Nemesis of Shootings Review Team Holds Conference in Clackamas On June 29 and 30, members of the "Force Science Research Center" from Minnesota State University at Mankato came to the Portland area to hold a two-day conference about officer involved shootings. The FSRC openly criticizes the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), which has published two reports chronicling Portland Police shootings, claiming PARC's research is based on emotions, not facts (PPR #38). This is probably not a reference to the fact that PARC bases many of its recommendations on "best practices" in other cities.
FSRC's final workshop, titled "Dealing with a Racially-Charged Shooting," featured only police brass and no community members, and particularly no civilians who are people of color. The press was not invited, prompting the Oregonian's Maxine Bernstein to report asking one of the hosts, Portland Attorney David Snyder, why not. His answer: "Because it's our decision" (June 30).
The FSRC's bias in favor of police is clear. In terms of personnel, their board member who invited the institute to Oregon is big shot police labor lawyer John Hoag, Snyder's partner. One of their main scientists/presenters is Dr. William Lewinski, who was paid by the city of Portland (in a highly unusual move) to testify about "action/reaction" time before the grand jury investigating the police shooting of James Jahar Perez (also PPR #38). Another is Dr. Alexis Artwohl, the former psychologist for the Portland Police.
But their bias is made strikingly clear in a two-part series published in the May and June issues of the Portland Police Association's newsletter, the Rap Sheet. Purporting to outline how to do a "Fair, Neutral, Fact Finding" officer involved shooting investigation, the articles begin by warning to focus on officers' psychology or else they "may be subjected to unnecessary additional stress."
It instructs that investigators on the scene should obtain the status and location of "offenders." Shouldn't those who have been shot by police be labelled "suspects" unless they have been proven guilty of some offense?
Hoag says that for a "walk-through" of the scene, the officer should not be video or audio-taped, and no police investigators should be there, just the officer's attorney and union representative. This will avoid the "indignity of having his emotions later made public in court or elsewhere." He also suggests that officers only be asked to give a "barebones description" of the incident, which for example might include "I thought he was going to kill me, so I shot him to defend myself." Obviously this training is meant to reinforce officers using that handy phrase to get themselves off the hook for any possible misuse of deadly force.
Dr. Lewinski echoes this idea, going so far as to say officers should not write a police report about the shooting. "What important elements (like fear of death of or of great bodily harm) to include... may be beyond the writing skills of many." Lewinski emphasizes that officers should be told what procedures are taking place, to avoid giving them "the 'mushroom treatment' where they're kept in the dark with manure shoveled on them." Supporting the FSRC's advice not to confiscate an officer's weapon unless absolutely necessary, Lewinski states "what protects an officer is the police brotherhood and his sidearm."
He adds that when an interview is videotaped, appropriate lighting should be used so as not to negatively influence a jury.
Artwohl suggests that involved officers' basic needs need to be met, including access to a shower and exercise.
It is hard to imagine anyone recommending such sensitivities being extended to civilian suspects in a shooting case. On that note, the FSRC reminds police that the officer being interviewed is a "cooperative witness who...happens to be a crime victim." This statement is beyond belief, since there is no way prior to an investigation to know whether the suspect committed any kind of crime against the officer, let alone one justifying capital punishment without a trial.
According to the Oregonian, in addition to City and County employees who attended as presenters (such as City Attorney David Woboril, District Attorney Mike Schrunk, and former Assistant Chief Jim Ferraris), four Portland Police supervisors were paid by the City to attend.
Incidentally, PARC's Oren Root visited Portland in late April to gather information on shootings between January 2002 and October 2003. Typical of the Auditor's tendency to withhold public information, Root was unable to tell anyone which cases PARC was reviewing. Fortunately, Portland Copwatch keeps such a list, and community members concerned about the May, 2003 shooting of Kendra Jamesincluding James' motherwere able to attend. The new report will allegedly be out in the fall.
Check out Snyder and Hoag's site at http://www.snyderandhoagllc.com or the Force
Science Research Center at http://www.forcescience.org.
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