CITIZEN REVIEW COMMITTEE: No Hearings for Five Months
IPR Director Makes Good Policy Proposal
But Continues Ignoring Some Problems and Creating Others

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.

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

[Rosenthal explains IAD finding] 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 created.

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 sessions.

Crisis Intervention Discussed

[Crebs explains de-escalation] 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).


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