People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Annual Report from "Independent" Police Review Continues to Lack Adequate Information
Just under four weeks before it moved out from under the City Auditor's office (see article in this issue), Portland's "Independent" Police Review (IPR) released its 2021 Annual Report on June 3. Barely expanding, the document is now 14 pages long and integrates data which were previously relegated to the appendix, if they were included at all, in recent years. Still, only one page longer than 2020's Report, there was no room to delve deeply into force complaints (or how many were sustained), deadly force, mental health issues, or other key components most Portlanders think about when they hear the words "police accountability." The remarkable fact that 34 officers were disciplined last year, 14 more than in 2020, is undercut by recent news from the US Department of Justice saying the City voluntarily expunged the records of one officer who had been found guilty of misconduct (see article in this issue). The data which are included once again are not consistently presented, usually appearing either as raw numbers or percentages, but not both. It seems IPR assumes community members (and the media) will go online to their "dashboards" to make more sense of the Report. Portland Copwatch (PCW) has repeatedly asked for more transparency-- rather than making hundreds of people jump through hoops to find information, just put it all in one place.
PCW has been putting out extensive analysis of these Reports to include missing data. While our full analysis is not yet ready, here are some key issues:
--according to IPR's "dashboards," there were zero use of force allegations sustained in 2021. While that fact is alarming, the number for 2020 somehow went from zero to six sometime between June 2021 and July 2022.
--for the fifth year in a row, IPR put out incorrect information about the civilian body attached to its office, the Citizen Review Committee (CRC). The Report says CRC heard two appeals in 2021; in fact they only heard one-- about a woman arrested for twerking near a police vehicle (PPR #84). The other case they referred to was heard on appeal in December 2019, followed by an unprecedented two conference hearings to reconcile with the Chief in August 2020 and February 2021, heading to City Council in April, 2021. In that case, the Report accurately states, Council affirmed CRC's finding of "Sustained"; they do not note, however, that the complaint was about an officer failing to file a police report on a woman's stolen car (PPR #83).
--there is no mention of the CRC presenting its Crowd Control Work Group Report to City Council in September, even though IPR touts its own policy review on the issue of equitable language services.
--for the first year since 2018, IPR included demographics of complainants. While only about half of the people filing provided information, of those who did 22% were Black. IPR makes no note of this disparity in a city with a 6% African American population, despite acknowledging in the previous Report that the protests held in 2020 were in response to the murder of George Floyd and the issue of racial justice.
Also, once again IPR did not talk about Portland Police use of deadly force, even though (a) there were eight officer involved shootings in 2021, the largest number since 2005, (b) IPR is intimately involved in the investigations, heading to the scenes, reviewing the investigations and voting on Police Review Boards, and (c) they keep a dashboard of such incidents on their website.
The 34 officers who were disciplined included one who was fired, five who were suspended without pay (most for only one day), four who received Letters of Reprimand and 24 subjected to "Command Counseling." As usual, the Report does not make a connection between what kinds of misconduct led to which forms of discipline. In addition, five officers resigned or retired while under investigaiton.
PCW hopes that IPR will have fewer restraints put on its reporting now that is out from under the Auditor, including that they should present the Report to City Council. The fact that a new oversight body is in the works should be an impetus to create a model of reporting rather than sticking to these threadbare documents or even scaling them back.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.