"NEW" CITIZEN REVIEW BOARD
VOTES TO HEAR FIRST CASES
While IPR Director Continues to Weaken the System
Since their first meeting in December, 2003, Portland's "new" Citizen Review Committee (CRC) has
meetings, in which its nine members reviewed seven appeals regarding police misconduct and voted to
hearings only on the last two. Meanwhile, the Director of the "Independent" Police Review Division
oversees the functioning of the CRC, has been busy rewriting the rules of the committee to ensure it
weak and meaningless.
The first five appeals the CRC reviewed included two in which people of color alleged that the police
with disrespect because of their race. However, the multi-racial CRC declined to hear both of these
never voted to move a case on to a full hearing until the first officer ever to appeal a "sustained"
before them. This pattern of apparent bias supports the concerns raised by Portland Copwatch that
five of the six
new members of the CRC are former government employees, with the sixth (Tracy Smith) being the
sister of a
Cases 2003-x-0014 and 2004-x-001: "This is not your country, there are laws here."
In both cases 2003-x-0014 and 2004-x-001, the appellants alleged that officers made assumptions
countries of origin and told them, essentially, that unlike in those countries, "there are laws here."
The first case involved an immigrant from Africa, who says that an officer who came to his apartment
loud noises told him, "This is not Africa, and you don't have a right to the Constitution." The IAD
other witnesses did not hear this statement, and the Bureau concluded the incident did not happen
This is an odd conclusion to make, since a person making up a story about Disparate Treatment
say an officer called them a derogatory name.
In the second case, the officer allegedly told the appellant "I'm towing your vehicle...and if you don't
like the laws,
you can go back to Mexico" and "You come here and there are laws. This is not Mexico." (The
is Puerto Rican, although the comments are inappropriate whether or not the officer knew that.)
Oddly, the officer
was told to attend cultural sensitivity workshops, despite the fact that the Bureau determined three
allegations of his
possible racially biased behaviors to be "Unfounded."
Both appellants appeared at the pre-hearings, yet no CRC member asked either man to repeat what
they heard the
officer say. The findings in both cases should probably have been changed to "Insufficient Evidence,"
is not enough evidence to prove or disprove either allegation. However, the Committee voted
times that the Bureau's findings were "reasonable."
Even more distressing, before the second case was heard, Portland Copwatch was able to relay
information to CRC
members and the IPR staff of a nearly identical case in Houston, TX that ended with an officer being
making similar remarks. An Ethiopian cab driver used his cell phone to capture an officer telling him
"I don't know
what it's like in your country, but in the United States of America, in the state of Texas, we abide by
all the laws"
(Houston Chronicle, February 21).
As a side note, the police in case 2004-x-001 had the appellant's car towed because he had a
driver's license with a car registered in Oregon. The man was able to have the car released to him
he presented his paperwork. IPR Director Richard Rosenthal removed from the appeal the allegation
that the stop
itself was inappropriate, yet it seems that overall the officer acted inappropriately. To his credit,
Rosenthal had both
the officer and his sergeant "debriefed" about the tow even though the officer's action was
Case 2004-x-002: "Quit being a fucking idiot"
After five unanimous votes to decline hearings, the CRC finally agreed to hear a case at their March
What is unusual, though, is that it was a case involving the first officer ever to appeal a "Sustained"
x-002). What makes it even more unusual is that the allegation, that the officer used profanity, is not
Director Rosenthal read the transcript of what the officer admitted telling the appellant, who refused to
restaurant: "Quit being a fucking idiot and leave. Get your situation squared away but if you keep
like a fucking idiot you're going to be arrested."
The officer, who identified herself as Officer Bridget Sickon (#41497), a 16-year veteran (but a recent
transfer), tried to justify her actions by saying she needed to employ a "high level of verbal control."
Since the man
eventually left the restaurant without physical confrontation, she says it was effective and thus
CRC member Bob Ueland, who has been on the review board in all its incarnations since September
in before the pre-hearing even began to try making a motion to hear the case. Ueland fairly
police actions and questions citizens' behavior. Fortunately, newly elected chair Hank Miggins (a
the old CRC) directed the CRC to go ahead with the entire pre-hearing process, with support from
Rosenthal. Ultimately, Ueland made the motion for a hearing anyway.
Former Assistant District Attorney Donna Oden-Orr noted that although profanity may be allowed in
circumstances as a control mechanism, there is a difference between name calling, as in this case, and
profanity in giving orders (example used by Oden-Orr: "get your ass on the ground"). Oden-Orr cast
dissenting vote (8-1), so the case went to a full hearing on April 20th. At that meeting, Sickon
managed to convince
most of the CRC members that being disciplined in this case caused her "confusion" in a later
rather than use profanity she cracked a man's skull with her baton. Sickon told the CRC the man
staples. Instead of expressing shock at this violence (and the twisted logic that swearing was the only
the board voted 6-2 to change the Bureau's finding to "Exonerated with a debriefing." If the Bureau
Assistant Chief Grubbs made it clear that he felt the profanity was unnecessary), this case may end up
Case 2004-x-003: Pepper-Sprayed Protestor is First Citizen to Get Hearing
After the officer's case was heard at the March CRC meeting, National Lawyers Guild attorney Steve
presented case #2004-x-003, regarding his client Bill Ellis' arrest at a protest in March, 2003. Ellis
used excessive force when they threw him to the ground and hit him in the head with a pepper spray
can, and when
they held him by the hair and pepper sprayed him in the face at close range.
Sherlag projected video clips that were taped on three different camcorders. He raised enough doubts
"unfounded" findings that the CRC voted--in a very tight 5-4 decision--to hear the case. It will be
heard as part of a
public outreach meeting somewhere outside of City Hall in May.
IPR Director Messes Around With Process
Throughout these early meetings, the IPR Director hastily issued proposed revisions to the
"protocols," the rules
that govern the CRC. By rushing the new items through with a group where two thirds of the
members are new, he
was able to insert himself further into the process. While the Ordinance creating the IPR is clear that
should be independent and hold its own hearings on the allegations of police misconduct, Rosenthal
words "and IPR staff" into the part of the pre-hearings protocol designating who may ask questions
Affairs (IAD), the police and the appellant. This is a significant conflict of interest since the IPR at the
signs off on the IAD investigation being reviewed by the Committee, and sometimes is directly
involved in it.
Rosenthal's comments generally discouraged the CRC from taking action to challenge any decisions
of the Bureau,
the Internal Affairs Division or the IPR, including changing findings, holding hearings or setting
The Director has also attached "no CRC jurisdiction" notes to many of the allegations in the cases
appealed to the
Committee, leaving the CRC no recourse if they wish to review those allegations.
Additionally, Rosenthal removed the procedure calling for two members of the CRC to review a case
ahead of time,
which previously allowed for at least some expertise and the ability to formulate a meaningful motion.
Now all nine
members are expected to review every case, leaving the Committee open to Rosenthal's suggestions...
which he has
not been shy to make. The CRC also no longer has to use specific criteria when declining a case,
previously they had to give a reason why a person was being denied a hearing as authorized by the
The Director also convinced the CRC to re-instate the "Conference Committee," which the former
CRC voted out
of existence. This is an extra step between a hearing where the CRC asks the Bureau to change their
findings and a
final hearing before City Council. The "Conference Committee" and the pre-hearing requirements
force citizens to
go through seven steps before a final outcome is reached, as opposed to the five steps outlined in the
The Auditor's office, which oversees the IPR, arranged for professional mediators to facilitate the first
meetings of the new group, during which they drew up internal working guidelines. One of these
urges the CRC to
"accept its advisory role." The CRC, as defined by the ordinance, does much more than act in an
Their powers include: Gather community concerns, outreach to the public, hear appeals, conduct
create other committees (all in Section 3.21.090 [A]). Only one committee (Outreach) created in
by the first CRC, has been re-instituted. Another Committee will be helping Rosenthal's new assistant,
Corvallis District Attorney Pete Sandrock, develop criteria to review declined complaints. While this
important, the case review should be one of the functions of the Policy workgroup, while creating the
should be done by the Internal Processes group (both of which are defined by existing protocols).
Rosenthal seems intent on having as much control over the process as possible and these work
groups may have
had too much autonomy for his taste.
We will continue to monitor the IPR and the CRC. Meetings are generally the third Tuesday of
the month at
5:30 PM. For more information call the IPR at 503-823-0146.