People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Community Committee Scores Victory;
While there have been a number of significant developments in the world of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement with the City, one highlight of the last few months was the Mayor's decision not to move forward on gunshot detection technology (aka "ShotSpotter," PPR #89). The Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing's public forum and recommendation against the invasive, and likely ineffective, sensor/microphone systems precipitated the City's about-face. Meanwhile, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison, Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum, retired as planned in July, with the City choosing his assistant, Dr. Tom Christoff, to replace him (from a pool of two candidates). The two of them put out a new assessment of compliance in mid-July. The City also introduced the community to the new civilian "dean" of the Police Bureau's Training Division, Dr. Rebecca Rodriguez (initially introduced as Rebecca Yazzie), at a different public forum. Another significant decision was strongly hinted at during the August 14 Status Conference in front of federal Judge Michael Simon: that the Compliance Officer will be replaced by a Court Appointed Monitor if the City and DOJ can agree on terms.
New Boss Similar to the Old Boss; Compliance Reports Show Continued Slow Progress
Christoff's selection as Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) came despite his bid for the job coming in about $300,000 over the current annual set-aside and the bid of the only other applicant, Dr. Richard Rosenthal. Longtime People's Police Report readers may remember Rosenthal as the first Director of the "Independent" Police Review whose decision-making rankled members of the Citizen Review Committee (and Portland Copwatch). His presentation and composure at a May 17 community forum seemed mellowed compared to that time, which was 20 years ago. Christoff, we believe, is based in Chicago, while Rosenthal now hails from British Columbia, but both promised to forge local ties moving forward. The COCL's role is mostly writing quarterly reports comparing what the PPB has done to reduce violence against people with mental illness (and others) to what the City promised the DOJ they would do. That will be changed if a Court Monitor is approved and hired, so the current contract is for one year or less, ending in June 2024.
The first quarter report for 2023 found 20 paragraphs still in "partial compliance," moved three Settlement Agreement paragraphs into "partial compliance" and three others back to "substantial." The DOJ agreed with 20 of those assessments but had three different areas marked "partial." (In early 2020, the PPB had supposedly met all expectations of the DOJ.) At PCCEP's August 2 meeting, Rosenbaum and Christoff presented the report, praising the Bureau's crowd management training. Though they call for more community involvement in training, they were unable to say whether any community members, particularly those who participate in demonstrations, had any part in the crowd training. The Bureau got a pass on making more changes based on the violence during the 2020 protests because a new paragraph added in 2022 specifically calls for re-working their training based on the Independent Monitor LLC's external assessment. That report was released on August 10 (see Police Review Board article), and is scheduled to be presented to City Council on August 23, after PPR deadline.
Some Police Reject Training on LGBTQ+ Interactions
The Q4 2023 report gave more specifics about officers who wrote nasty comments regarding the Bureau's LGBTQ+ training. The PPB released the comments made by the disgruntled/bigoted cops. The officers were offended by talking about pronouns (saying it was "stupid"), made anti- trans remarks ("it's either male or female, period"), and disapproved of one community member being interviewed in front of a Black Lives Matter poster in a training video (saying it pushed a "political agenda").The Oregonian published the video on April 24; it includes minimally animated characters representing officers and community members going through good and bad interactions. While the Bureau has made it clear that officers have to treat everyone in the community with respect, they did not want to track down these individual cops for expressing their opinions. Maybe they'll decide to connect those dots if there's a new report on anti-queer actions by PPB members like the huge bar fight in 2002 involving off-duty cops and a cover-up (PPR #29).
PCCEP Wins Debate on ShotSpotter (For Now), Questions Street Response Attacks, Ends Equity Committee
Technically speaking, Mayor Wheeler said he was shelving the idea of gunshot detection technology for the time being, meaning he could bring it back at any time. Nonetheless, there was some satisfaction in reading his letter explaining the decision which acknowledged that one advisory body with close ties to the police-- the Focused Intervention Team Community Oversight Group-- recommended ShotSpotter, while PCCEP strongly recommended against it. A survey put out by Portland State University showed that people with more knowledge about the tech were more likely against it, including most people who took the survey through PCCEP's outreach rather than those selected at random by the consultants. The majority of the general public opposed the program (66%) while the random sample showed a 44%/41% split (with 15% neutral).
Meanwhile, PCCEP held several full committee and subcommittee meetings from May through August. Their June "Steering Committee" meeting (with all but one of the 12 seated members in attendance) was held as a hybrid in-person and virtual meeting, as COVID protocols have begun to relax. Many people at that meeting raised concerns about Council members' efforts to undermine Portland Street Response (PSR), a program that has been accomplishing some of what the DOJ Agreement was set up to do: reduce the number of interactions between police and people with mental illness to reduce the likelihood force will be used (see Houseless article). Unfortunately, at that meeting their Racial Equity subcommittee, which had previously been tracking police traffic stop data, announced they were converting to become a policy committee focused on Directives. PCCEP's July 19 meeting was to talk about the PSR program. The interim Fire Chief and new head of PSR tried to convince PCCEP that there is no effort to cut down or shut down the program. Unconvinced, PCCEP members continued to discuss the importance of PSR at their next meeting on July 26, and again with Commissioner Rene Gonzalez on August 16. At the latter meeting, Mayor Wheeler also attended in an effort to rebuild his rocky relationship with the Committee.
New Civilian Training Dean Just Getting Up to Speed
The City's forum introducing Dr. Rodriguez allowed community members to ask questions. The former psychiatric social worker, who has a background working in the corrections field (Oregonian, April 23), had a similar answer to most of them: I just started and haven't read everything and don't want to promise anything. While PCW members were allowed to ask a number of questions, the moderator ignored the last one in which we re-stated our opposition to police ride-alongs. PCW's longstanding promise is we'll go on a ride-along if every officer is required to undergo a homeless "immersion" and live on the street without money, a phone or ID to see what it's like. Maybe we'll have better luck directing this idea to Dr. Rodriguez once she's fully settled in. As mentioned in the Directives article, the Bureau has changed her title from Director of Education to "Director of Police Education," or DOPE, which does not bode well.
For info on the PCCEP head to portland.gov/pccep.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.