People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Other Areas' Review Systems and Indictments Show Portland the Way on Deadly Force Cases
It is nearly impossible to hold officers accountable administratively or criminally.
One of the many problems with Portland's system to review police is that the Citizen Review Committee (CRC), 11 community members who hear appeals of misconduct, cannot evaluate use of deadly force. Instead a Police Review Board (PRB) that reports to the Chief of Police handles these incidents, with just one CRC member sitting on the PRB when it hears deadly force cases. Because PRB hearings are considered personnel matters, they are closed meetings, not even open to the victim or the victim's family.
Other cities have developed more independent systems. For example, both Cincinnati and San Diego have boards that investigate and make findings on cases of police use deadly force. The Cincinnati Citizen Complaint Authority, was established in 2003 after a federal Department of Justice investigation. Seven citizens are appointed by the Mayor and council; they approve or disapprove findings that come from the Authority's Director and team of investigators. The 23- member San Diego Police Citizens' Review Board (CRB) was established in 1988 by voter referendum, and can review shootings and deaths. The 11-member San Diego County Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board, which oversees the Sheriff's department, also can review deadly force cases. So while Portland keeps saying civilians should not review these "complex and emotional" cases, it's clear other cities allow more transparency and independence.
On the criminal front, though we police accountability advocates often say officers are "never" indicted for killing civilians, a few recent examples are exceptions to this rule:
--In April, South Carolina Officer Michael Slager was indicted for murder after a copwatcher's footage showed him apparently planting evidence after killing Walter Scott with 8 shots to the back (Washington Post, April 7).
--In January, Officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, who killed James Boyd, a homeless man, were indicted for murder in Albuquerque, NM (CNN, January 13).
--In December, rookie Officer Peter Liang was indicted for manslaughter for shooting Akai Gurley, an unarmed man in a stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project (NY Times, February 14).
--Last June, Bastrop County, TX Deputy Daniel Willis was indicted for murder for killing unarmed Yvette Smith (KXAN-TV, June 18).
An April 11 Washington Post article traced 54 indictments leading to just 11 convictions nationally in the past 10 years.
In the history of the Portland Police, the only indictment for use of force by an on-duty officer was Officer Dane Reister, who permanently injured William Monroe in 2011 (PPR #55). Reister was fired; the trial is still pending.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.