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Police Oversight System Changes in Flux
Council Changes Police Review Board Despite "Stakeholder" Concerns; Recommendations Roll In

Well, that didn't last long. The goodwill engendered by Portland City Council, Auditor Lavonne Griffin-Valade, and Independent Police Review Division (IPR) Director Mary-Beth Baptista when they introduced changes to the IPR and formally created the Police Review Board (PRB) in late March went out the window in July. Billed as "housekeeping," Griffin-Valade, Baptista and Commissioner Randy Leonard proposed changing the PRB's structure to allow the supervisor of an officer under scrutiny to vote on the Board. The problem: that supervisor will have already made a recommendation about whether the officer was in or out of policy and therefore, as noted by the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) in 2003 and 2006, has a conflict of interest when voting on the board.

In late May, Leonard convened the "Police Oversight Stakeholder Committee," some 32 people including police, city staff, elected officials, and community leaders, to look at further revisions to the IPR ordinance and other changes to promote accountability. The proposal to give the commander a vote arose on a Friday, one day after the Stakeholder meeting, and three weeks before they were set to meet again. After typographical errors and community concerns helped derail the vote twice in June, the final vote was scheduled for July 14 to give the Stakeholders time to discuss the issue. A vote was taken of 11-1 among community members and 1-6 among City staff to disallow the commander from being a voting member in cases of shootings, deaths in custody, and civilians hospitalized due to police action. Council took no testimony and passed the change 3-2, with Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman taking principled stands against. Adding insult to injury, Leonard had promised to relay the Committee's concerns and vote results to Council, yet only spoke to his own idea's merits.

Meanwhile, the Stakeholders have made some progress in developing recommendations for Council to improve IPR, including changing the standard used by the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) from the "reasonable person" standard to the "preponderance of evidence." The CRC itself released its "IPR Structural Review Report" the same morning as the PRB vote, with several dozen recommendations including the one about standard of proof. While many of CRC's ideas will require City Council action, and may or may not make it through the Stakeholder process, some are simply internal policy matters and IPR/CRC may implement them in the coming months.

CRC also released its review of the 2005 and 2006 PARC reports, focusing on the 26 recommendations made in those years, adding the 2003 idea (repeated in the 2005 report) that IPR should provide civilian oversight in shootings/deaths cases. Unfortunately, CRC did not review all of PARC's analysis of its 2003 recommendations, in which they repeated that an officer's commander should not vote on the Review Board. The relatively new IPR Director and Auditor, not knowing this history, led Council to believe that CRC's omission of this topic was an implied acceptance of it.

CRC also repeated recommendations from PARC for the Bureau to change its medical aid policy to render assistance "as soon as possible," for Council to fund scenario-based training, and require a cover officer or supervisor to be present before extracting someone from a car.

The Stakeholder group is expected to meet one more time, on September 16 at 9:30 AM, nearly two months past the 90-day deadline incorporated into the ordinance. It remains to be seen how many of the several dozen recommendations will make their way to Council.


September, 2010
Also in PPR #51

Portland Shootings on the Rise
Oregon Shootings Double
Chasse Lawsuit Settled
Sit/Lie 4.0 update
New Chief Reese
Police Oversight System Changes
Civilian Review Board Update
No Change In Profiling Data
Copwatching On May Day 2010
Quick Flashes #51
Pervocops Certifier is Perv
Legal Briefs 51
Rapping Back 51

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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