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Outside Deadly Force Report Questions Portland Officers Shooting Black Man in the Back
...But Delayed Release Ignores Race in the Year of Racial Justice

To be fair to the contractors with the OIR Group whose Report on Portland Police shootings (and one death in custody) was released in September, they had completed the Report for an April 2020 release and could not have anticipated the worldwide movement for racial justice in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis. However, to apply an appropriate critique, they once again ignored the issue of race* even when questioning if officers justifiably shot Patrick Kimmons, a young African American man, in the back once he was no longer posing a danger to them (PPR #76). The Report was presented twice publicly: to City Council on September 30 with no public input, and on November 7 to the PPB-friendly Interfaith Peace and Action Collaborative. The "Independent" Police Review (IPR), which hires OIR, did not have them present to the Citizen Review Committee even though City Code requires CRC to work with IPR on follow up to deadly force reviews. Regardless, the Report once again provides insight into these most serious cases, exposing a pattern Portland Copwatch calls "the cowboy hero syndrome."

Perhaps their most important recommendation (out of 28) was for Internal Affairs to interview officers before they go off-duty after these incidents. After the City ended the policy of waiting 48 hours for such investigations (PPR #72), OIR says best practice is not to let outside influences change officer perceptions. This would have been important in the April 2018 shooting of John Elifritz (PPR #74), where the officers' lawyer showed them cell phone footage of the shooting before their interviews. PPB disagreed with OIR's recommendation.

While only three of the seven included incidents resulted in death, the perspective of the victims (and survivors) is not considered. That said, OIR does often question whether officers were always acting within policy, as the official reviewers in all these cases claim they were. Also:

--Not only did OIR say the cops who shot Kimmons in September 2018 should have stopped firing after he ran past them, but they noted that the Police Review Board members who looked at this case did not discuss the fact that Kimmons had been shot in the back.

--Officers, including six who fired 17 times at Elifritz, did not make a plan before entering the houseless ministry where he had been cutting himself in the neck. OIR forgives them for trying to protect the 20+ civilians in the room. However, they note some of the civilians were ignoring Elifritz, indicating he was not an imminent threat to anyone but himself.

--IPR subpoenaed the medics who attended to Richard Barry as he was dying in police custody in November 2018 with one Portland officer kneeling on him (PPR #76). The medics ignored the City's legal call to testify in the internal investigation. OIR did not seem to focus on the officers' behavior, which included one officer washing Barry's blood off of himself.

--The Sergeant and officer who pried open a door when looking for Sarah Michelle Brown in someone else's home in March 2018 (PPR #74) didn't anticipate she might have a gun pointed at them, so scrambled to get away once they opened the door. The officer fired four bullets at her, then another officer with an assault rifle fired 22 rounds, hitting her hand and leg, causing her to drop the gun.

body cam footage of Portland officer kneeling on Richard Barry in 
November 2018--OIR seems to agree with the Training Division assessment that the officer who shot and wounded Jesse Brockner (PPR #73) violated policy when he jumped ahead of a second police car he knew was nearby and moved out from behind cover to shoot Brockner. The rest of the Bureau's review system cleared the cop.

--The radio dispatcher told the officers involved in the October 2017 shooting of Chase Peeples (PPR #73) he robbed a bank without a weapon, but the cops assumed he was armed anyway, leading one of them to wound the African American man when he pulled out his wallet. OIR does not consider one reason the officers were "sure" Peeples was armed could be implicit bias.

--The cops who riddled a neighborhood with 15 firearm rounds, missing Michael Grubbe in May 2017 (PPR #72) did not get called out for endangering the public. The officer who used a shotgun was either required to or volunteered to get better training on how to aim, since many of his buckshot pellets hit a house.

OIR lists five of the seven people involved as having mental health issues (excluding Brockner and Kimmons). The Report shows 34 of the 57 people subjected to deadly force had mental health issues. As PCW noted in 2019, the percentage after the City made an agreement with the US Department of Justice to use less force on people in crisis is higher than before the DOJ arrived in 2012. The new data show the percentage was 55% of pre-DOJ cases (18 of 33) and is now 67% (16 of 24).

There have been ten shootings that OIR has not reviewed, including the shooting of another Black man, Andre Gladen, who was also in mental health crisis. Unfortunately, the Auditor, who oversees IPR, has not yet offered them a contract due to her sense of uncertainty with a new oversight system being created (see article in this issue).

Read the OIR Report at http://portlandoregon.gov/ipr/article/766203 and PCW's analysis at http://portlandcopwatch.org/shootings_analysis_0920.html.

*-Previous examples include when the OIR Group refused to call the stop leading to Keaton Otis' death racial profiling even though the officers stated they thought the young Black man "looked like a gangster" (PPR #60).
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  People's Police Report

January, 2021
Also in PPR #82

100+ Days of Protests and Police Violence
  Officer Indicted for On-Duty Assault with Vehicle
Portland Out of Compliance with DOJ Agreement
Oversight Board Continues; New System Voted In
No PPB Shootings but Two Incidents in Washington
  • State Deadly Force Incidents Pass Average Despite Pandemic
• Outside Report Knocks '18 Shooting of Black Man
New Profililng Reports Show Same Disparities
Houseless Community Faces Winter, COVID, Sweeps
Terror Task Force: Community Wants Full Withdrawal
Training Council Analyzes Use of Force
 • Second Round of Police Budget Cuts Scuttled
 • Police Contract Talks to Restart in January
 • Lawsuits Total Nearly $16 M in 28 Years
 • New "Brady Rule" Policy and Other Policies Posted
Rapping Back #82

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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