People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Audit Highlights Lack of Police Bureau Follow Through
In March, City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero released an audit of the PPB Training Division (PPR #65). The review showed a lack of consistent training on de-escalation techniques when dealing with persons in crisis. After each highly publicized incident in which a citizen was killed or injured, there was a flurry of activity. The PPB administration made statements about new training to address the issues and wrote Directives to assure such incidents would not happen again. Tragically, they lacked follow through. After a year or so interest in effective techniques to address the problems faded and the training content shifted to other topics.
For example, Aaron Campbell was killed by police in 2010 (PPR #50) and the city agreed to a large settlement in 2012. After much media attention, there was a strong focus on training in confrontation management. An executive order required officers to make decisions calculated to end encounters with persons in mental health crisis safely with as little reliance on force as practical. In the 2013 training, extensive time was spent on alternatives to force including de-escalation, disengagement, the use of mental health experts and Enhanced Crisis Intervention teams.
However, in 2014 training shifted to other scenarios where officers were approached by an aggressive person and use of force was allowed. When asked why they did not follow up on training for de-escalation with persons in a mental health crisis, they cited lack of funds as the obstacle to reinforce the 2013 techniques.
A similar lack of follow up training was evident after policy changes covering medical transport of injured persons. In 2006, James Chasse died while in custody after a struggle with law enforcement; officers initially took him to jail instead of the hospital (PPR #40). Soon after the incident, Chief Rosie Sizer issued a new directive on emergency medical transport detailing the responsibilities of all parties. In 2009 updates to policy and procedures were included in an executive order. When audit personnel inquired about this in 2014, Training staff could not find any new material since 2011, and were unable to find any lesson plans or recall any in-service presentation on proper procedure for medical transport.
The Training Division was commended for increasing professionalism and adding staff devoted to curriculum development and evaluation. The efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of the training are still being developed. At the time of the audit there were no systematic ways to asses whether officers were applying the training they received in the classes when they were out in the field.
As we noted previously, in one session none of the 12 officers present could correctly articulate the bureau's policy on when to use force. It is clear that there is still work to be done.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.