People's Police Report
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Portland Copwatch Continues Commenting on Bureau Policies
After the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) fixed its notification system for the public to know which Directives (policies) have been posted for comment, Portland Copwatch has continued weighing in with witty and insightful remarks. Several policies touched on questions about possible police spying, referring to the state anti-spying statute ORS 181A.250 (also see JTTF article). Many of those posted in May had to do with warrants and arrests. Overall, there are occasional instances where the PPB followed advice sent by PCW, but usually these are minor language changes or other technical errors. When the policies themselves are improved we are sure to thank them. Here's a sampling of what was up for review and PCW's main observations:
May: The PPB seems to have fixed their loophole which previously allowed officers to help federal immigration agents block traffic to enforce immigration law in the "Contact with Members of Immigrant Communities" Directive. They also improved how they let people know about constitutional rights. However, they continue to leave the word "solely" in three places where it should be "solely or primarily" when describing the purpose of police interactions.
In various policies on Arrest with Warrant, Arrest Without Warrant, Citations in Lieu-of Custody, Search Warrants and Premises Entry, PCW pointed out concerns regarding arrests for misdemeanors, mass arrests, and the authority for police to damage property-- particularly in contrast to when community members damage property. On that note, emergency entry into private premises is only allowed if it prevents the destruction of evidence, rather than the older broad term of "serious harm to property."
The first mention of the anti-spying statute came up in the Air Support Unit Directive, which lists "public order events" as one main purpose of the Bureau's airplanes. PCW suggested a clearer policy restricting gathering information on First Amendment activity.
June: PCW continued to urge the Bureau not to allow so much leeway for cops to lie in the "Truthfulness" Directive. A separate policy about local transit system Tri-Met tells officers not to enforce violations if people fail to pay their fare, which PCW praised as a good step forward.
The anti-spying statute was cited again in their new policy about "Investigative Use of Social Media," which seeks to require officers to report when they pretend to be someone else or otherwise gather information on community members as part of an investigation. The public comments showed that many officers were offended at the idea that they had to document their potentially nefarious (and illegal) actions.
July: Arrest with and without Warrants and Citations came back for second review, with some improvements matching proposals made by Portland Copwatch. The policy on Civil Holds came back with some good edits including removing the word "inebriates" as a noun, as PCW suggested.
The Training policy, previously posted in August, came back two months after the "Training Dean" Dr. Rebecca Yazzie was hired (see DOJ article). There are several mentions of her job-- Director of Police Education (DOPE-- whose idea was that?). The Bureau should balance between updating the policy to note that her job exists and letting her put her own imprint on it. One major improvement after a PCW comment: the Bureau moved up to the start of the policy the requirement that training and policy must match.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.