[Image: Use of 
Force Report Cover]

Police Use of Force Report Promises Change; Lacks Crucial Data

On April 24, the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR) and the Police Bureau released a "Use of Force Task Force Report," based on a study of the Bureau's relatively new Use of Force forms. In reality, the document is a "Use of Some Force Report," because it doesn't address deadly force, including when police point their weapons at people. A thorough review would examine the entire continuum of force.

The nine-member Task Force consisted of five members of the Police Bureau, two IPR staff, and two members of the IPR's Citizen Review Committee (CRC).

Some recommendations are surprisingly strong. For example, that the Bureau should define what is a "reasonable" amount of force, direct officers "toward the goal of using lower force options when appropriate," and require officers not to put themselves "recklessly" into a position that allows them to use force, then justifying its use. The last recommendation follows a policy created in the wake of Officer Scott McCollister shooting and killing Kendra James which currently only applies to the use of deadly force (PPR #35).

Police Will Overhaul Use-of-Force Guidelines] The forms studied for the report were created after James was shot in 2003. The Community Police Organizational Review Team (CPORT), created in response to James' death, recommended tracking the number of times officers point their weapons at people, since young black men are frequently held at gunpoint at traffic stops (PPR #31). The community may never see these statistics (which do exist) because the authors claimed the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC)'s shootings and deaths reports sufficiently cover use of deadly force. However, PARC examines only firearms discharges, not the mere pointing of weapons.

The Use of Force Report, like PARC's most recent (PPR #41), dismisses the significance of racial disparity in use of force. The authors hide behind the assertion that "a meaningful analysis in this area would not be possible within the time or funding provided for this project." No member of the Task Force was a person of color.

There was no analysis on whether the force studied was tactically sound or even within Bureau policy. However, 66 particular officers (about 7% of the Bureau) are responsible for 39% of the Use of Force Reports--a total of 1,788 reports, or an average of 27 per officer in the time period reviewed.

Two suggestions regarding downtown issues include reducing the use of force in Central Precinct and by Transit police (who were involved in the beating death of James Chasse, Jr. last year [PPR #40], and found to have the City's highest use-of-force rate), and requiring the "street crimes unit" to meet twice a year with the IPR Director and Assistant Chief Berg. Unfortunately, their suggestions for change include "broadening the strategies... to control street level drug dealing, street disorder... and public disorder."

In addition, the report says:
--26% of people with mental illness who had police use force against them were hit by Tasers. In 2005, Amnesty International reported roughly 50% of those who died after being hit by Tasers had some kind of mental illness.
--Tasers were actively used 840 times in two years, more than one use per day. Tasers were recommended by CPORT as an alternative to deadly force. Since officers were probably not engaging in deadly force situations on a daily basis prior to the adoption of Tasers, this implies that Tasers are being used more often than envisioned.
--The #1 outcome for suspects in use of force cases: no charges were filed 25% of the time. It is unclear how many of these "non-criminals" are among the 32% of suspects described as either not resisting or merely failing to comply with an officer's commands when force is used.
--The second most frequent and most serious charge against suspects was "resisting arrest," a charge officers often use against someone who "fails the attitude test."
--62% of the complaints of use of force are "Exonerated," twice the national average; Portland sustains 0% of these complaints while the nationwide average is 8-14%.
--The statistic that force is used in just 1% of police calls and 5% of arrests is repeated, though in raw numbers, force was reported in nearly 4000 incidents over two years, or over five times a day on average.
--The IPR receives about 100 complaints per year on use of force, leading us to conclude that one of every 20 uses of force results in a complaint.

[Section of Use of Force form deals with pointed weapoons] Portland Copwatch strongly urges the Task Force to reconvene, adding members from the African American and Latino communities. A supplemental report should be created including statistics on the pointing of firearms and Tasers, and how often force is used against people of color compared to their white counterparts (see profiling article).
See the report at www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=165909* and our analysis at

*Note: this URL changed since we published PPR #41.


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