People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Bureau's Review of Policies Suspended for a Month
In March, after nearly two years of monthly posts asking for community input into their "Directives" (policies), the Portland Police put the review project on hold. Captain Mike Marshman at the Strategic Services Division explained that (a) the Bureau was working on reconciling Directives with the US Department of Justice as required by the Settlement Agreement, and (b) the person in charge of the project had left the Bureau for another job. In April, they started up again asking for input on just two policies: Courtesy and the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT). Before the one-month suspension, the Bureau asked for more input on older policies in February around medical and other transports, and new policies in January including one Portland Copwatch (PCW) called the "Copwatching Directive."
Formally known as "Directive 635.20 Citizen Observation of the Police," PCW acknowledged this policy firmly establishes the right to record officers on duty in public places, as guaranteed by ORS 165.540 passed by the 2015 Legislature (PPR #66). We suggested using a term such as "civilian" rather than "citizen," narrowing circumstances in which to seize/view recordings, emphasizing the right to observe/record as absolute before launching into restrictions (such as being in a residence where the observer has no right to be present), and making sure the restrictions match state law (which only lists Trespassing or Interfering with a Police Officer as exceptions). The Bureau wisely advised officers that "While the recording itself and/or overt criticism, insults or name-calling may be frustrating, those acts alone do not rise to the level of interference with law enforcement activity."
They also added a new policy around officer use of social media (311.40), probably because officers posted "I am Darren Wilson" along with PPB badges to their Facebook pages (p. 7). We told the Bureau their restriction to posting for "protected union-related activities" may go too far. "While we're all for holding officers accountable for misconduct and coming under scrutiny for racist, sexist, homophobic or other remarks they make while on or off duty, we also understand the members' need to vent publicly about working conditions."
One of the most significant changes in the old Directives: The Bureau removed language around "maximum restraint" custody in Directive 870.20 (Custody and Transportation of Subjects). Apparently, they decided to stop using the technique known as "hobbling" (cuffing hands and feet together, then attaching the two sets of cuffs) sometime in 2015. However, the draft did not prohibit the practice, leaving cops open to raising the "nobody said I couldn't" defense. With regard to emergency medical transport (630.45), we suggested they make it clear any time medical staff refuses to treat a suspect, a paper trail be created and maintained. We also objected to the use of the term "excited delirium" in this and the Medical Service Policy (630.40), since it's a term mostly used by Taser, International to explain why so many people have died when shocked with their 50,000 volt weapons.
The SERT Directive continues to call it the "Reaction Team" even though other City branches refer to the "Response Team." We'd rather the Bureau respond to emergencies than be reactionary. That Directive also added the term "active shooter" to its list of required call-out scenarios. The Courtesy Directive remains unchanged, allowing officers to use profanity to "control" a suspect, not complying with a recommendation made by the Citizen Review Committee in 2003 that this should be in "exceptional circumstances."
PCW also suggested the Bureau post public comments on line to accomplish three things: signal to commenters that the Bureau received their input; allow others the ability to consider posted ideas; and allow the community to compare final versions to see how responsive the Bureau has been. We also continued asking for feedback on public comments, something afforded for all 31 of the OIR Group's recommendations about deadly force incidents (article). PCW has now commented on 79 directives and opted out of 23, which means the Bureau has posted over 100 policies in the last two years.
The two other new Directives addressed Pilot Programs (1205.00) and the sinister sounding "National Incident Management System" tied to the Department of Homeland Security (700.00).
In Directive 1060.00 Weapon Disposition and Disposal, we learned that the Bureau can retain confiscated weapons for its own use.
Updates can be found at portlandoregon.gov/police/59757
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.