People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Police Ask Input on Crowd, Force, ID Policies;
Continuing a never-ending wild goose chase between making rational changes and continuing to do the same thing, the Portland Police Bureau set out 19 Directives (policies) for public review between May and August. Portland Copwatch (PCW) commented on most of them, most significantly ones about "crowd control," force, identification and mental health. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, which is much more sparing in its policy review-- mostly because unlike Portland, they're not under scrutiny from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), posted three. The most significant one is a troubling body camera policy which seeks to allow deputies to review footage before they write their reports, even in force incidents. Below is a summary of PCW's comments.
May: The crowd management policy, which was previously posted just as the George Floyd protests were getting underway in June 2020, included no changes made since that time. PCW updated its comments to take out quaint statements about officer indiscriminate use of force "in the past two weeks..." in light of those demonstrations going on to last for the better part of a year. Other adjustments were made based on outlandish behavior like officers attacking people offering only passive resistance and not being required to wear name tags.
Also, a Directive about police being allowed to use force against non-human animals removed the requirement for a supervisor to investigate such force and contained almost no suggestions for de- escalation.
June: The Directive on Officer Identification appears to have removed the loophole which allowed the cops to display numbers rather than names during the 2020 protests... but until the crowd Directive is finalized, we aren't celebrating yet. Unfortunately, the PPB also seems to have removed some requirements about handing people business cards at every encounter.
The policy on "less lethal" weapons was modified in ways that showed the Bureau doing exactly the opposite of what PCW had previously asked, such as taking out certain information rather than adding more in. A different Directive on Force Reporting created a loophole for officers who claim to have experienced trauma when witnessing a deadly force event. This is based on a cop who didn't provide an interview after using a Taser on Joshua Merritt in July 2021 (PPR #84). We noted how civilians are pressured to talk to officers regardless of their emotional state, leading us to call again for "no special rights for police."
July: PCW once again commented on the Bureau's four main policies around mental health, noting that the list of possible responses is no longer represented by an acronym which put "patience" at the bottom of the list, but still doesn't prioritize de-escalation enough. The medical aid Directive replaced the problematic term "Excited Delirium" with "hyperactive delirium with severe agitation." Officers are not medical professionals, and they should describe behaviors, not syndromes.
August: Because the Bureau re-posted the same version of its training policy we commented on in March, 2020, PCW simply added a few contemporary references to their biased training on crowd control. One thing we suggested is that they should list a punishment for those who approve or fail to review such harmful trainings.
Sheriff's Policy: The Sheriff's camera review policy was due for comment in July. PCW emphasized how experts at the DOJ and the OIR Group (which reviews Portland deadly force incidents for policy issues) have said it is not good investigative practice to let cops see footage before they are interviewed or write reports. The US Supreme Court case guiding police use of force says the decision has to be based on what the officer knows at the time, not 20/20 hindsight. What more obvious way to violate that principle could there be than to let them look at a recording so they can change their justification for harming community members?
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.