People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
EXCLUSIVE: Training Advisory Council Looking at Use of Force Statistics-- Sort Of
Since the Training Advisory Council (TAC) does not act as a public body and does not post minutes from its meetings, and since Portland Copwatch was the only non-Bureau/non-TAC member at their May 1 meeting, we bring you this information as an exclusive insight into the reclusive group. The most interesting discussion was about the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)'s use of force.
Inspector Lt. James Dakin (recently replaced by Lt. Steve Jones) said that over 229,000 calls for service led to 33,201 arrests, and force was used 941 times, or 3% of the time. If you exclude pointing of firearms, that's 413 incidents, or 1.4% of the time. He noted the Tactical Squad used force 58 times, in 6% of arrests, which he attributed to their including the Gang Enforcement Team. Traffic and Transit each used force 3% of the time. Assistant Chief Mike Crebs noted that Transit is a multiagency unit so tracking becomes complicated. For example, Dakin said a Gresham cop, not a PPB officer, used a 37MM "Sage" gun.
Dakin said the Taser used to be the "go-to tool" for officers to avoid touching suspects, but after the 2012 DOJ report (PPR #59) police are "scared to use it." Really? Tasers were used 119 times in 2013, or 13% of all force cases. There were 17 uses of more than two electrical cycles, now considered a serious use of force. Pointing of a firearm made up 40% of force reports, with officer strikes using hands and feet at 11%, maximum restraints at 5%, pepper spray at 3%, and "bean bags," K-9 dog bites, and batons each at about 1%.
Dakin talked about the "citywide Mental Health situation" among "homeless people" which caused use of force to go up. He said no call is routine, you could end up in the fight of your life. So Dakin, the Inspector, who's to crunch these numbers to look for alarming trends, is a cop's cop--and incidentally was one of the two officers who beat up Merrick Bonneau after mistaking him for his half-brother in 1999 (PPR #25).
Dakin then covered demographics: White people made up 59% of force recipients, while 27% were African American; "Hispanics" were at 10%, which is much closer to their makeup of the population (9%) than blacks (which is 6%). As noted in our DOJ article (left), "transients" were 287 of the people in the force incidents, or 30%, which is alarming. Dakin talked about a "seasonal bump" coming in summers with "road warriors" and aggressive panhandlers. Mental health issues were noted in 87 cases, about 9% of the time. Bureau analysts also flagged that 50 incidents involved "force without custody" and are supposedly examining why. The Bureau also made a new Use of Force form-- but didn't run it by the the Community/Police Relations Committee, or the Citizen Review Committee, much less the general public, before adopting it. Dakin said the TAC's Use of Force committee had input on the "checkboxes," but no item ever came to the public meeting of the full Council for discussion or vote.
In 2013, 436 incidents generated After Action Reports (6 of which were for pursuits), of which 6 resulted in Internal Affairs investigations and 8 "Internal Service Improvement Opportunities" (ISIOs). The internal PPB process of ISIOs apparently bypasses the Independent Police Review Division.
The TAC's Use of Force Task Force involves three cops, including Captain Parman. They will review After Action Reports, look at trends, examine national practices, and write recommendations. Apparently their procedure will be to send draft recommendations to the PPB before bringing them to the TAC for a vote.
The meeting also included information from Training analyst Emma Covelli about how the Bureau decides what courses to give for its annual 35-hour "in-service" training. She reminded the TAC, which is supposed to help recommend topics, that the DOJ Agreement (article) imposes some requirements on the cops. Covelli said they are looking at trends in misconduct. Parman added they are specifically looking at "problematic" use of force, but also examining when police are injured what body parts are most affected.
Chair Bruno Amicci talked about the in-service training scenarios-- though not all the officers had gone through them until the end of May. (Aren't we angels for not publishing this information sooner?) One was an ambush of a car at a traffic stop, presumably prompted by the shooting of Santiago Cisneros last year (PPR #59). They also had firearm mini-scenarios. The idea is to surprise trainee officers so they know how to act under stress. As civilians, says Amicci, TAC members don't know how to tweak the scenes but can suggest improvements. If you're interested, they also want to recruit 2-6 civilians for role plays. They recommended to have officers debrief both as individuals and in groups, and to vary gender, race, time and dress during "civilian" training scenarios--all good ideas.
The TAC's August 7 meeting has been postponed until the new training facility opens after the re- modeling is done; check the DOJ tab at portlandpolice.com for the next date.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.