officer pulled her out, leaving her young children inside. She asked for the finding in this issue--"exonerated"--to be changed to "sustained," with a special note that if, indeed, the officer's actions were within Bureau training and guidelines, those guidelines should be changed.

The Citizen Advisors to PIIAC voted to uphold IAD's findings, noting that Ms. 97-22 had gotten off on drug charges on a technicality. Unfortunately, this finding does not address the issue PIIAC was created to discuss--whether or not there was a thorough Internal Affairs investigation into possible police misconduct.

After the Advisors' meeting, Ms. 97-22 approached Copwatch for help with her appeal. Having attended and videotaped the Advisors' meeting, Copwatch member Dan Handelman felt that her case was badly mis-handled. After long deliberations concerning Copwatch's participation--how it would affect her credibility, our credibility, and the possibility that other PIIAC appellants might seek our assistance -- we decided to go ahead and testify.

At the March 11 Council hearing, the City Commissioners denied Handelman the right to testify on behalf of the complainant, citing lack of precedent, need to clarify the City Code, and the desire to hear directly from the appellant. (It is our feeling that they wanted the appellant to become agitated as she had in the past, and use her personality as a reason to deny her appeal.)

Despite the setback, the appellant presented her statement clearly and calmly. Then the Commissioners launched into what seemed like a cross-examination. "Exactly how many plants were there?" demanded Jim Francesconi, a lawyer, who should know better than to compel someone to make potentially incriminating statements.

"It seems to me that in this case, the system worked," said Francesconi, referring to an out-of-court settlement of $7000 made by the City of Vancouver for their officer's misconduct. But he ignored the fact that three Portland officers may also have committed acts of misconduct. Ultimately, all four Council members present that day voted to uphold the Bureau's findings.

Special notice should be made that despite the wording of PIIAC's letter to appellants--that "you do not have to publicly reveal your name," Ms. 97-22's name was written on the Council docket and used by the Mayor. When she pointed out that she had requested her name not be used, honest, friendly community police officer and Portland Police Association President Leo Painton urged ethical journalist and Rap Sheet editor Loren Christensen to hop up and take her picture. This act of brazen disrespect by Portland's police "union" leadership brings more attention to the fact that Officers' names are not used, and if they are used by accident, the officers themselves are not at the hearings to request otherwise.

Perhaps the officers involved should be required to appear and be subjected to the same cross- examination as the appellants.

For more information on PIIAC, call 823-4126. Ask us for more details on analysis of PIIAC's reports and case reviews.

Address concerns to: Mayor Vera Katz, 823-4120;

Commissioner Jim Francesconi, 823-3008; Commissioner Charlie Hales, 823-4681; Commssioner Gretchen Kafoury, 823-4151; or Commssioner Erik Sten, 823-3589.

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