People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland's Review Board Experiences Huge Turnover, Holds No
Probably in part due to the departure of four members, the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) has been mostly inactive in the early part of 2015, with no appeals heard. With two previous resignations, they had to welcome six new members in February, outnumbering the five who remained. That said, CRC has for the first time elected a female chair and its first female Chair-Vice Chair team. CRC's most significant action, presenting its Crowd Control Report lacking recommendations about police violence (PPR #64) to City Council, resulted in community pressure leading the elected officials to ask the Bureau to include use of force in its policy revisions. Changes that were proposed relating to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement were also put on hold when it was pointed out that the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB) should weigh in on the proposal (more on DOJ/COAB). Meanwhile, the Auditor, whose office houses the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR) and CRC, revealed damning information about the Portland Police Association obstructing the system, and the IPR itself announced a number of investigations into misconduct.
As noted in PPR #64, Chair Rodney Paris, Vice Chair David Dennecke, former Chair Jamie Troy, and former Recorder Jeff Bissonnette all opted not to renew their terms. This left Roberto Rivera, who was sworn in in August 2013, as the longest standing member of CRC, serving with four people who were appointed in February 2014. When CRC voted in January to appoint Mae Wilson as Chair and Bridget Donegan as Vice Chair, they made history-- while there had been two previous female Vice Chairs (Denise Stone 2002-2003 and Donna Oden-Orr 2004), there had never been a female Chair. One of Wilson's first orders of business was to set up a retreat for March 28 to bring the new members up to speed and set goals for the oversight body for the coming year.
CRC's orientation sessions were not open to the public this year despite including a quorum of 6 members.
The six new members included five women and just one man, meaning the overall composition of CRC is now 7 women and 4 men. Only three of the six self-identified as Caucasian, meaning CRC now has six white people and five people of color. The new members were chosen by a committee including Wilson, Troy, former CRC member Keeble Giscombe, and two community members with no connection to CRC: Michael Alexander from the Urban League and Patricia Day TenEyck of NAMI. Generally speaking, the new members seem to be more from the professional class than those who may have had direct experiences with the police or victims of police misconduct. They are: Kiosha Ford and Angelo Turner, who both work for Legacy Health Systems; Kristin Malone, who works at an attorney's office; Julie Ramos, a mental health official; Domestic Violence shelter manager Vanessa Yarie; and Julie Falk, the executive director of B**ch magazine, who once worked with the Police Assessment Resource Center, a group that conducted four reviews of Portland Police Shootings (2003-09). All six were appointed to three year terms, practically ensuring that this massive turnover will happen again in 2018.
Prior to the new members' appointments, the January meeting included a presentation by IPR Director Constantin Severe on the outcome of the Division's review of policing of hip hop clubs (PPR #64). The February meeting had a low audience turnout and included farewell speeches from the departing members. The March meeting was "out in the community" at IRCO's Asian Family Center and introduced the new members, but only brought in three "non- regulars" to the audience, two of whom are members of the COAB.
The retreat was held at the Kennedy School and included discussion about CRC's deferential standard of review, which calls for them to agree with the Bureau's finding if the decision could be arrived at by a "reasonable person." Director Severe surprised Portland Copwatch (PCW) by stating he's now willing to help CRC change this standard to "preponderance of the evidence." Three CRC members who'd attended Police Review Board hearings revealed they felt intimidated in a room full of officers. Mr. Turner, no relation to Portland Police Association (PPA) President Daryl Turner, suggested he'd be willing to be liaison to the PPA, and that CRC add police members to their Work Groups. The former idea might work only to convince officers to attend appeal hearings; the latter would just give community members more reason to distrust CRC.
Some of these issues were raised again at CRC's April meeting, including impressive push-back about the proposed changes to the ordinance (see below). A representative of the Bureau's Sunshine Division made a presentation, which included nothing about accountability, or the question of whether the people partaking of free food and clothes were scared of the police. Captain Dave Famous announced that in May, he is retiring and handing the Professional Standards Division/Internal Affairs over to Captain Derek Rodrigues.
When outgoing CRC Chair Rodney Paris presented the group's recommendations about the Bureau's Crowd Control policies to Council on January 14, PCW was among a number of groups and individuals who demanded more action be taken around police use of force at protests. With folks speaking out from Don't Shoot Portland, who'd been pushed around, "kettled," and had flash-bang grenades thrown at them, it was clear to the elected officials CRC's report did not go far enough. Incoming Chief Larry O'Dea appeared willing to adopt the recommendations as written. Paris' excuse that the Bureau has separate policies guiding use of force did not seem to satisfy Council, who asked (for example) about horses employed as a use of force. It's unclear if the policy will come back to Council before being finalized.
After a few Work Group meetings discussing proposed changes to City Code establishing CRC's powers, IPR Director Severe posted a draft ordinance in mid-February for public comment prior to a scheduled March 11 hearing. The changes include ideas to speed up the CRC appeal process and to give CRC the ability to order more investigation, as required by the DOJ Agreement. After PCW noted the draft was posted and planned for a vote between the first and second meetings of the COAB, IPR withdrew the item. PCW complained that some changes did not go far enough (the ability to order more investigation could limit them to one area of inquiry) and others were too restrictive (to streamline the process, IPR's language indicates that a preliminary Case File Review will be held at the same time as an Appeal Hearing). Originally, new Auditor Mary Hull Caballero asserted the City Attorney had signed off on the proposal and there would be no changes. At an IPR-led community meeting on April 21 (with two COAB and three CRC members present), Severe agreed to clarify the language, but refused to add other long-sought amendments to improve the system. The current planned date for the hearing is May 13.
On March 20, the Oregonian reported bombshell revelations from Auditor Hull Caballero. She revealed PPA President Turner had: (a) raised an issue about confidential information he had received from former Chief Mike Reese regarding one of IPR's investigators, (b) intimidated a different IPR investigator, and (c) filed complaints including saying IPR was discriminating on the basis of race. Turner also opposed IPR's solution to the intimidation-- having two investigators sit in on interviews with cops-- because state law allows only two people to conduct such investigations at once. Since the City backed down to the PPA's bullying last year and failed to give IPR the power to compel officer testimony (PPR #62), a Bureau Internal Affairs employee has to be in the room to order cops to answer IPR's questions. This story is shocking, but has three elements of good news: (1) Hull Caballero is not going to put up with the PPA's nonsense; (2) the issue of "only two investigators in the room" is good fodder to get IPR the powers it needs; and (3) Chief O'Dea is indicating the Bureau will farm out background checks for IPR to other agencies to prevent future leaks.
According to their Fourth Quarterly Report for 2014, IPR is currently conducting eight "independent" investigations. While the first few investigations they did were purely Bureau-on- Bureau, all of the current ones include community members: The incident in which 16 year old Thai Gurule was Tasered and beaten (article), six around post- Ferguson protests (PPR #64), and one from a community complaint (April IPR Director's report).
Commendations listed in the IPR's quarterly reports aren't investigated. So while hundreds of community complaints per year are dismissed, commendations such as "a woman wrote that she had witnessed "countless examples" of one officer's "exemplary police service""(3rd Quarter 2014) are accepted at face value, with no substantiating evidence. Meanwhile, a case where a driver said an officer was rude at a traffic stop was dismissed because "officers are trained to provide brief explanations, but not to debate the merits of a citation with drivers at the scene" (Q4). The reports also include findings on completed cases, revealing in Q4 that an officer who decided not to make a mandatory arrest for a violation of a restraining order was found out of policy and disciplined.
IPR also announced an investigation into whether officers whose trustworthiness is in question are being flagged by the Bureau before they give testimony in court (the "Brady rule").
Find their proposed language for changes to City Code and other info at portlandonline.com/auditor/ipr
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