People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
"Independent" Police Review's 2013 Annual Report Exposes System Failures
In late October, the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR) released its 2013 annual report, including, for the first time in many years, detailed case summaries for about 10% of the 409 complaints they received. While the report shows some improvement, Portland Copwatch (PCW) noted that it continues to omit important information and lack thorough analysis. PCW also found that the summaries point to serious flaws in the system, particularly how IPR dismisses cases alleging serious misconduct.
For example, one force complaint that was dismissed involved a videotaped incident in which police tasered a man in a grocery store, leaving a pool of blood when they picked him up off the floor. IPR focused on the fact that the man had been holding two knives to justify the officers' actions, saying the man "suffered a bloody nose but was otherwise uninjured." In general, Use of Force complaints were down (to 41 from an average of 51), but the number of individual allegations of force was 17% higher than it was in 2010. The incredible rarity of any force actions being found out of policy mean the "Sustain" rate of Force complaints since IPR was created in 2001 is now 0.62%.
With regard to Racial Profiling, most of the 44 allegations were dismissed, and the four that were investigated resulted in "Exonerated" (officer in policy) findings. Only one case of "Disparate Treatment" was found out of policy in the entire history of IPR, in 2007. At least two dismissals of profiling concerns did not explain IPR's logic. In one, a man who was stopped for allegedly not wearing a seatbelt felt the officer was "very racist," and IPR dismissed the complaint based on police records and the man's interview. In the other, when a man said he felt he was given a jaywalking ticket because of his race, IPR used patrol car video to dismiss the complaint, but didn't say what specifically undermined the allegation.
In a two-fer case, IPR dismissed a complaint from a man who said police mocked his race and religion and used excessive force, saying he merely re-injured an existing wound when he hit his head on the patrol car.
In terms of shootings, although IPR participates in nearly every aspect of the so-called "policy reviews" of deadly force incidents, information about those investigations-- including the names of the people shot-- does not appear in the report.
* The number of community cases with one or more "Sustained" findings is 15, or 4% (of 409 cases), though IPR only compares those 15 to the 31 that were investigated and reports a 48% Sustain rate. (PCW notes a more telling statistic, that only 19 of 937, or 2%, of all allegations were Sustained.)
* More allegations by officers against other officers are still being "Sustained" than community members' complaints (21/60% vs 19/2%). Officers are "Exonerated" in 50% of civilian complaints, and the "Unproven" (he said/she said) finding is only employed 26% of the time, indicating a tendency to believe cops more.
* Filing with IPR gives a person a 1 in 12 chance of having the complaint investigated, with 67% of all cases dismissed or declined by IPR or Internal Affairs, and more cases are handled as "Service Improvement Opportunities" (non-disciplinary complaints) (11%) than investigated (8%).
* Community members who respond to a citywide survey likely can't say what kind of job IPR is doing, since at most 0.54% of Portlanders have used the system in the past 6 years; thus even the abysmal (and typical) reported approval rating of 34% can't accurately reflect how people feel. IPR should resume its previous practice of polling actual complainants.
* Though the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement calls for investigations to happen in 180 days, IPR's confusing table, which implies they take place in 176.5 days, actually indicates the median time is 209.5 days.
In addition, PCW raised concerns about: lack of investigation into allegations raised in lawsuits; information which could lead to a false impression about what IPR and CRC can and cannot do; missing data (including how many times complainants objected to their cases being dismissed); continued under-use of Mediation to resolve complaints; and an Outreach program that doesn't seem focused enough on those who file the most complaints.
The full PCW analysis can be found at http://www.portlandcopwatch .org/iprannual2013analysis.html.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.