People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Bureau Policies Roll Out in Spurts; Bias Policy Drops Flaw, Crowd Directive Authorizes Violence Bureau Policies Roll Out in Spurts; Bias Policy Drops Flaw, Crowd Directive Authorizes Violence
Perhaps due to the transition to a new Chief, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) did not post any policies for review from mid-September to mid-November. However, a large number were released in August, September and November, prompting Portland Copwatch (PCW) to provide written feedback. In addition, the PPB released their "final" version of several key Directives. The revisions showed promise where the Bias-Based Policing policy (344.05) stopped using the troublesome qualifier "solely" when addressing if race is used improperly. On the other hand, the Crowd Control policy continues to broadly authorize use of force. Other policies up for review had to do with discipline, criminal investigations of cops, performance review and mental health.
Profiling: Maybe Officers Could Be Found Out of Policy
After two years of trying to get the PPB to stop using language from the 2015 state law prohibiting profiling which made it more difficult to hold officers accountable, PCW seems to have had some success. As in April, we commented in September how the Bureau removed the word "solely" from their definition of "bias-based policing," but left that word in the definition of "profiling." This means an officer would have to state the only reason they stopped someone was for the race, gender, or another characteristic outlined in the law and Directive. In November, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) approved a new version which says profiling is "where a Bureau member targets an individual belonging to a class protected by law or Bureau policy when conducting stops or detentions unless... acting on suspect description or information related to an identified or suspected violation of... law." This more or less puts Portland back to the mid-2000s when the Bureau adopted the federal definition of profiling. PCW noted the definition should apply to "any police action," as it seems to allow profiling for what police consider "mere conversation" (which by their standards could include a pat-down for weapons). The DOJ-approved revision states "when initiating consensual encounters that do not amount to legal detentions or when seeking consent to search, members shall not rely solely on status characteristics that are protected by law or Bureau policy." The September draft of that sentence said police "shall not consider" such characteristics; it is not clear why the Bureau re- introduced the "solely" flaw. They also inexplicably removed a clause guiding consensual contacts that said a person had to be "permitted to cease the conversation and/or depart of their own accord." At least the modified policy is a step toward ending over-policing based on race.
Crowd Control: Force Not Adequately Restricted
In September, PCW released an analysis of the revised Crowd Control policy (635.10), listing passages where inappropriate new language was added, where changes still need to be made, and where the Bureau made improvements. PCW encouraged the Bureau to emphasize de-escalation in the Directive to be in line with the Force policy.The PPB legitimized their practice of targeting specific individuals using a loudspeaker system, fixed language and other technical issues, made some effort toward progressive change, but fell short in many sections (such as caveats about being able to target legal observers and media if they disobey orders). They also made no change to some parts including the ongoing problem of using outside agencies to police Portland protests. One fix: The section on Crowd Dispersal now requires the Incident Commander to "consider whether dispersal unduly endangers the public" and to give time for the crowd to comply with orders.
July/August: Discipline, Criminal Investigations, Directives Directive
In early August, PCW sent feedback on the Discipline Guide (338.00), the first policy to include a "redline" version showing changes made (PPR #72). The Directive says discipline can be modified "based on mitigating and/or aggravating factors," so PCW suggested listing items which should not be considered, such as information about a member's personal life with no bearing on their job performance. In mid-August, we sent updated comments on Discipline (335.00), continuing to ask the Bureau to stop calling the "Insufficient Evidence" finding "Not Sustained." They also posted Directive 010.00 on how Directives are created/reviewed, so PCW repeated concerns about the process allowing just 15 days to review modified policies, but 30 days to look at existing ones. We also noted a new section on "Union review" should refer to a "collective bargaining unit," and should not allow them a separate review period after public comments have ended. In late August, we commented on Criminal Investigation of officers (333.00), wondering why deadly force incidents are separated out from the Directive. Rigorous external civilian review would make it easier to conduct such investigations (e.g., an independent prosecutor). A new section calls on officers to intercede and report if they observe colleagues engaging in criminal behavior.
September: Mental Health, Satisfactory Performance
In early September, 850.20 on Mental Health Crisis Response-- a core policy related to the US DOJ Settlement Agreement-- was posted for the first time since 2015. The policy asks officers to "consider the governmental interests at stake" but doesn't give guidance if that has to do with whether a person might pose a danger to others. It also removed the definitions of de-escalation, disengagement, delayed custody, and non-engagement. In mid-September, Satisfactory Performance (315.30) was combined with policies on assisting motorists, required duty and requests for assistance, even though those were posted separately on a longer timeline. PCW repeated that 315.30 implies officers might face discipline if they decide not to use force. New reasons to reprimand officers reflect cases heard by the Police Review Board, such as leaving work for personal reasons without permission, failing to show up, and feigning illness-- though all were part of 311.00 "Duty Required." The Bureau also posted an updated version of Performance Evaluation (215.00) which reduces supervisory reviews of officers from twice a year to once. Even though the DOJ Agreement calls for review of an officer's training history semi-annually, and at least one threshold for examining use of force is based on a six month window, the DOJ appears to have signed off on this revision.
November: More Mental Health, Cadets and Leaves from Service
In November, the PPB posted policies related to 850.20: Response to Mental Health Facilities (850.25) Civil Custody (850.21) and Mental Health Holds (850.22). In addition to echoing previous concerns on these policies (last posted in 2015), PCW raised concerns about a term in 850.22 called a "Notice of Mental Illness" (NMI), which may be from an Oregon statute but feels like inappropriate labelling. The Cadet Program policy (630.25) still talks about an advisory board but doesn't say whether their meetings are public. And the Directive on Leaves from Service (210.21) refers to blanket City policies, but cuts out specific allowances for such items as educational leave. In December, the PPB posted a few more policies which PCW will report on in our next issue.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.