People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Copwatch Continues Commenting on Bureau Policies, With Glacial Impact
Between April and August, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) asked for input on eight of their policies ("Directives"), and Portland Copwatch (PCW) weighed in on seven of those. Most had been posted earlier, and as usual most of the changes PCW previously suggested were not adopted. Among the most significant were four Directives on Mental Health, which are directly linked to the US Department of Justice Settlement Agreement with the Bureau on use of force (article). Below are summaries of comments PCW made each month, though no input was requested in July.
August: The Bureau posted Directive 640.20 on Sexual Assault Investigations. PCW noted the importance of clarifying this policy in light of Officer Alfonso Valadez being fired for off-duty sexual misconduct (article). Valadez's alleged assault was not properly investigated by Clark County Deputies in Washington State, who failed to process the female victim's rape kit (Oregonlive, May 21). PCW made comments on this Directive in October, 2015, but none of the Bureau's original proposed changes, or PCW's suggestions, had been added. Our comments focused on allowing the survivor to choose what gender officer they want responding to the case, not intimidating them into submitting a rape kit by implying no prosecution will happen without one, and having officers treat everyone with respect and dignity during the investigation.
June: Three Mental Health Directives (850.21, 850.22 and 850.25) had previously been posted in November, and the fourth (850.20) in August 2017. Generally, we encouraged the Bureau to put "Patience" at the top of their list of tactics for officers to use rather than the end, repeated concerns about diagnosing people with poor hygiene as having mental health issues, asked the PPB to acknowledge the mere presence of officers can escalate a situation, and suggested officers must lock up their weapons before entering mental health facilities. PCW also expressed concern that guidelines for the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team, which had recently been added, were cut out again. PCW noted the Bureau changed a requirement to take a person into custody ("shall") to an option ("may") in the Civil Holds Directive (850.21), and conversely made important actions mandatory in the Director's Holds and Elopement Directive (850.22), where "should" became "shall." In the Directive on Mental Health Facilities (850.25) we asked that they define what kinds of incidents would require police intervention.
Also in June, PCW commented on Directive 660.10 on Property and Evidence procedures. We raised concerns about seizure of electronic equipment and the destruction of prisoners' property.
May: PCW commented on the Search and Seizure Directive (650.00), noting that no changes had been made since October 2014 when we previously submitted comments. We asked the PPB to define when and whether a "stop and frisk" (as mentioned in the policy) is lawful, to consider the impact on searches of transgender people, and to consider the legality of "inadvertently" discovering evidence of a crime.
PCW has also consistently asked for more time to review policies, particularly more complex ones, in light of how seldom some advisory groups meet. In addition to existing groups (Training Advisory Council and Citizen Review Committee, for example), the forthcoming Portland Committee for Community Engaged Policing is likely to only meet once per month, but is explicitly included in the Directives review process. Unfortunately, the PCCEP will likely not even hold its first meeting until October.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.