CITIZEN REVIEW COMMITTEE: No Hearings for Five Months
The Citizen Review Committee (CRC), Portland's "civilian police review board," did not hold a single hearing on
allegations of police misconduct from July to November, a five month stretch. It is possible
that many cases were screened out for arbitrary reasons by Director Richard Rosenthal of the Independent Police
Review Division (IPR), or that so many people have no confidence in the system that they simply won't file appeals
to the board.
IPR Director Makes Good Policy Proposal
But Continues Ignoring Some Problems and Creating Others
In any case, the IPR itself released two reports in late August and early September, pushed through reforms on the
CRC's policy review function, and delayed the appointment of new members until early 2005. Current Vice Chair
Donna Oden-Orr and member Tracy Smith have chosen to leave, and three other members have re-applied but
could be replaced if Rosenthal and Auditor Gary Blackmer feel they are not being cooperative enough.
Annual Report Omits, Downplays Negatives
First , the IPR released its 2003 annual report in late August. The 160-plus page report acknowledges the
resignation of over half of the CRC last August (see PPR #30), but the reasons behind those resignations
are misrepresented. Resigning members cited lack of support from the IPR staff and limitations put on them by the
Auditor's interpretation of the City Code. The report, however, states those members believed "that IPR staff were,
or should be, directed by and accountable to them." A public forum held in June, 2003 on ways to improve the
oversight system and a subsequent IPR/CRC retreat to discuss structural concerns are not even mentioned in the
report. The report also fails to note:
• In July, 2003, the IPR and the Auditor successfully encouraged City Council to change the ordinance to
severely limit the CRC's involvement in choosing new board members; and
• In May, 2003, the Director visited CRC members at their homes to retrieve a memo revealing that files
were missing from police shootings investigations. A news story about the memo led to the discovery of the
missing files elsewhere in the Police Bureau (PPR #30).
The report also avoids analysis of citizen dissatisfaction with the system. For example, 60.9 percent of people
expressed dissatisfaction with the entire process, up from 59.1 percent in 2002. In addition, citizen/civilian
satisfaction with the mediation process (51.6 percent) was far lower than officer satisfaction (70.0 percent), yet no
effort is made to question why.
In his introduction to the report, Auditor Blackmer declares his intention to hire an outside "expert" to review the
system "relative to the best practices in the nation." This is a transparent bid to hire an expert such as Sam Walker,
who favors audit-style systems over fully independent review boards, to rubber stamp the increasingly staff-heavy,
citizen-unfriendly IPR, rather than asking whether it is serving the public in the way it was promised when it was
To its credit, the report gives examples of misconduct that have been found in violation of Bureau policy. For
instance: one officer filed a complaint against a fellow officer who kicked a suspect in the head and wrote in his
report that the suspect "swung his head into my foot"; the city later settled out-of-court for $17,000. Director
Rosenthal has promised that the next report will include statistical information about the kinds of discipline meted
out to officers for various infractions.
With numerous references to the IPR's accomplishments, such as a higher rate of mediation than any system in the
country (though half of cases assigned to mediation were unsuccessful), and a ninety-two percent completion rate
of cases within a goal of 150 days (mostly due to minimizing 55 percent of cases sent to Internal Affairs as
"service complaints"), the report seems more self-congratulatory than is realistic.
The annual report is on line at
Tort Claim Report: Good Idea, Bad Execution
In a rather shocking development, the IPR also released a report which Portland Copwatch can mostly support: A
proposal that Tort Claims (notices of the intent to sue the City) be handled like any other complaint of police
misconduct instead of being handled separately. We have supported this idea for years, since an officer found
liable for misconduct in civil court is not disciplined under current protocols, which generally shield such cases
from Internal Affairs investigation. In addition, it is the City which pays lawsuit claims, not the officers.
Unfortunately, while the Director's "legislative intent" section clearly spells out the Claims-as-complaints concept,
the proposed ordinance change merely allows the IPR Director to create a protocol for handling Tort Claims.
Given the Director's history of minimizing complaints, this leaves the door open for Rosenthal (or anyone who
replaces him) to create a protocol that simply leaves the Claims out of the review system.
Meanwhile, Chief Foxworth and Mayor Katz, who oppose the plan because they feel it will open up the City to
more liability, created their own solution. At monthly meetings, an Assistant Chief, a Deputy City Attorney and the
Mayor's office review Tort Claims for possible consideration by the Internal Affairs Division (IAD). The IPR
report notes that although conducting internal review of cases in litigation may cost the City more in the short term,
it has the potential to save more money and reduce misconduct in the long term. The Mayor and Chief have asked
for a six month trial period before Rosenthal introduces his changes.
Portland Copwatch has recommended that in addition to explicitly spelling out the ability of the IPR to handle Tort
Claims, the ordinance should allow the IPR, in conjunction with the CRC, to hire an outside attorney for any matter
which may put the City Attorney's office in a conflict of interest. This would allow both for these cases of tort
claim/lawsuits to be independently evaluated and for any other conflict between the IPR and the City, or the CRC
and the IPR, to have an outside counsel.
Rosenthal's proposal also would prohibit the IPR Director from investigating, or even initiating an investigation, of
cases in litigation or where a Tort Claim has been filed. If IAD refused to conduct an investigation, the case would
be at an administrative dead end.
The Tort Claim report can be found at
Policy Review Taken Over By Staff
A new policy review protocol which cuts out the CRC and the public (see PPR #33) was adopted with
minor changes at the September CRC meeting. Member Gwenn Baldwin argued for additional public input at the
stage when the IPR presents a work plan on how to review a specific police policy. Her proposal was adopted, but
offers only a slight improvement, as the protocol still adds layers of bureaucratic complication to what could be a
simple matter of making common-sense recommendations for change. If the CRC disagrees with the
recommendations, the IPR will not change its report, but will, at most, allow the CRC to write a separate memo.
Director Rosenthal argued that public input could be taken when the IPR's recommendation is presented at City
Council. However, like both IPR annual reports and the Tort Claim report, the two policy recommendations already
proposed by the IPR/CRC (on profanity and Hooper Detox) have never been heard by City Council in public
Crisis Intervention Discussed
At the November CRC meeting, held at the Southeast Uplift office, Commander Mike Crebs, formerly Captain of
the Training Division, Officer Paul Ware (who the CRC found may have inappropriately Tasered a teenager--see
PPR #33), and Lt. George Babnick (formerly of IAD, now Captain of training) gave a presentation on
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and de-escalation training. The CIT are specially trained officers who can use
verbal skills to calm situations with people who are or who may be suffering from mental illness. Commander
Crebs implied that the Bureau does not want to teach officers specifically how to communicate--he kept saying
"there is no checklist," and his examples of de-escalation included putting a gun away and taking out a Taser after a
suspect drops a weapon. After Portland Copwatch challenged his definition, Crebs let the CRC know that verbal
de-escalation is also encouraged, such as not swearing back at suspects.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Director Rosenthal urged the CRC to declare itself finished with the topic so
they could move on. Fortunately, a few members asked for time to digest what they had learned. In December, the
CRC asked for a formal audit of the Bureau's CIT training and its implementation. Rosenthal deferred the audit to
the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), which can refuse to perform that specific audit.
For information on the Independent Police Review Division call 503-823-0146.
Other IPR/CRC Activity:
•The IPR hosted a national conference for police auditors in late September. Several of the participants,
including the Auditor from San Jose, spoke enthusiastically to Portland Copwatch about the importance of
community involvement in their programs. This contrasts with the efforts of Blackmer and Rosenthal to minimize
the role of the CRC.
•Two members (Chair Hank Miggins and recorder Llewellyn Robison) went with Director Rosenthal to
Chicago for the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) conference. In his
report back, Director Rosenthal mentioned only New York and San Francisco as jurisdictions with independent
investigators, though Minneapolis, Honolulu, San Diego County and others have such systems. Rosenthal touted
the "structural independence" of the IPR, an assertion based on the fact that the Auditor is separately elected from
the City Council, ignoring its complete dependence on the police to investigate misconduct claims.
•An "Audit subcommittee" reviewed draft guidelines for the Director to reject complaints, including
"untimely" ones; however, no public meetings of this subcommittee were announced. Deputy Director Pete
Sandrock called for public input on the guidelines, giving only one week to review the 24-page document. He said
the guidelines would go into effect on January 1 even though the CRC won't vote on the final product until three
weeks later. Sandrock seemed open to suggestions from Portland Copwatch to scrutinize police credibility as much
as civilians', and to incorporate the Citizen Review Committee into the formal procedures.
•CRC members Irma Valdez, Bob Ueland and Hank Miggins were selected as CRC "Liaisons" on the
issue of the Early Warning System (EWS). As part of the new policy review protocol, there will be no public
meetings on this topic either. In December, it was announced that IAD Captain Darrel Schenck was retiring and
was awarded a contract to administer the EWS immediately following his retirement from the Bureau. Setting aside
this apparent no-bid insider deal, the action of hiring Schenck confirms that the EWS never really functioned (see
PPR #33).This is particularly alarming as the EWS was one of the contentious issues when the creation of
the IPR was first debated in 2000.
•The CRC has scheduled a six-hour retreat in February. Director Rosenthal lobbied at the November
meeting to limit the meeting to four hours. This may be because last year's eight-hour retreat included lengthy
discussions on ways to improve the IPR ordinance.
•The CRC is scheduled to hear a presentation on racial profiling in the coming months. They may be able
to hear from or at least use materials from the Police Executive Research Forum (see Foxworth's Foxhole).