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Updates People's Police Report #46 January 2009

Racial Profiling Committee Unceremoniously Dismissed Future Work Split Up by Police, Human Rights Commission

At the September meeting of the City's Racial Profiling Committee (RPC), Director of Human Relations Maria Lisa Johnson laid out plans to transfer the Committee under the auspices of the new Human Rights Commission (HRC). However, unlike the promise made by Mayor Potter when he visited the RPC in 2007 (PPR #42), this will not be a transfer of the standing Com- mittee to a new administrative body; instead, the current Committee will be dissolved and replaced by narrowly-themed teams inside and outside the Police Bureau. The HRC was appointed by Council and sworn in in October, since then holding two meetings that made no progress on racial profiling. At the November RPC meeting, participants were shown a confusing flowchart that indicates three groups will carry the work forward.

The proposed Police-Community Relations work group of the HRC is shown as the only public component of the revised system. Committees working on the "hit rate" (the frequency with which discretionary searches by police turn up contraband) and "professionalism standards" will be overseen by the Bureau. When asked why these Committees would not be open to the public, Chief Sizer explained that she felt that it is easier to have honest conversations around difficult issues like race without the press present (also see IPR article).

Sizer's promised work plan on Racial Profiling, announced to be released at various times including mid-October, is now slated to come out in January--after the RPC, which has put in two grueling years, has been dismantled. Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman, who sat on the RPC, asked numerous times how the work of the new three groups will be coordinated to be sure they are in step with community wants and needs. However, it seems the Chief does not care to have such input, or as co-chair of the RPC she would have argued for the group to stay together long enough to review her draft plan.

JoAnn Bowman of Oregon Action, the other RPC co-chair, left the November meeting early, angrily saying that it seemed as if Johnson and Sizer were presenting the plan as a done deal and not seriously seeking her input.

It is unclear whether Sizer's plan will include recommendations made by Copwatch and others about additional data to collect at stops, whether officers will continue to insist that the numbers are disproportionate because African Americans commit more crimes, and whether future discussions will acknowledge the inherent power imbalance between the community and the police.

More info on the Human Rights Commission is at http://www.portlandonline.com/humanrelations http://www.portlandoregon.gov/oehr/62221.

Some Officers Dismissive of Racial Profiling In Police "Union" Newsletter

In September's Rap Sheet, Officer Thomas Brennan encouraged the Bureau to "stop the SDC nonsense" (Stops Data Collection). He claimed the data are flawed. Apparently some police coaches tell trainees to fill out the data screen before a stop, some during, some after, and some cops are told to enter "unknown" for the race­presumably to avoid an honest tally. Brennan adds that officers who do profile likely won't fill out the data screen, which is probably true. In the same issue, Sgt. Wayne Kuechler admits that government agents have "suppressed many groups for the first 180 or more years of our nation," supporting property owners over slaves, for example (also see "Rapping Back").

Though much of what he wrote is worth reading, Kuechler undermined his message by writing "End results of stops and searches have a very similar rate of success." In fact, the "hit rate" shows that people of color were found to have drugs at a rate of about 80% of their white counterparts.

Cops Create Rules for Secret List of "Dirty 30" Suspects, Five Years Later

On September 22, Portland Police finally put into writing a procedure they may have been using since 2003--a way to target the 35 most frequently arrested drug suspects and push them into treatment by raising misdemeanor charges to felonies. In May, we believed this police-initiated program was titled "Project 57," referring to 57 jail beds paid for by the City of Portland to allow them to prioritize who gets arrested (PPR #44). The actual name is "Neighborhood Livability Crime Enforcement Program" (NLCEP). The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and a Bureau memo obtained by the Portland Mercury and posted on their blog November 18 offer a menu of labels officers can use under the program, including "Project 57," "NLCEP," or nothing if the charge would normally land the person in jail anyway.

To make things more confusing, the program is administered by a specialty unit known as the Service Coordination Team (SCT), which is made up of Portland Police, corrections, and social service providers.

But nobody was able to produce documents about how the list was created until after the Mercury and defense attorneys Lisa Pardini and Chris O'Connor began asking for them earlier in 2008. In mid-November, the Mercury obtained the "Tips and Techniques" memo--dated August 25, 2008, and the SOP--dated September 22, 2008, over five years after the program began.

Making all of this more interesting is that when the Mercury began writing about the "secret list" of offenders (known as the "NLCEP Chronic Arrestee List"), Commissioner Randy Leonard, who not only championed the program but got City Council to set aside money for it, denied the list's existence. He posted on the Mercury Blog September 2 (one week after the police memo was published): "I know of no such 'list.' If there were a 'list' I would be the last one Tom Potter or Rosie Sizer would tell about such a 'list.'" Mercury reporter Matt Davis counters that Leonard's favorite street cop/SCT officer Jeff Myers "produced a copy of the list from the front of his uniform during an interview with the Mercury on May 6" ( Mercury , September 11).

Leonard ducked a subpoena in September by saying he wasn't the custodian of police records ( Mercury , September 4), but defense attorneys whose clients have been arrested are moving forward in challenging the violations of their equal protection rights. Combined cases are scheduled to go to court in early January.

New Commissioner of Police Dan Saltzman wrote an op-ed piece for the December 18 Tribune singing the praises of the SCT/NLCEP program, proposing its expansion. However, he had little to say about the constitutionality of the program.

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  People's Police Report

January, 2009
Also in PPR #46

Railroad Police Shoot Near Portland Cops
  • Cops Bragged About "Tackling" James Chasse
  • Shootings and Deaths In and Around Oregon

Lawsuit Changes Policy on Taping Police
Oversight Report Skewed for Public Relations
Review Board Holds Only 1 Hearing in 2009
Updates PPR 46
  • Racial Profiling Committee Dismissed
  • Cops Create Rules for "Secret List"
Sheriff Skipper Talks to Copwatch
  • Sheriff Jail Deaths, Sick Leave in Headlines
Sit/Lie Report: Sign Boards OK, Not People
  • Anti-Camping Update
Portland to Revive Prostitution Free Zones?
Chief Sizer Remains Bureau Head--For Now
Taser Danger: Portland Cases in the News
Family Settles Suit: Excessive Force in Raid
Rapping Back #46

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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