People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
The key remaining issue around Portland's body camera policy, and the issue heading to arbitration (see the DOJ article in this issue), is whether officers involved in the use of force can look at footage before they talk to investigators or write their reports. As has been pointed out many times, the Supreme Court ruling guiding officer use of force (Graham v. Connor) says that decision has to be made based on what the officer knew at the time, not 20/20 hindsight. In other words, letting them view the footage is, in essence, unlawful. The City stood firm on this important principle, and, in a strange twist, asked the US Department of Justice (which is suing them in court) to testify for them during arbitration.
The normally conservative Oregonian agreed with the City's stance in a February 5 editorial. KGW- TV8's "The Story" ran an initial piece on January 30 criticizing the City for listening to "activists" and urging that body cameras go into the field right away. A few weeks later, they ran a second piece where host Pat Dooris, after examining the issue further, called the City's proposal reasonable (February 17).
If the arbitrator finds in favor of the Portland Police Association (PPA), the US DOJ has reserved the right to override the policy through federal Judge Michael Simon's courtroom. If that happens, the PPA has made it clear they would appeal the decision as far as they need to. Not only would this delay the implementation of body cams, but it would be a big gamble on both sides about what the outcome would be. As a reminder, Portland Copwatch continues to be neutral about the use of body cameras because their occasional use to prove misconduct will likely be outweighed by how often they are used to prosecute community members.
In court, it was revealed that
the City had basically agreed with the PPA's demand that supervisors
can only review footage three times a year for performance evaluation and can't remotely view
footage at all. The PPA gave some excuse about wanting the supervisors to get up from behind their
desks to help the cops. Regarding the pre-review dispute, when pressed by Judge Simon why they
can't let cops be interviewed/write preliminary reports, then view footage and make a supplemental
report, the PPA's answer was, essentially, "because we want to look at the footage first." The Mental
Health Alliance made a handy chart of 32 cities comparable to Portland and found 53% (17) had
some form of limiting pre-review and 15 let the cops look at the footage. PPA claimed their idea is
widespread and a best practice.
Portland Copwatch continues to comment on Police Bureau policies which are posted for feedback... when we can. The Bureau runs an email list to inform the community when new Directives are uploaded. Seeing none between late January and late March, we thought they were taking a break. Rather, it seems, they stopped sending out email alerts.* Apparently, they posted the policy on Body Worn Cameras on March 1 with a unique warning that because there has been so much community input, there will not be a second review (as required by their own rules). PCW found this document on March 25 and turned in comments five days later. Another policy on the use of social media in investigations, and old policies on officer wellness and interactions with the LGBTQ+ communities were also posted quietly, not leaving enough time to review and comment on them. Eight other Directives including those on aircraft use and the PPB's relationship with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force were posted in February and March without email notification. Previously, PCW did receive notice on other policies and made comments, as summarized below.
January: The Directive on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) was almost entirely rewritten, but PCW repeated comments made in September regarding the lack of consistent definitions for "Traumatic Incidents." The policy about personal appearance calls for officers to have a shaving kit ready in case they have to don gas masks, and limits (a) the rings they can wear, (b) making religious exceptions for issues such as hair length, (c) tattoos which exhibit bias, and (d) when officers are allowed to remove their weapons while on duty.
February: The deceptively titled "non-force reporting" Directive includes instructions on what to do when officers use force against animals. They claim that the US Department of Justice determined that these incidents are not uses of force. That's strange, since a person who shot a police dog in 2014 was charged with a crime. The Directive also essentially said that if a person is injured by a cop but they are not admitted to a hospital (or killed), officers don't have to do the same level of reporting.
March: The Body Worn Cameras Directive contains many good provisions regarding requirements for officers to let people know they're being recorded, protecting victim privacy, and even a mention of Oregon's anti-spying law. However, there is nothing requiring officers to remind people of their rights to remain silent, no provision to ask community members before bodycam footage is used for training purposes (though the cops get to opt out), and a general indication that the main reason for the cameras is to aid in prosecution of crimes, with accountability as an afterthought.
*-The Bureau moved its web presence onto the city's "new"
website, which has no provisions to generate automatic emails. Couldn't they have harvested their
own email list and sent alerts manually?
After media stories came out revealing that the most well-known gunshot detection technology company, ShotSpotter, had been involved in questionable lobbying tactics to line itself up for a contract (PPR #88), the City promised to hold community forums on the issue.
The PCCEP's forum had nearly 200 community members at it, none of whom expressed a desire to have any company put up microphones in what will likely mostly be Black communities. They spoke about known faulty reporting of car backfires and at least one case where an innocent person was killed by police due to the technology. Stephanie Howard, the Mayor's aide, promised to relay those concerns.
However, the day after PCCEP's event, Howard merely told the Focused Intervention Team
Community Oversight Group, which had proposed getting "ShotSpotter," that there was a good
turnout with a lot of feedback--but not that it was all negative. A community member eventually let
them know. The Auditor cleared ShotSpotter of wrongdoing in early April. The final two
businesses being considered-- ShotSpotter and Global Market Innovators (EAGL)-- will present at
a community forum on April 25 (just past PPR deadline); this indicates that the proposal is
going ahead whether or not people agree with it.
In February, Officer Brian Hunzeker, who leaked an unconfirmed police report naming
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty as a hit-and-run suspect, was reinstated to his job after being fired
last year (PPR #86). Timothy Williams, the arbitrator who
overturned the discipline in the
James Chasse case, claimed Hunzeker was engaging in political rhetoric in his role as Portland
Police Association President. This decision came even though Hunzeker said "the person who
had... multiple times a week talked about accountability to the police was now being identified [as]
being involved in a crime and leaving." Plus, he only had access to the police report because he
is a police officer. Predictably, there was also a comparison to the other two officers who were
given lower disciplines of one day off without pay and a Letter of Reprimand. Because Hunzeker
did violate Bureau confidentiality rules, the arbitrator found the appropriate punishment was one
week off without pay (Oregonian, February 3). The question of whether there was racial
bias in Hunzeker's actions against the first Black woman elected to City Council, who was voted
out of office 18 months after his false leak, was not addressed. On April 14, Willamette
Week broke the news that Hunzeker resigned from the Bureau when it was discovered he had
joined the Clark County Sheriff's Office in Washington while arbitration was pending, but never
after an investigation was launched into biased police crowd control training
slides (PPR #86), the Sergeant who was in charge of
delivering the training received a 10
day suspension for his role in the scandal. Sgt. Jeffrey McDaniel, well known to Portlanders as the
cop who deployed pepper spray into the open mouth of an Occupy Portland protestor in 2011
(PPR #55), admitted it was ultimately his
responsibility, but not whether he added the slide
depicting officers beating up on "hippie" protestors. While it was originally proposed to fire
McDaniel, he threw himself on the mercy of Chief Lovell in a due process hearing-- something
guaranteed by a Supreme Court ruling (and so will still exist when the new oversight board is in
place). McDaniel won't be allowed to work on crowd training for five years and has to issue a letter
of apology to the community. That'll be interesting since he said the slide was inserted for
"humor" (Oregonian, February 24). Though it wasn't made 100% clear, it appears
the City is still also looking into who included slides which showed white protestors as"normal"
crowds and people of color as violent ones, not to mention a few legally questionable teachings. As
a reminder, this slide show was from 2018, but wasn't discovered until a lawsuit brought it to light
in 2021. It is now 2023.
McDaniel High School hosted a Community Safety Meeting on January 26. At that meeting, a PPB officer explained that School Resource Officers (SROs) made it easier for the former Gang Task Force to collect intelligence on minors who may or may not be connected to violence or crimes. The Gang Task Force was disbanded in disgrace because of their discrimination against Black and Brown people, their inability to show their effectiveness, and their involvement in a few high-profile racist policing scandals (PPR #78). The Gang Task Force has been reinstituted under the title of Focus Intervention Team (FIT) -- new name, same essential purpose and many of the same officers. The police collecting intelligence on people who are not suspected of committing a crime is unlawful in the State of Oregon (ORS 181A.250) and that is exactly what the Portland Police are proposing to do by campaigning to reintroduce SROs. They hope to insert themselves into schools and into the lives of minors to track friend groups and keep tabs on students they deem to be threats or possible threats.
During the McDaniel HS meeting Sgt. Duilio said the fall of 2024 would be the earliest the SRO program could be in schools because of police staffing shortages. In April, it was revealed that the school district created a task force which will present proposals to the School Board in May. An officer was stationed at Jefferson High School for four weeks early in 2023; the student response was mixed with some feeling more safe and some experiencing anxiety and fear (Oregonlive, April 10).
Mayor Wheeler originally supported the removal of SROs from schools after the schools first
decided to remove them (PPR #81), but with the increase of shootings in
Portland in 2022, it
appears Wheeler's attitude has changed. So far the number of shootings in Portland has decreased
significantly this year compared with last year and there is no evidence police activity has reduced
the rate of gun violence. We're hoping the downward trend in violence continues and people get the
appropriate help and services they need.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.