People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
New Developments at "Review Board":
The past two years have shown promise at the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR) and its Citizen Review Committee (CRC). In May 2008, Mary Beth Baptista came on board as IPR Director, willing to make improvements which have led, for example, to the CRC hearing three cases and holding two "case file reviews" in 2009. Only six hearings were held in the four previous years, with one hearing in three of those four years . In May 2009, Auditor Gary Blackmer, who created the IPR, was replaced by Auditor Lavonne Griffin Valade, who also promised a fresh perspective, including more IPR/CRC presentations to City Council. Yet both Baptista and Griffin Valade are showing signs of being bound to institutional inertia. It will be interesting to see how this tension is balanced by two new members appointed in October, replacing two members who resigned early in 2009.
Below we report on: the most recent CRC hearing and case file review, both involving somewhat high-profile incidents; CRC outreach efforts; a disconcerting comment by a guest from the Bureau; changes made, not made, and re-made to procedures; and the new members.
Case 2009-x-0005: Officers Mistook Appellant for Jaywalker, Felt Threatened by Camcorder, Used Taser & "Beanbag" Gun
In 2006, officers chasing a jaywalking suspect came upon Frank Waterhouse in an auto body yard, mistook him for the suspect, feared his camcorder was a weapon, then simultaneously tasered him and shot him with lead pellet bags fired from a shotgun. Waterhouse and attorney Ben Haile won a civil suit against the City in September for $55,000 (see article in this issue on settlements). For their IPR complaint, thirteen allegations were identified, though IPR lumped all four officers' use of force together and dismissed the complaint that Waterhouse's constitutional rights were violated.
At the CRC's "case file review" (CFR) of the appeal (#2009-x-0005) held in November, IPR Director Baptista and the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) made a lengthy (but not exhaustive) presentation about what materials were reviewed and who was interviewed. CRC previously established the CFR as a means for them to determine whether there was enough material to proceed with an appeal hearing. While the presentation was somewhat useful, it felt a bit like a teacher rewriting the students' homework when she felt their book report wasn't adequate.
IAD revealed that they had not been able to find any of the civilian witnesses to the incident, claiming Haile also was unable to locate them. We have since learned he did locate them for the civil trial, using private investigators. IAD listed its process as having looked at the Portland Police Data System, which tracks police contacts, but nothing about other efforts such as, say, looking in a phone book or on the internet. They also did not interview the Emergency Medical Technician from the Fire Bureau who came to treat Waterhouse. IAD investigator Barry Renna said he acquired a copy of the EMT's report in anticipation of the CRC asking for it--but not during the original investigation. He did not ask for Waterhouse's medical records.
IPR dismissed the constitutional rights claim because, they said, the court was the best place to determine that claim. Waterhouse's criminal charges were dropped and the civil case led to the City paying out money--neither resulted in discipline for the officers.
CRC member Rochelle Silver, fresh from a trip to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, insisted that the witnesses needed to be found and interviewed. CRC voted 7-0 to have IAD locate the then-property owner, find other witnesses, and conduct interviews.
As a side note, the IPR's presentation did not include the findings (which allegations were Sustained, Exonerated, etc), and it was never made clear whether Waterhouse, the complainant, filed the appeal, or whether an officer had filed it because of a "Sustained" finding.
Case 2009-x-0004: Officer Hit Man's Son in the Face with a Flashlight, Failed to File Report
A previous case (#2009-x-0004), heard in full at the CRC's October meeting, involves a September, 2007 incident between Shane Grundmeyer, a 38-year-old man, and Portland Police. Shane's father, Michael Grundmeyer, who has a background in law enforcement, filed the complaint and the appeal. The officer, Robert Jackson (#37241), did not appear at the CRC hearing.
According to the narrative presented, Shane Grundmeyer was followed by Officer Jackson and a cadet ride-along because he was seen near a suspected drug house. The officer conducted a stop of Shane's vehicle and approached. Shane told his father that the officer was in plain clothes and driving an unmarked car, and that he did not understand what the officer was saying when he talked to him. Shane said the officer struck him in the face with the flashlight, and, fearing for his safety, Shane drove away from the stop.
A February 23, 2008 Oregonian article claims Officer Jackson was working for the Drugs and Vice Division at the time of the stop. If so, he would have been in plain clothes and an unmarked car. However, Jackson's report states he was with East Precinct in uniform and on patrol. It is not unheard of for police reports not to match facts.
The original findings were: (1) The use of force was "Unproven," which could mean one of two things; in this instance, the police meant that the incident did not occur as alleged (formerly known as "Unfounded," as opposed to the other possible meaning, "Insufficient Evidence"). However, Mr. Grundmeyer says there are witnesses who were not interviewed who could have seen the struggle; and (2) The failure to write a report was "Exonerated" because the officer was not required to write the report if he did not use force.
To their credit, the CRC voted 6-1 to send the case back to Internal Affairs (IAD) for more investigation. The CRC voted on this motion a second time after interjection from Director Baptista, who began cross-examining Commander Mike Crebs as to whether new information would cause him to change the finding. In CRC's second vote to send the case back, they added instructions to interview "whomever" about the flashlight, and to find out more about the patrol car/plainclothes issue.
It appears that IPR will be involved in interviewing the civilian witnesses identified by Mr. Grundmeyer, because they were reluctant to talk with police at IAD.
As to the allegation about the missing police report, if the officer did use or may have used force (if the force complaint is either Sustained or found "Unproven" for the second reason--Insufficient Evidence), that finding cannot stand as "Exonerated." Thus, the CRC unanimously (7-0) voted to send that allegation back as well.
CRC Defers Opportunity to Hold Hearing on Chasse Case
At the October meeting, CRC Chair Mike Bigham suggested that the Committee hold a public forum on the death of James Chasse, Jr, especially in light of recent developments reigniting community concern about the case (see the article on James Chasse in this issue). The group backed down for fear that they had no experience holding such forums. One of the most vocal opponents was Vice Chair Hank Miggins, the only member who was on CRC when they held two public forums in September, 2002 shortly after two protests were attacked by police (PPR #28), and another in June, 2003 regarding the structure of IPR (PPR #30).
The League of Women Voters of Portland (LWV) sent a letter to the CRC urging them to hold some kind of public event around the Chasse case. The LWV pointed out that the outside expert being hired by Griffin Valade to examine the investigation will only be allowed to contact citizens approved by the Auditor and IPR Director.
CRC Sends Letter of Concern in August Case
As a follow-up to the second appeal filed by the complainant named Iacuzzi, #2009-x-0003 (PPR #48), in which the CRC did not complete the hearing but sent a letter to the Assistant Chief, concerned that two officers had harassed Iacuzzi, CRC members voted 6-1 to send a copy of the letter to the complainant. This should have been a matter of common courtesy, but the affirmative vote was a welcome action.
Assistant Chief Implies All Officers Should Crack Down Harshly on the Poor
At the September meeting, Assistant Chief Brian Martinek was invited to discuss the changes to the Bureau's precincts, which were cut from five to three in June (PPR #48). When Portland Copwatch (PCW) raised the concern that Central Precinct's harsh policies against homeless and poor people had migrated across the river, in the form of a raid on St. Francis Dining Hall days earlier (see the article in this issue), Martinek replied that the Bureau thinks police should behave in the same way throughout the City. It appears this means that whatever community policing efforts were in place at St. Francis are secondary to heavy-handed tactics.
CRC has not had a civil rights attorney present to the group since November, 2006. IPR's plan for new member orientation does not include a presentation about constitutional rights.
CRC Keeps Improving Appeals Process, Needs More Work
While the CRC has improved the process for appeals hearings, instituting a scripted welcome that explains the process, and having its members present the case background in place of the IPR, there is still more work to be done.
PCW continues to urge the CRC to go beyond the appointment of an "Appeals Process Advisor" (APA). The APA helps the complainant prepare their appeal by explaining the protocols of a hearing, but is not allowed to talk. After the October hearing, one CRC member applauded former CRC member/APA Eric Terrell for passing a note to Mr. Grundmeyer during the appeal. With a process as complex and nuanced as CRC appeals, civilians filing complaints need more than a note- passer; they need an advocate.
On the bright side, CRC voted in November to formally adopt their procedure using two members to present each case. Although this had been done in 2002 and 2003, IPR staff took that role back after a mass resignation of five CRC members (PPR #30).
Behind Closed Doors: Auditor Rewrites Procedure; Director & Bureau Change "Service Complaint" Name
Despite the difference in style between Auditor Blackmer (frequently defensive and dismissive of the public) and Griffin Valade (open to criticism and public input), the new Auditor has an ingrained bias that may continue to hamper IPR's potential. One of CRC's most important functions is to recommend policy changes to the Police Bureau. They have only done so three times in eight years: CRC's Profanity, Hooper Detox, and Tow Policy reports received mixed reception from the Bureau.
The CRC's Protocol Work Group recently spent months redrafting into a clear set of linear instructions the confusing policy protocol created as a chart by IPR's first Director, Richard Rosenthal. In August, Griffin Valade attended a Work Group meeting to lay down the law: the protocol needed to exclude the public from seeing draft CRC policy recommendations until after the Bureau had a chance to sign off on them. This, she said, echoing Blackmer, is how auditors are trained.
While located in the Auditor's office, the IPR and CRC are not required by ordinance to behave like auditors. Thus, there is a tension between anyone with Griffin Valade's training and what the public expects from a review board. In recognition of this tension, the Work Group rewrote the protocol to straddle the demands of the Auditor and the need for public input to avoid making bad policy recommendations. CRC adopted the protocol at its October meeting.
In November, Griffin Valade appeared at the CRC general meeting with a rewritten protocol, claiming that she has ultimate authority and anything CRC suggests is just advisory. "As the elected official, it's incumbent upon me..." she began her talk, going on to compare the CRC to her office's Citizen Campaign Committee (CCC). However, CCC's recommendations focus on changing elections laws, not mere policies. Griffin Valade said she cleaned up the CRC's grammar (reporting that she was an English major) and tuned up the protocol "for consistency and efficiency." Work Group member Miggins was taken aback. Each re-draft had been given to the Auditor for comment, and she'd had a chance to comment before the CRC vote. To her credit, the protocol retains the CRC's ability to take public input before adopting the final report; yet by this time, the Bureau may have already made changes based on the original draft.
The Auditor and Director believe the "ordinance is very clear" about how policy recommendations are made; yet the law lists "make policy recommendations" as a power of the CRC while directing them to "work with" the IPR to create such recommenda-tions. Nowhere does it give the Director and Auditor "final say."
In another change made without CRC input, Baptista began referring to "Service Complaints" (allegations which don't rise to the level of discipline) as "Service Improvement Opportunities." PCW has long called for the term "Service Complaint" to be changed, since a person with a badge, gun, pepper spray, baton, Taser, handcuffs, and the power of law is not the same as, say, a waiter. Even rudeness from an officer is far more serious than receiving a dirty fork.
Unfortunately, they changed the wrong term--we objected to the word "service," but they replaced the word "complaint." Yet a complaint is what prompts IPR to suggest a supervisor talk to an officer in the first place. In November, CRC member Loren Eriksson asked whether the term had been formally adopted by the Bureau. Director Baptista said it was, with her support.
The IPR should have learned the lesson not to change such terms without input after the finding of "Unfounded" and "Insufficient Evidence" were changed in 2007 (PPR #42).
New Members Show Promise
In October, Council inducted four new and two returning CRC members:
--Jeff Bissonnette, the 2008 City Council candidate who slept out with homeless protestors at City Hall last May during sit/lie and anti-camping law protests (PPR #45);
--Myra Simon, who has done work with homeless youth at Janus Youth Programs;
--Ayoob Ramjan, who sits on the Arab/Muslim Round Table for police to sensitize them to the needs of those communities. In February, he replaces Joann Jackson; and
--Jamie Troy, nominated by Mayor Adams to replace Mark Johnson, another attorney who is leaving when his term expires in February.
Returning are Eriksson, nominated in late 2003 by Commissioner Randy Leonard and very active since then; and Miggins, whose low attendance record and reluctance to change the way things have been done in the past indicate it may be time to take a break.
Work Group News:
The CRC's Structure Review Work Group is writing its report, anticipating their proposed changes to protocols, ordinance, and maybe the City Charter sometime in early 2010. Work Group Chair Jackson and member Johnson have vowed to finish this work after their terms end. The effort is based on the review done by Eileen Luna Firebaugh in 2008 (PPR #44).
The Bias Based Policing Work Group met with Chief Sizer a second time in October, and say they are working on a final report. However, they've conducted no public forums or national research about racial profiling or other biases, and there have been no public meetings of the group since May.
The PARC work group is also writing its report, covering the Police Assessment Resource Center's 2005 and 2007 analyses of Portland Police shootings and deaths in custody. The report should be out in early 2010, addressing issues such as whether IPR should be more involved in reviews of these most serious cases of potential police misconduct.
Contact IPR at 503-823-0146
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.