As "Experts" Return to Begin Another Round of Cases

[PARC's logo.]

When Auditor Blackmer first proposed the creation of the Independent Police Review Division (IPR), there was no mention of shootings and deaths in custody. After community pressure, mostly following the police-involved death of José Victor Santos Mejía Poot (see PPR #24), Portland's City Council forced Blackmer to add these most serious cases to the review system's purview. His solution: Hire the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) to review all police shootings and deaths in custody for trends and for policy and training issues.

PARC's first report, released in August, 2003, was likely one of the last nails in the coffin of Chief Mark Kroeker's term in Portland (see PPR #31). Its 89 recommendations revealed huge gaps in police investigation practices and a few shooting-related policies that needed to change. Many of the recommendations are common-sense and are similar to those made by community members over the years. The report's major flaws were that it glossed over the issue of race, and was limited to cases not in litigation or over two years old (past the deadline to file federal civil rights claims).

Chief Kroeker's initial responses showed that he mostly agreed with 45 of the recommendations, agreed to review 19 of them, disagreed with or didn't address 8 of them, and argued that 17 of them were already being done by the Bureau.

On May 11, Chief Foxworth released an updated version of a matrix on the progress of the recommendations. According to this revised document, 53 items are now "Done," 12 are "In Review," 24 are "In Progress," and zero are rejected--although the previously rejected items are still "In Review."

Portland Copwatch analyzed the matrix and revealed that some of these items require continuous attention, some were not implemented as suggested, and some are difficult to verify as they are based on unpublished revised "Directives" or other Bureau documents not available to the public. In short, at best, 17 recommendations are "Done," 14 are "In Review," 36 are "In Progress," and 16 are partially implemented, meaning they did not meet PARC's criteria in some way.

The Citizen Review Committee (CRC), the nine-member "police review board" created as part of the IPR in 2001, was supposed to sort through the recommendations once the report came out and follow the progress of their implementation. A number of conflicts between the IPR and the CRC (which included the IPR's deliberate shutting out of the CRC from the PARC study as it was being conducted) led to a mass resignation just one week before the report was published. Despite the presence of 5 new members, the CRC has still not directly addressed the PARC report.

Furthermore, the IPR and the Bureau seem to have incomplete information on the shootings that have occurred. It was only after Portland Copwatch noted that the Mejía family had settled their lawsuit that PARC agreed to include that case in this review. When PARC returned to Portland in late June to pick up files for the next round of reviews, July 2000-December 2001, Portland Copwatch gave PARC information leading them to change the number of shootings to be reviewed from 13 to 15. In the first report, PARC credited their discovery of three shooting incidents to Portland Copwatch, not the Bureau.

PARC's Oren Root emphasized that he and his agency are not from Portland so they can't speak as to whether certain recommendations are appropriate for our City even if they are considered "best practices" elsewhere. We are only lucky that Chief Foxworth has agreed, for example, not to get a police helicopter after hearing community concerns about this recommendation. (He is, however, purchasing a second airplane for the Bureau.)

It is important for community members who insist that the Police Bureau implement the PARC recommendations to take a closer look; it is also important for the Bureau to stop making changes to those recommendations for no particular practical reason. It is up to the community to demand changes to limitations on PARC's scope--to ask them to examine why over twice the percentage of people of color are shot at by police compared to their percentage of the population, to allow CRC to review the report and follow up on the recommendations, and to insist on reviewing cases within one year, rather than publishing findings three to four years after the fact.

A by-the-number analysis of the PARC matrix is available on our website at http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/parcmatrix0604.html, where there are also links to the PARC report and the Bureau's matrix.

PARC has also asked for any citizen with information on the shootings under review (July 2000- December 2001) to contact them at (212) 376-3106.

At press time, PARC and the IPR are stating they will not review the case of Justyn Gallegos, who was shot ten times by Portland, Gresham and Troutdale police in 2000 (see PPR #22). Apparently, since agencies in East County investigated the case and it happened outside Portland city limits, they claim there is no reason to review this death and it will be too expensive to do so.


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