People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Citizen Review Committee Gains Power to Order Investigations
As reported in PPR #65, the Citizen Review Committee (CRC), which among other things hears appeals of police misconduct cases, now has 6 relatively new members and 5 who've served no more than two years. The institution has been around since late 2001, yet in a May City Council vote CRC gained its first actual power to direct the City to do something: conduct more investigation when a case they hear has inadequate information. The board also heard its first appeal in over 6 months, grappling with new definitions attached to the findings on allegations, in the end leaving the Appellant feeling she was being called a liar. The Code changes in May came in part under the mandate of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement, the topic of a special presentation at CRC's July meeting. Meanwhile, the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR), which houses CRC, began conducting its ninth "independent" investigation of a community complaint* and held a series of forums ostensibly to seek input on how to improve the oversight system.
Changes to CRC: Case of Broken Arm Prompts Change; Timeline of Appeals Partially Compressed
After the community meeting held in late April about his proposal to change the ordinance governing the CRC (PPR #65), IPR Director Constantin Severe fixed most of the language to which Portland Copwatch had objected.
The most significant change was the addition of CRC's ability to order either Internal Affairs (IA) or IPR to conduct further investigation. We refer to this change as the "Maynard Clause" after Craig Maynard, a man who had his arm broken by Officer Christopher McDonald over an alleged missing bicycle reflector and later took his own life. Maynard's family appealed to CRC, and when IA and IPR both refused to do more investigation, Mayor Sam Adams ordered the Bureau to do so (PPR #58). The ordinance now includes language from the DOJ Agreement that such a request may cover more than one area of inquiry.
Though the DOJ Agreement states the entire timeline for a person to resolve an appeal of their investigated complaint should be 21 days, DOJ attorney David Knight suggested the timeline could be longer, perhaps 45 days (PPR #64). Changes around this concept included the unfortunate reduction of time to file an appeal from 30 days to 14 days, though an "escape clause" was added after PCW raised concerns that most appellants need time to understand the process. PCW prevented language from being adopted that would have implied the Case File Review (CFR- -the "pre-hearing" to determine whether there's enough information to hold an appeal) and the appeal hearing had to occur on the same day. IPR is pushing that idea to accelerate the timeline, but it will likely result in the kind of botched process that led to the creation of the CFR in the first place.
Director Severe and Auditor Mary Hull Caballero indicated they would not propose other changes to the system unless there were three Council votes to support them. Beginning in May, they held a series of outreach meetings which initially seemed to be honestly asking for input. The first meetings were held at City Hall (May), and at the Charles Jordan Community Center in St Johns (June). The July session at the Q Center in inner N Portland ended without any such discussion. The last session is scheduled for late August. The initial openness to change contrasts to just a few years ago when previous Auditor Gary Blackmer--who put IPR in place and gutted many of the community's wishes in the process--consistently blocked the idea of making any amendments to IPR's structure.
Case 2015-X-0001: Officer allegedly was rude, entered home without permission, lied about said entry
For the six newest CRC members, the appeal on case 2015-x-0001 was their first hearing ever. At the Case File Review in May, the basics of the case were revealed:
The cops entered the Appellant's apartment to look for her son, who was apparently wanted on a warrant-- and maybe another of her sons gave permission for them to enter. When arguing with the Appellant (Nicole Siri) whether the son with the warrant lived with her or not, she felt the officer was demeaning and called her a liar. Ms. Siri was in a dispute with her landlord and states she had a restraining order on him. The landlord had asked the police to accompany him to inspect damage to the apartment-- so the cops went back less than half an hour later to facilitate his entry. Ms. Siri says one officer then signed a statement containing false information.
The June appeal hearing at St. Johns Community Center was a complicated mess untangling the separate visits, tenants' rights, who can OK police entry into a home, what Directives were violated, and confusion caused by the Bureau's redefining their findings last fall. So not only were most CRC members working on their first case, they were grappling with new definitions that were never explained to them. Things were made worse when City Attorney Glenn Fullilove misstated the rules governing the Committee.
The person with the best perspective on the hearing was former CRC member Jeff Bissonnette, acting as Appeals Process Advisor for Ms. Siri. Bissonnette clarified that a harassment complaint by a neighbor led to a first visit by the cops, who then entered to do an unsuccessful search for the son; then 10-15 minutes later, police accompanied the landlord as he came in to take pictures. As the CRC deliberated on allegation #1, that the officer entered the apartment without permission, Bissonnette corrected Fullilove, who had told CRC they could decide the original finding of "Exonerated with a debriefing"** was not supported by the evidence without suggesting a new finding.
CRC member Julie Ramos noted an average person seeing a uniformed police officer at the door does not necessarily know he/she has a right to refuse entry without a warrant. Members Roberto Rivera and David Green pushed the Bureau on the question of the state requirement that a landlord give 24 hour notice before entry, asking whether officers had any training on that law. IA Lieutenant Jeffrey Bell said they didn't ask that question because it was "not related to the misconduct allegation." The Bureau says Ms. Siri did not verbally invite the officer in but stepped aside to allow entry, while she says they pushed their way in past her.
Commander Dave Hendrie, the officer's supervisor, offered his analysis of why he attached a finding of "Exonerated" to the improper entry allegation, saying it wasn't claiming the officer was in policy despite entering unlawfully, but rather that the officer entered properly.
CRC then voted twice, first 10-0 (with Julie Falk abstaining) that the finding was not supported by the evidence, then again 10-0 to recommend it be changed to "Not Sustained" (insufficient evidence) with a debriefing.
Several CRC members noted the second allegation, that the officer was demeaning and called Ms. Siri a liar, should have been broken into two parts, rudeness and the issue of name calling. Because even Ms. Siri admitted the officer did not use those exact words, CRC supported the Bureau's finding of "Unfounded," even though if they'd been considering whether his conduct was rude, it might have been changed. This is not the first time the issue of poorly framed allegations has come up at CRC. CRC voted 9-1 to uphold the finding. Roberto Rivera voted no, stating he thought the officer didn't necessarily remember everything.
The question on allegation #3, whether the officer was untruthful in a sworn affidavit, could not be proven because nobody could produce a copy of the affidavit. According to documents the Bureau could find, the landlord's lawyer prepared a statement for the officer to sign but he never did so. However, because nobody saw the actual document, it's odd that (a) the Bureau decided to "Exonerate" the officer, implying he did sign the paper but was in policy, and (b) CRC voted 9-1 to change the finding to "Unfounded," since there was not enough evidence to prove or disprove it. As dissenting member Kiosha Ford noted, that means the finding should have been "Not Sustained."
Ultimately, CRC voted that maybe the Appellant was right about the entry, but she was wrong about both the officer's accusation of her being a liar and the affidavit being signed. The current definition of "Unfounded" uses disparaging language ("false or devoid of fact"), while a more recent description was more apt ("available facts do not support the allegation"). Because of the vote, Ms. Siri left feeling she'd been called a liar again-- this time by CRC. This certainly compounded her feeling of helplessness, as the landlord's police-supported visit led to her losing her apartment.
For details on PCW's suggestions for Bureau findings, see portlandcopwatch.org/direct ives_analysis0415.html.
DOJ and PPA Special Guests: Race, Mental Health, Oversight, Staffing
At the July CRC meeting, Assistant US Attorney Adrian Brown attended to present on the DOJ Agreement. Scheduled for 15 minutes, Brown's session lasted over an hour and half including Q&A. However, nobody talked about the requirement for CRC to hold appeal hearings in a 21-day time frame, when they're a volunteer body meeting once a month and the paid staff has at least 159 days to complete an investigation.
Brown pointed out what the Agreement was and was not about, noting while PCW had provided statistics about racial profiling, the DOJ could not prove intent. PCW suggested a recent Supreme Court ruling that discrimination in housing can be proven using numbers and not intent should apply to police as well. Brown explained how the DOJ focused on mental health, saying training on handling people in crisis and constitutional policing both need attention. She repeated the DOJ's new catchphrase for those still pained because the DOJ has mostly ignored race--that people of color also have mental health issues. For what it's worth, an IPR intern researched the Bureau's Racial Profiling Plan, something that's supposed to be the responsibility of the Community/Police Relations Committee (Agreement paragraph 146d; see article).
Brown repeated the disempowering analysis that since investigations of officer involved shootings are required, community members can't file complaints or appeals in those cases. She also claimed the community is involved in mental health training through the Behavioral Health Unit's Advisory Council, yet those meetings are not public.
On the bright side, Brown did encourage member James Young, whose work on CRC's Deadly Force Work Group led to a pending recommendation for more de-escalation and disengagement, to put forward such recommendations on their own and through the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB).
After a mixup in July, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner showed up at the August CRC meeting, complaining about low staffing levels (see "Rapping Back"). He also claimed he doesn't send officers to CRC hearings because he had seen a few hearings years ago and felt CRC was unfair to them. PCW gave him a copy of PPR #64, in which we noted that of eight officers who have appeared before CRC, only one left with a "Sustained" finding.
CRC Work Groups
Other than hearing appeals, one of CRC's most important functions is to make recommendations to the Bureau. In May, Vice Chair Bridget Donegan instituted a Work Group to review the monthly list of Bureau Directives set out for public comment (article). So far, no other CRC members are involved in this important work. Adding to a long list of frustrations, including the turnaround time, Donegan reported in July that the Bureau told her reports revealing the substance and number of comments made on Directives "will never happen."
Another new Work Group is looking at the CRC's Standard of Review, which currently requires them to agree with the police Commander if a "reasonable person" could come to the same conclusion given the evidence. Five members are finding a way to change that to a less deferential standard. PCW's 2011 analysis on this issue is at: portlandcopwatch.org/ preponderance_analysis_0411.pdf.
CRC's Deadly Force Work Group does not seem to have met since April, but put forward a draft document in May summarizing three proposals including the one on disengagement/de-escalation in deadly force situations and one that allows appeals on deadly force cases. CRC has never discussed the document.
Meanwhile, CRC's Outreach Work Group works with IPR Outreach Coordinator Irene Konev to gather community concerns and explain how the IPR/CRC system works. Since CRC member Angelo Turner became Work Group chair, CRC reached out to the Portland Police Association, the Bureau's K-9 unit and the Portland Business Alliance (PBA). This adds to our concern that despite being a person of mixed race heritage, Turner is not a strong voice for communities oppressed by police. As PCW pointed out at the July meeting, the PBA has done more than just about anyone to make homeless people's lives miserable (see article).
After a May report to CRC that IPR had visited a number of Portland Public Schools, Konev told the Committee she could not say what feedback came from the students nor which high schools they attended because it was "confidential." After pushback from CRC, in July IPR said they would publish all feedback from that outreach.
*- In order for IPR to compel officer testimony, they still have to have a member of the Bureau's Internal Affairs division order compliance (PPR #62). IPR's cases include 6 from post- Ferguson protests (resolved as of August), the case of tasered teen Thai Gurule (PPR #65), and two "community complaints."
**-Exonerated means in policy, but the debriefing means the supervisor should talk to the officer about how they could do better.
In our last issue, we reported Turner had accused Independent Police Review Division investigators of intimidation (and racism). Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, in an unusual move, released the outcome of that Bureau of Human Resources complaint, showing IPR was found not guilty of any misconduct. Since the Auditor also revealed the PPA was trying to use supposedly confidential information about one of the investigators' criminal backgrounds to discredit IPR, we set the score at Auditor 2, PPA 0.
In mid-June, the new CRC members attended a training so they could rotate onto hearings for deadly force and other serious cases at the Bureau's Police Review Board.
Long-sought Changes to IPR/CRC Include:
--give IPR and CRC the ability to compel officer testimony so we can stop putting the word "Independent" in quotes; --give CRC the ability to hear shootings/deaths appeals;
--change CRC's deferential standard of review so their decisions are based on the preponderance of the evidence instead of deferring to a police supervisor's decision;
--allow misconduct victims/survivors to attend Police Review Board (PRB) hearings;
--allow shooting victims/survivors to appeal findings about appropriateness of police actions; and
--ensure CRC has the ability to request the allegations be re-categorized to better reflect the complaint.
We want to work toward a more fully integrated system where the functions of the CRC and PRB are both performed by the same group of civilians.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.