The Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee (PIIAC) came under sharp criticism last year after two of their recommendations for sustained findings of police misconduct were overturned by the Chief of Police (see PPRs #13 & 14).

As a result, City Council held an "informal" session* in February with members of PIIAC, the Police Bureau, and the Portland Police Association, and decided to rewrite the current City Ordinance with the help of a community task force.

At this time we have been informed the task force is being put together.

Unfortunately, it is unclear whether this task force will be able to write an ordinance which will make a true difference in how PIIAC operates. The City Council said nothing at their "informal" about allowing PIIAC to investigate allegations of police misconduct. Instead, they want to continue having PIIAC review Police Internal Affairs investigations and hear appeals from civilian complainants (the number of which have declined dramatically since the Chief's two "vetos").

Also, there is not a satisfactory proposal to solve the problem that PIIAC's findings are merely recommendations, though PIIAC, technically, is City Council--our elected officials! Mayor Katz's current proposal is to require the Chief to write down his reasons for rejecting a "sustained" finding and having that written notice read into the public record.

It seems that with the opportunity to re-write city code, now is an excellent time for the community to come forward and express its need for a true Civilian Review Board, one which at the very least has the final say in cases of clear violations of Police Procedures or General Orders.

To their credit, PIIAC has been much more active and more willing to be critical of the police since the 1994 "Mayor's Initiative" did some minor restructuring. To our credit, the work we have done at Copwatch and the efforts of our supporters has brought us this far.

Now is the time for the community to demand some true reforms.

What can you do?

  • Contact the Mayor and demand the task force on PIIAC take community input on revisions when they are re-writing the city code.
  • Work with Copwatch to focus considerable energy on pushing for reforms as an individual or representing your organization.
  • If you or your organization are willing to at least write a letter, or include information about PIIAC in your own newsletter (or on e-mail), we will let you know appropriate messages, targeted individuals, and actions to take as they come up.
  • PIIAC Wrongly Censors Taping of Handcuffing Demonstration

    The April PIIAC meeting was held in Multnomah Village. During this meeting, Copwatch member Dan Handelman, who also attends these meetings as a member of Flying Focus Video Collective, was asked to turn his camcorder off during a handcuffing demonstration by the Portland Police Bureau. PIIAC Chair Charles Ford and staff member Lisa Botsko, along with the two armed officers from the Training Bureau, informed Dan that either he could turn the camera off after the police finished their verbal presentation, or the Committee would go into "executive session" for the entire time, making it illegal for Handelman to tape. They stated that it was Bureau policy not to allow training sessions to be video taped. Dan agreed under protest to tape only the verbal segments.

    After the meeting was over, he consulted an attorney and some rule books, and checked with the Bureau, who have no written policy prohibiting the taping of training demonstrations. It turned out that PIIAC had no right to go into executive session, which is reserved for sensitive personnel or medical issues. The City Attorney's office looked at the issue and informed PIIAC's Botsko that it would be wise to let people tape these demonstrations until the rules are clarified.

    While this is a minor victory of sorts, we fear it will only push the police to codify the secrecy of their maneuvers. That would be a blow to the alleged goals of community policing. The reason PIIAC was getting the demonstration in the first place is that too many citizens were complaining about being handcuffed--or handcuffed too tightly--and the advisors wanted to see what standard procedures really are. Wouldn't it benefit the community to know what the cops are doing so they could either (a) know not to complain if the procedure seems reasonable or (b) work to get the procedure changed if it is cruel and harmful?

    For more info, contact the PPB Training Bureau at 823-0316, or the Oregon Government Standards and Practice Commission at (503) 378-5105 or PIIAC at 823-4126.
    For more information on the re-writing of the PIIAC ordinance, call the Mayor's office at 823-4120.
    Ask us for more details on analysis of PIIAC's structure and how it could be more effective.
    *--An "informal" session means the Council can discuss an issue but cannot take a vote, and they do not have to take public testimony.

    People's Police Report #15 Table of Contents
    People's Police Report Index Page
    Return to Copwatch home page