People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
PPB Makes First Step to Show Changes in Directives
As noted in PPR #65, the Bureau has been posting a number of its general orders ("Directives") on line for public comment each month, prompted by requirements in the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement. That Agreement gives the DOJ (and by extension, the Community Oversight Advisory Board) 45 days to comment on any proposed Directives, yet the general public still has to read the dense documents and respond in just 30 days. And while the Bureau keeps posting their drafts on line with no indication of what's being changed, when they released the new order on Identification (312.50), it included a new requirement for officers to document when they refuse to identify themselves. The Bureau actually highlighted the particular section which was changed from a previous draft. So who knows, maybe more user- friendly steps are on the way.
Portland Copwatch (PCW) submitted comments in late April, May and June, but skipped the July Directives that mostly centered on emergency disaster response. Since many of the Directives are coming around for a second review, some of our comments--such as those on the Mental Health orders--were repeats of items the Bureau chose to ignore. While encouraging the Bureau to make more aspects of the Police Review Board (PRB--336.00) public, we noted that members of the Citizen Review Committee, who sit in on deadly force and other serious cases, expressed feeling intimidated in a room full of police officers. We made suggestions to improve the language on findings in complaint investigations (335.00; see p. 3), wondered whether the "union" created a clause allowing officers with non-sustained findings to have that information removed from employment documents (332.00), and thanked the Bureau for removing the Chief's ability to review the City Auditor's nominees for the Police Review Board (337.00)-- something not envisioned by the Ordinance creating the PRB.
With the Mental Health Directives, we noted that changes to 850.20 (Mental Health Crisis Response) give police some direction to deal with persons in crisis, but are also so broadly written that almost anyone could be considered "in crisis." The degree of discretion given to officers means holding them accountable might be almost impossible.
We also noted that 850.21 (Peace Officer Civil Custody) wisely no longer encourages officers to make an arrest for some (arbitrary) offense if the hold is merely for concern of the person's being a danger to themselves or others.
In May, we wrote that the Racial Profiling Directive (344.05) unfortunately removed the federally recognized definition of profiling. That definition was put in place by Chief Foxworth in the mid- 2000s, and focused on police using race rather than behavior. Now the order uses the term "motivated solely by any characteristic of protected classifications." On the bright side, the Bureau added gender identity, familial status, mental illness, economic status, political ideology and more to the race/ethnicity/gender items in the old version.
We applauded the change to 311.30 (Off Duty Responsibilities) telling off duty cops to "defer to or obtain assistance from the appropriate law enforcement agency" in order to avoid confusion and risk of injury. Unfortunately, a new section in the Truthfulness Directive (310.50) defines exceptions for officers to lie, such as when "deception is necessary due to the nature of the assignment, when necessary to acquire information for a criminal investigation or for public safety."
In June, the Directives covering what happens after a Deadly Force incident included 1010.10, which instructs the Bureau to put out information on subjects of deadly force. This information almost always includes a criminal history if there is one, which clearly could bias people trying to evaluate the shooting from an objective viewpoint-- especially if the officers did not know that information at the time. All that's required to be released about the officer is their name and length of service, but nothing about their possible past history of violent / deadly encounters with members of the public.
Find the current list of Directives including proposed changes at portlandoregon.gov/police/59757.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.