People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Police Review Board Releases Reports,
While the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR) and its Citizen Review Committee (CRC) have cranked out a number of publications this year, they have now heard only one appeal of police misconduct since February, 2008. Two cases filed by the same appellant underwent "case file review" in May; one full and one partial hearing were held in August. The IPR was also forced to recruit more volunteers for CRC as a second member resigned in early May.
IPR Releases Four Major Reports in 2009, Proposals for Change Expected Soon
In addition to the CRC's "Interim" report on Bias Based Policing released in February and the third followup on police shootings prepared by the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC-- PPR #47), IPR released its 2008 annual report in late April, and the new Use of Force Report in July (see article this issue).
The annual report revealed statistics that are in line with other years. Even though the overall number of complaints are down (are police conducting themselves better, or do people trust the IPR less?), still only about 9% of all cases ever get investigated by the Bureau's Internal Affairs Division (IAD)--not the IPR. About 70% of all complaints are dismissed/declined by IPR and IAD.
One reason IPR gives for the decline in complaints is the Bureau's "revised tactics for controlling public order."
IPR once again presented statistics in a way that implied they should be credited for some trends, while rejecting analysis that makes them look bad. For example, they once again point to a decrease in police shootings, though they finally acknowledged an increase in Taser use may have something to do with that trend. They also claim a 25% sustain rate when in reality only 1.7% of complaints (9 of 529) resulted in findings of officer misconduct. IPR's high number is based on how many cases were investigated.
But when things look bad, such as the IPR failing once again to elicit more than a 50% approval rating, they make a lot of the fact that satisfaction is up to 44%. Since they only received questionnaires from 34 people, this means only 15 people out of 500+ who complained were satisfied. The IPR report also asserts that those who responded are a "self-selected group," claiming that those whose complaints were dismissed or declined were more likely to respond. This is a disingenuous analysis, since the "self-selection" is a subset of people who actually used the IPR system. Conducting a citywide survey of people who have no idea how the system works (which results in a 42% approval, 33% disapproval, and 25% no opinion outcome) isn't as meaningful, no matter how much the IPR tries to gussy it up with public relations. Besides, they can't both claim that their numbers are up and that those numbers are being provided by an unreliable group of people.
The IPR also continues to advertise that it can conduct its own investigations, even though it has never done so in nearly eight years of operation.
IPR says Internal Affairs conducted investigations in a higher percentage of complaints, but the reality is they investigated only 47 cases in 2008, versus 55 in 2004 and 2007, and 65 in 2006.
While the report was better in some ways than in the past, it skimped on details such as the nature of Tort Claims (lawsuits) that triggered investigations. Their criteria for rejecting complaints embedded in Tort Claims includes that civilians' allegations are "refuted by credible police reports." The IPR praises the Bureau's Office of Accountability and Professional Standards (OAPS), which reviews the Tort Cases and oversees IAD, but do not present much information about OAPS' work- -since that internal review system is not transparent to the public. A new feature reveals that the Use of Force Review Board, also closed to public scrutiny, found police justified in all five deadly force incidents they reviewed from 2006 and 2007. Apparently, four officers who had Internal Affairs complaints sustained against them (in non-shootings cases) left the Bureau before being disciplined, while another pleaded guilty to criminal charges and resigned (presumably pervocop Jason Faulk--PPR #43). Without more details, it is difficult to know what kinds of misconduct are driving officers off the force, and whether cases which cause public outcry are leading to positive change.
To their credit, IPR says it has sent 25% of the cases back to Internal Affairs for more investigation, though it would be better for IPR to conduct those investigations itself as provided by the ordinance. The report also notes that one use of force allegation was sustained (for the first time since 2004).
In 2007, one Disparate Treatment allegation based on race was sustained. It's a wonder that the IPR and the Bureau did not trot this case out during the discussion on the Racial Profiling plan (see article in this issue).
While the Annual and the Use of Force Reports have been presented to City Council, the PARC Report has not. The Bias Based Policing work group met with Chief Sizer to discuss overlap with her Racial Profiling plan, and is waiting to meet again to finalize their report before heading to Council.
Chief Sizer came to the CRC's July meeting to discuss the Use of Force Report, but did not answer any of the community's questions, slamming shut the "window into the Police Bureau."
The CRC's "IPR Structural Review Committee," which is examining the recommendations made by consultant Eileen Luna-Firebaugh in early 2008 (PPR #44), should have a report listing its recommendations in the next few months. This will give Portland an opportunity to create structural improvements to the policies, protocols, and most importantly to the ordinance that guides the IPR and CRC.
Cases 2009-x-0002 and 2009-x-0003: Assistant Chief Questions Officers' Judgment, Considers Separating Cops
The CRC held the one and a half hearings on appeals of investigated complaints at its August meeting, 18 long months after the last appeal (PPR #44). The appellant, a self-described "bi- gendered" individual named Lee/Lisa Iacuzzi, filed the complaints in both cases. (At the appellant's request, we refer below to "Iacuzzi" rather than to "him" or "her.")
The first appeal (regarding two incidents in 2007, case 2009-x-0002) involved the police coming to the appellant's apartment to investigate an assault on Iacuzzi. The complaint says: Officers Timothy Lowry (#41142) and Andrew Kofoed (#40928) did not make an arrest regarding the assault, threatened to arrest Iacuzzi if they received another call, and discriminated against Iacuzzi because of "perceived sexual orientation." Upon their return visit three days later, the appellant says they arrested Iacuzzi for violating a stalking order without a full investigation, seized Iacuzzi's camcorder, and used excessive force to affect the arrest.
All of the allegations were "Exonerated," which is troublesome for a number of reasons. It appears from the information available to the public that not all of the witnesses were interviewed, and that a video made by the appellant wasn't part of the file. Furthermore, "Exonerated" technically means the police did what the appellant says they did, but acted within policy.
While CRC member Rochelle Silver did a reasonable job of summarizing the facts of the case, the appellant's presentation seemed to be focused on the lack of investigation into the assault by the other civilian, rather than the alleged police misconduct. Iacuzzi was provided an "Appeals Process Advisor" (APA), a former CRC member whose job was to explain how the hearings function and how best to prepare for the presentation. The APA was Bob Ueland, who replaced Eric Terrell after the hearing was postponed in June. It is impossible to know whether Ueland (or Terrell) had advised Iacuzzi to keep focused on the five allegations against police because, by CRC rules, the APA is not allowed to speak during the hearing. Portland Copwatch members made note of this unfair rule and are hoping to see a change in the future.
In the end, the CRC voted 4-1 to affirm that officers did nothing wrong in failing to arrest the other civilian (with JoAnn Jackson dissenting), and 5-0 to uphold the other four findings. Iacuzzi, frustrated with the lack of action, declared she was withdrawing the other appeal and left the meeting.
That decision was unfortunate, as the CRC voted to go ahead and hold most of the hearing for case 2009-x-0003. In that case, the appellant claims that about four months after the other incidents, Officers Lowry and Kofoed followed a walking Iacuzzi down the street while they were in their patrol car, then stopped to ask what Iacuzzi had done regarding the previous incidents. The appellant claimed that action was harassment, that one officer called Iacuzzi a "fag**t", and that the same officer took a picture of Iacuzzi with his cell phone for no reason.
The allegations in the second case were all classified as "Unproven," meaning there wasn't enough information one way or the other to say if the cops violated policy or behaved as alleged. The allegation that they harassed Iacuzzi resulted in a "debriefing" for the officers. During discussion, CRC members revealed that Assistant Chief Brian Martinek questioned the cops' judgment for approaching Iacuzzi under the circumstances, going so far as to threaten to prevent them from riding on patrol together any longer.
The CRC went through the motions of the hearing, even though Iacuzzi, Ueland, and even Portland Police Association President Scott Westerman had left the room. When it came time to vote, the CRC decided not to go any further, though many of them were strongly disturbed by the officers following the appellant in a way that seemed intimidating. After public input at the end of the CRC meeting (an hour after the hearing was over), Silver proposed that CRC write a letter to the Assistant Chief to express their views.
In preparing for these hearings, the CRC held their first formal "case file review" in May, at which they were supposed to affirm that they had gone through all the available documents and felt there was adequate information to proceed. Rather than relying on the IPR staff to write a case summary, the CRC was in charge of doing so for the first time since 2003. While the process did not go perfectly, it was a good step forward to a transparent, thorough system.
At the case file review, some of the CRC members felt IPR missed an allegation-- the officers did not write a report about the harassment incident. One would hope the CRC would not want to hold a hearing until that question was resolved, in the same way they would not hold a hearing if they discovered a major piece of evidence such as a photograph or interview recording was missing. However, Director Mary-Beth Baptista instructed the CRC not to raise that question at the case file review, claiming a better place to do so would be at the hearing. Given the history of the last IPR Director refusing to add allegations (see PPR #42), it's likely the answer at that stage would be "it's too late now."
IPR should be able to determine whether the information gathered in the existing investigation is sufficient to come up with a finding on a new allegation. If so, they should press the Commander to make a finding. If not, they should report back to CRC, who can then decide whether to recommend IPR or IAD add the allegation and complete the investigation. If IPR wants to respond "we have received your recommendation but don't think we're able to do this," then the institutional problem of IPR squashing the CRC's power to make recommendations can be resolved without it appearing to be a decision forced by IPR staff.
Mini-Appeals for Non-Investigated Cases
Along with the roughly 70% of all complaints declined by IPR and IAD, another 18% are handled as "service complaints." Although IPR has made note of "protests" to cases which were not investigated, there is no formal process for appeal. Beginning in June, IPR began offering people who "protest" a chance to have their case re-examined by Assistant Directors Constantin Severe or Pete Sandrock, if it was originally reviewed by Director Baptista, or vice versa. While any form of appeal should involve the CRC, at least it better than closing the door on the public.
IPR is also conducting interviews with people whose cases were investigated but who did not file an appeal. Since only 10% of the investigated allegations end up with sustained findings, the appeal rate is suprisingly low. Again, the CRC should be involved, and in fact had offered to conduct these interviews--an excellent idea, because citizens likely won't want to talk to the staff of the agency that told them their complaint wasn't valid. At the July meeting, staff agreed to allow CRC members to interview some of the complainants.
About 3% of cases go to mediation.
After April's resignation from CRC by Josey Cooper, Barbara Anderson, who had only been on the board for three months, resigned for personal reasons. This makes 16 people who have resigned in the IPR's 7-1/2 year history, or an average of two per year. Another seven people left when their terms expired and two were not renewed as members--meaning a turnover of a total of 25 members on the 9-person board, or over three people per year on average.
Two members, JoAnn Jackson and Mark Johnson, decided not to reapply for their seats after their terms end in December.
The proposed new members announced at the August meeting (who still need to be affirmed by Council) are: Jeff Bissonette, Ayoob Ramjan, Jamie Troy II, and Myra Simon, with Loren Eriksson and Vice Chair Hank Miggins (who has already been on CRC for four terms, or eight years) proposed to remain on CRC.
Findings Get Another Look
At the case file review in May, Vice Chair Hank Miggins asked why the Bureau had eliminated the finding of "Unfounded," since it was much clearer that meant the incident did not occur as described, while the old "Insufficient Evidence" finding meant there wasn't enough to prove the allegation one way or another.
The Bureau responded by defending their use of the "Unproven" finding, which combines those two findings. They made no promise to re-examine the findings or consider adding "Training Failure," "Supervisory Failure," or "Policy Failure" as recommended by the Luna-Firebaugh report in 2008 (and supported by PCW).
The IPR annual report showed that officers had "Sustained" findings in 10% of all allegations, were "Exonerated" 42% of the time, but the "Unproven" category was used 47% of the time. In other jurisdictions, the number of "Exonerated" is much lower than the number of "Unproven / Not Sustained" findings since most cases are "he said-she said." It seems that Portland and its IPR system are giving the benefit of the doubt to officers far too often.
Contact the IPR at 503-823-0146
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.