People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Police Oversight Board Gets More Investigation on One Profiling
Case, But Not Another
It's been a busy few months for the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR) and its affiliated Citizen Review Committee (CRC), with two racial profiling cases heading down different paths, staffing and volunteer turnover, a new annual report, and IPR's first (alleged) independent investigation into misconduct.
As reported in PPR #59, Lisa Haynes, a 4'-10" African American woman who was mistaken for a 5'-4" Latino male suspect allegedly rifling through mailboxes in the neighborhood, filed an appeal (#2013-x-0001) regarding the findings on her complaint against the police. After being mis- identified, Haynes refused to let police search her backpack, which they grabbed from her forcefully. The search was found in policy with a suggestion to talk to the officer ("Exonerated with a debriefing"), while allegations of rudeness and use of force were outright "Exonerated." Haynes says one officer called her the "B" word which implies more than rudeness. The IPR dismissed Haynes' allegation that the initial stop was improper (which, really, is a racial profiling allegation since the officers essentially were going on the theory "here's someone with dark skin, maybe that's our suspect!") and did not forward it to Internal Affairs for investigation.
The CRC did not send the case back for more investigation at the Case File Review stage, with some members dismissing the officers' mistaken identity as understandable, and no urgent plea to interview Haynes' son Felix, who was on the phone listening to the entire incident unfold. That changed when the case finally came up for appeal on June 11. (The original hearing on June 5 had to be postponed when the IPR forgot to invite the officers' commander to the meeting.)
The biggest surprise of the evening was CRC member Steve Yarosh, whose excuses for police misbehavior we've chronicled numerous times, coming out strongly for the appellant's case. Yarosh pointed out that though the investigators were right that Felix was not an eyewitness, they would likely have interviewed a blind person who heard the incident. After a break, IPR and Internal Affairs pledged to do more investigation, saying it was the "right thing to do." CRC then unanimously voted to support that decision.
In a second case, involving Floyd McCorvey (#2013-x-0002), IPR also failed to forward allegations of racial profiling for investigation by Internal Affairs. McCorvey, who is also African American, was stopped by a cop for jaywalking and accused of being a pimp, walking with a prostitute (a random woman he met on the bus), smoking crack (because he had a medical marijuana pipe that was seized with no receipt given) and disparaged for living in public housing. At their May Case File Review, IPR Program Manager Rachel Mortimer explained to CRC that McCorvey failed to indicate any disparate treatment in his complaint despite the four examples above, which as CRC members pointed out would not have been asked of a white man. The Committee sent the case back to IPR for more investigation on a 5-2 vote, with Yarosh expressing a seemingly reluctant yes. Within two days, IPR told the CRC that they would not investigate based on the procedural issue that CRC, by IPR's claim, has no ability to ask IPR to investigate an allegation that was previously dismissed (or not identified).
In June, Mortimer told CRC she listened to the tape of McCorvey's jaywalking hearing and implied that the officer did not admit to saying something about McCorvey being a pimp. That may be true, but it also would not have been within the court's scope to ask follow up questions to the officer to elicit that information if McCorvey brought it up. It would only come up in an administrative investigation done by IPR-- or really by IA since IPR still does not have the power to compel officer testimony.
At the July CRC meeting, Yarosh again stood up for what is right by articulating the same suggestion Portland Copwatch sent in a May 3 letter to IPR: That even if the result of a full investigation is a finding of "Unproven" because of lack of evidence, the fact that IPR looked into the case would build goodwill not just with the appellant but with the entire community. (Such goodwill is already at the breaking point after IPR refused to allow Keaton Otis' father to appeal the findings in the police shooting of his son-- PPR #58.) Yarosh's strongest point, which we also noted, is that the officers were already being brought in to be questioned about the possible rudeness, the failure to give a receipt for evidence (which, by the way, resulted in a "Sustained" finding), and could easily have been asked a few questions about the profiling allegations at the same time.
McCorvey's appeal was scheduled to be heard on August 7, following discussions by CRC with the City Attorney regarding how things might be different if the Department of Justice (DOJ) Agreement is entered into enforcement by the federal court (article). CRC also reminded IPR that in the case of Craig Maynard (whose elbow was dislocated over a missing bike light), Mayor Adams eventually stepped in to order IA to conduct an investigation (PPR #58), which Mayor Hales could have been asked to do in this case.
At the hearing, instead of getting more information by demanding that IPR or IA ask the officer (Todd Tackett--#44164) whether race played a part in his inappropriate behavior, CRC voted 4-2 to find the rudeness complaint "Sustained," with Chair Jamie Troy and member David Denecke dissenting. As a new exercise, the CRC took a secondary vote asking what the outcome should have been if they were not constrained by the "reasonable person" standard limiting them to voting if the officer's supervisor could have come to that decision; that non-binding vote was 6-0. It is surprising there was any debate, though, as the evidence showed that the officer admitted he asked McCorvey about the woman and whether she "worked for him," alleged she was a "prostitute" or "working girl," said something about the pipe resembling a crack pipe, and may have said something about public housing. Unfortunately, the only other remaining allegation, that the search of McCorvey was improper, remained with an "Exonerated" finding on a 4-2 vote of the CRC; Dr. Rochelle Silver and new member Keeble Giscombe felt the consent was not voluntary. McCorvey said while he had his hands on top of his head, the trainee officer (William Green--#52227) had his hand on top of McCorvey's hands.
Captain with Nazi Past Subject of First "Independent" Investigation?
In June, the IPR announced it was going to conduct its first independent investigation into officer misconduct, presumably without Internal Affairs taking the lead. Fortunately, they are investigating the scurrilous behavior of Capt. Mark Kruger, the cop who is known to have dressed up in Nazi uniforms and posted names of Nazi soldiers on a memorial plaque in a Portland park (PPR #52). As reported in PPR #59, Kruger was scrutinized recently for inappropriate behavior toward Lt. Kristi Galvan, a subordinate who had investigated the Nazi shrine. Kruger pinned up his exoneration notice, which includes a warning not to retaliate against Galvan, whose name was not used in the letter-- yet Kruger apparently wrote her name on the page before posting it.
Unfortunately, while the IPR is following the recommendation of the Police Oversight Stakeholder Committee of 2010 to conduct an independent investigation of an incident involving Captain or above, this case does not include any community members. It is also being done in conjunction with the Bureau of Human Resources because Kruger may have violated terms of employment, not just Bureau Directives.
So, the nearly 12-year ability for Portland Copwatch to point out that IPR has never done an investigation may be coming to a close, but the real test may lie in the future of the Portland Police Association contract and the DOJ.
In May, IPR Director Mary-Beth Baptista announced her intention to resign from the position, as she had held the job for five years. Auditor Lavonne Griffin-Valade, whose office houses IPR, quickly announced the promotion of Assistant Director Constantin Severe, a former defense attorney. After years of joking about staging a coup, Severe took the lead in mid-June, empowered by the hiring of three new complaint investigators related to the DOJ agreement. In another first, none of the IPR's new investigators are former police officers: Casey Bieberich worked for Multnomah County's Aging and Disability Division; Eric Berry worked for the Oregon Medical Board, and Eric Nomura comes from the Oregon Department of Human Services. IPR also bid a fond farewell to Mike Hess, who had been the only staff person at the previous review board (PIIAC) and one of the intake investigators (and a former Hillsboro reserve officer). Steve Morrow, a former IA detective, also left IPR. Judy Taylor, another former PPB employee, remains as the only former cop now on IPR staff.
On June 12, City Council formally appointed three new members of CRC: Teresa Baldwin, Pamela Dunham, and Giscombe. Two seats had previously been vacated, and the fair-minded former Port of Portland cop Michael Bigham stepped down once the new members were in place. In unfortunate timing, after his recent surge of standing up for people's rights, Yarosh announced he was stepping down in mid-July. Roberto Rivera, one of four other people who were selected and trained by IPR, was appointed by Council on August 14, earlier than expected. Of the four, two were picked to fill seats that are called to be created by the DOJ Agreement, one to replace Dr. Silver when she retires in February 2014, and the last as an alternate for just such an emergency. Baldwin, Giscombe and Rivera are all people of color, so the refreshed 9-member panel has three women and three people of color (with some overlap), up from one woman and zero members of color.
After the CRC lobbied City Council for more power in late 2011, Baptista and Griffin-Valade rarely showed up at any CRC meetings. It will be interesting to see what changes with Severe in charge-- and whether his habit of consulting his smart phone or laptop continually during meetings will give way to a more engaged Director.
IPR Annual Report Again Diverts from Shortcomings of System
The IPR released its 2012 annual report in late May, prompting Portland Copwatch (PCW) to publish an analysis on how the report draws attention away from the oversight system's weaknesses by carefully choosing language, glossing over shortcomings, and failing to conduct its own analysis. Even though the cut-and-paste narratives PCW complained about in 2011 were replaced and updated, the report still leaves too much work up to the reader trying to find out how Portland addresses misconduct.
Among other things, PCW found:
--IPR describes investigations into shootings and deaths in custody as "policy reviews" to justify the fact that the City does not allow civilians who have been shot at by police (or their surviving family members) to file complaints or appeals in deadly force cases.
--There has still only ever been one allegation of Disparate Treatment sustained in IPR's 11-year history, while last year only two allegations (of 34 received) were even investigated--both ending in "Exonerated" findings.
--A new record was set as IPR and Internal Affairs (IA) dismissed or declined a whopping 82% of all cases in 2012, up from about 75% in the previous two years (and way up from 45% in 2002).
--High rates of "sustaining" allegations made by officers against other officers contrasted with low sustain rates and rare use of "Unproven" (he said/she said) findings in civilian cases indicate officers' words are now more than ever being believed over civilians'. Also, IPR continues to over- calculate its "sustain rate" for community complaints by comparing the number of cases ending in one or more "Sustained" findings (17) to the number of investigated cases (38), whereas compared to all cases processed (417) the rate is 4%, not 45% as stated in the report. (Just 26 of 888 or 2.9% of all allegations were "Sustained.")
--The report seems to show a 1 in 3 chance of having a case investigated (33%), but that is the percentage of cases forwarded to IA that result in investigations; only 9.6% of all complaints were actually investigated, meaning the actual odds are 1 in 10.
--IPR's approval ratings, at 35% citywide, still hover well below 50%, even without narrowing their polling to only those who have used the system.
--IPR now uses their seemingly psychic powers to believe that even if investigated, they "cannot prove misconduct" in 25% of all dismissals, up from 16-18% in 2010-2011.
--The majority of cases turned over to IA were handled as "Service Improvement Opportunities" (SIOs), with 53% of adjudicated incidents ending with manager-officer discussions rather than formal findings or discipline.
The full PCW analysis can be found at http://www.portlandcopwatch .org/iprannual2012analysis.html
Other Happenings at IPR/CRC:
--Because of its increased staff, IPR moved from the third floor to the ground floor of City Hall. Perhaps the next step will be to get it closer into the community, or at least out of an intimidating city building.
--The Deadly Force Work Group continued its examination of Bureau policies and training, in June inviting CIT instructor Liesbeth Gerritson and Lt . Cliff Bacigalupi to talk about the new Behavioral Health Unit and de-escalation.
--Internal Affairs Lieutenant Chris Davis, who was involved in the 2001 shooting death of José Mejía Poot (PPR #24), was replaced by... Lt. Jeffrey Bell, the officer who shot not only Mejía but also Eddie Homsombath in 2003 (PPR #31).
--The August Director's report listed changes IPR wants made to the ordinance, curiously leaving out expanding the CRC to 11 members and giving the Committee power to order investigations-- both required by the DOJ Agreement.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.