Police Review Board Report #2 (2021): Chief Overrides Board to Find Two Cops Used Improper Force at Protests
Table of contents
From: Portland Copwatch
To: Christopher Paille, Police Review Board Coordinator
To: Christopher Paille, Police Review Board Coordinator
Police Review Board Report #2 (2021): Chief Overrides Board to Find Two Cops Used
Improper Force at Protests
Mr. Paille and Chief Lovell:
Almost four weeks after its publication, Portland Copwatch noticed that the Portland Police Bureau released the second Police Review Board (PRB) Report of 2021 sometime around September 3 (posted at https://portlandoregon.gov/police/55365). While we are pleased to see that Chief Lovell overrode the Board's findings in two protest cases to find officers misused force, that is mitigated by the fact that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) called out both cases in its critique of the PRB, and by the overwhelming feeling from this particular collection of cases that the PRB and the Bureau are far too tolerant of police misconduct. Out of twelve cases sent to the Board, two were automatic reviews triggered (pun intended) by officer-involved shootings, and only three of the other ten were referred in full by officers' supervisors. The other seven were sent over in part or in whole based on other people controverting the supervisors' initial findings. There is also one case of stipulated discipline, where the officer agreed they violated policy and would take the punishment. The Report gives an eight-word summary of this case. It also appears that the DOJ's assessment that Board members do not seem to understand the process is validated by the misuse of "Not Sustained" findings, which is supposed to mean "Insufficient Evidence," but is tied in several cases to Board members who felt officers acted within policy ("Exonerated"). On the other hand, this document is good fodder for those who are designing the new oversight system*-1 to incorporate what the PRB now does under the umbrella of the new civilian board.
As a reminder to those confused by the current oversight system, the PRB meets in secret, more often than not includes only one community member in a five-person review board (two of seven when there is a shooting or other serious case), and recommends disciplinary action-- or not-- to the Chief. The two deadly force cases, the death of Koben Henriksen from December 2019 and the non-injury shooting of Gray Stockton in June 2020, both ignore the question of whether the people shot at by the police were in mental health crisis. Since that is the key focus of the DOJ Agreement, one would expect at least a mention of this factor in the postmortem (again, pun intended) of these most serious incidents.
An ongoing problem with the PRB is that many cases involving civilians-- including the deadly force cases-- are handled as "B" cases, or "Bureau-only." This is true for five out of the 12 PRB files. Portland Copwatch (PCW) labels these as "B/C" cases since they really should be categorized as "C" (community member involved). We then assign numbers based on the incidents' chronological appearance in the Report.
Though one officer was found guilty of violating the Truthfulness Directive on a 4-1 vote, which is supposed to lead to being fired, now-Wisconsinite Deputy Chief Davis reversed the majority decisions in that case and no discipline was handed out. The officer allegedly lied, by the way, about deliberately dumping a soda onto a suspect's car seat.
In March, PCW noted that the PRB case files were all at least 10 months old and all related to incidents from 2019. This batch covers hearings held between December 2020 and May 2021, with incidents ranging from 2019 to early 2021. While this shows an improved timeliness, PCW repeats here our suggestion (which Chief Outlaw implemented for a short time) to put these reports out quarterly rather than semi-annually.
Apart from the deadly force cases (B/C1 and B/C2), the two protest cases with sustained findings (C3 and C4) and the untruthfulness debacle (B/C4), there are incidents involving an officer who crashed into a cop car when sort-of chasing a suspect (B1), an officer who got into a "verbal disturbance" with a civilian and fellow cop (C1), a cop who failed to report throwing a bicyclist to the ground (C2), an officer who made denigrating remarks about the transgender community and bragged about their income (B2), an officer who pulled down a protestor's gas mask to pepper spray them (C5), an officer who interjected themselves into a civil commitment hearing involving someone who'd confronted their spouse (B/C3), and an officer who failed to write a Domestic Violence report (B/C5).
Of seven officers who were slated to be disciplined (not counting the one Deputy Chief Davis rescued), one resigned before receiving a week off without pay (derogatory cop B2), one received Command Counseling (non-reporter B/C5), three got Letters of Reprimand (bike-thrower C2 and protest cops C3 and C4), one received one day suspension without pay (car crasher B1), and one had to take two unpaid weeks off (verbal disturbance C1).
Even though we agree with Chief Lovell's action in the two protest cases, it is troubling that the cover memo which comes with the case summaries does not explicitly state that he changed the findings in order to discipline those officers. Similarly, Deputy Chief Davis letting the lying officer off the hook is not explained. For transparency, the Bureau should explain their logic consistent with the PRB ordinance's requirement to explain when they deviate from the Discipline Guide.*-2 The cover memo does, for the second time ever, state whether or not some of the PRB's eleven recommendations were accepted, with details added in a few.
One of the reasons it is important that the "B" cases involving community members should be converted to "C" cases is that civilians affected by the officers' actions should have the right to appeal the outcomes. As we have noted before, the City Code that created the "Independent" Police Review (IPR) clearly says that cases involving community members should be treated as "C" cases.*-3
Another longstanding issue with the PRB reports is that it is impossible to tell who voted which way. The Board includes the officer's commander, who made the original findings and is thus given two times to weigh in, an Assistant Chief, and one or two officers of the same rank of the one being reviewed. In all cases there is also a staff member from IPR, one civilian from a pool of about 15 PRB members, and in serious cases one member of the Citizen Review Committee. To the Bureau's credit, there is only one case where the vote is listed as "unanimous" rather than listing how many members voted (B/C4, the DV report case). Confusingly, in the Stockton shooting (B/C2) only six votes are listed for what should be a seven-member board, and in some cases the reviewers who originally controverted the original findings to "Sustained" appear to have changed their minds as no votes to sustain the allegations are recorded. Interestingly, the Boards reviewing the bicyclist case (C2) and the first two protest cases (C3 and C4) involved seven members, while six inexplicably heard the third protest case (C5).
Overall, the Board reviewed 28 allegations and found 10 Sustained (though Deputy Chief Davis reversed two of these), 13 Exonerated/In Policy (but Chief Lovell Sustained one), and five Not Sustained (again, Lovell Sustained one). In our last report, we noted there was a 92% Sustain rate-- eleven of twelve findings. This time that has changed to a lower-than-average 36%. (Because Lovell Sustained two and Davis un-Sustained two, this average is the same for the PRB and the outcomes.) If one factors in the single Sustained finding in the Stipulated Discipline case, that is still only 38% (11 of 29 allegations Sustained). Then again, we're counting ten allegations in deadly force cases, which rarely lead to "out of policy" findings.
The PRB has continued hearing only allegations that were controverted by one of the reviewers, rather than looking at entire complaints to judge the actions as part of the "totality of the circumstances." PCW encourages the Board to review the entire case file and all the allegations.
As noted above, out of the 10 non-shooting cases, RU (Responsible Unit) Managers (officers' supervisors) only sent three full cases to the PRB (B1, C1 and B2). Two were sent by IPR (C4 and B/C3), with agreement from both Internal Affairs and an Assistant Chief in one (B/C5), and agreement from an A/C in one (C3), and partial agreement from an RU Manager in another (C2). Another case had partial agreement by the RU Manager and an Assistant Chief (B/C4) and one case was sent solely by an A/C (C5).
So far as we know, Portland Copwatch is once again scooping the media in reporting on this document, since the Bureau continues to post the PRB Reports quietly on its website instead of engaging the community.
And, while the number of redacted pieces of information has gone way down since we dubbed these publications "Police Review Board Mad Libs," it is still confusing why the Bureau does not include the genders of any of the people involved, Precinct information, or other locations with few exceptions. We have pointed out repeatedly that people's names which have been released to the public are supposed to appear in the Reports per the Ordinance*-4 yet even the shootings cases contain, at most, the date and location of the incidents. Saying "Employee #1" and "Employee #2" is confusing, especially when one is a supervisor and one is a line officer. We again urge better reporting. We have included gender identities where they are known.
It is also worth noting, before we get to the details of this Report, that the officer who told people he could not chase a suspect because of President Obama's policies (March PRB Report) was reinstated by an arbitrator after being fired for lying about what he said. We have no problem with the case being included in the PRB Report before the Police Association's grievance was exhausted, but believe the PRB Coordinator should make mention of such changes in a later cover memo.
Despite the presence of two community Board members, both the deadly force incidents reviewed ended up with no consequences for any officer. One person recommended a debriefing for an officer who fired a Less Lethal round at Koben Henriksen without announcing it was not a gunshot. (Snarky aside: The Board member said the officer should have said "Bean bag!" but the PPB stopped using "Bean Bag" guns years ago.) No debriefs were suggested in the Gray Stockton case, even though Officer Laurent Bonczijk fired at that man, who was unable to speak, possibly in mental health crisis and had a fake gun-- and completely missed.
In Henriksen's case, it was reported that dispatchers said Officer Justin Raphael fired shots seconds after officers arrived on the scene to address his wandering in and out of traffic with two knives in his hands. Yet the Board claims they talked calmly, gave Henriksen space and tried to de-escalate the situation. If the PRB thinks de-escalation can be successful in less than a minute, it's no wonder cops get away with murder in this town. The case summary describes Henriksen as "angry" and "agitated," saying he "refused" to comply with officers' commands to stop. Part of the Bureau's Crisis Intervention Training on mental illness is that sometimes people are unable to hear what officers are saying. The Board also refers to his weapons as "six-inch knives" which gives the impression of kitchen knife-sized blades. However, the PPB's photos show they were each folding knives with three-inch long blades. Such hyperbole is not needed in a system that already favors those armed with firearms, "Less Lethals," pepper spray, batons, Tasers and the power of the law behind them.
The report on the shooting of Gray Stockton contains only one description of the incident-- that Stockton presented a "clear threat" because he pointed "what appeared to be a gun" at officers. Again, hyperbole-- it was a perceived threat, not a clear one. The majority of the reviews of actions by supervisors on scene simply state that the officers "followed the Directives." The exception is for Supervisor #3 in review of planning, where they were said to do an "excellent job in a high pressure situation" by calling in the Special Emergency Reaction Team and separating Bonczijk from other officers.
Quite alarmingly, the recommendations connected to this incident include a suggestion that the PPB invest in drones. The Bureau's published narrative of the shooting*-5 states that they used a robot to determine Stockton's gun was an Airsoft pistol. Why would they also need drones, especially for someone holed up inside a residence? Where was the public discussion on this matter before the Bureau (according to the cover memo) accepted this recommendation?
The Board also said that Supervisors 2, 3 and 4 should be debriefed about a new one-step notification process, that Training should tell all officers about that process, that the Bureau should examine how staff are used (presumably because this incident happened among the George Floyd uprising in June 2020), and to conduct leadership training for acting Sergeants/Lieutenants. The Bureau agreed with them all.
Because of the high volume of complaints against police during the racial justice uprising in 2020-- at least 125 according to an April 2021 IPR document*-6-- one would expect a large number of related PRB cases. However, as noted above, only three such cases made their way to the Review Board. Moreover, despite the fact that the Chief sustained findings in two of those cases, with PRBs held in December 2020 and February 2021, the IPR's case database shows only one Sustained finding for Force in 2020 and 2021 combined.*-7
It is also worth noting that the language used by the PRB facilitators in the Reports shows an inappropriate bias. Here are the details on the three cases.
(C3) During a protest on June 8, 2020, officers tried to take two people into custody a half a mile away from the Justice Center. They "fled" toward the general direction of the Justice Center, where a crowd was "actively working to harm officers" (biased language #1). Officer #1 fired a Less Lethal round at one person and didn't know whether it hit them. The majority of the Board found the allegation about the officer using force when the person was not engaged in active aggression should be "Not Sustained with a Debriefing," meaning in theory they thought there was not enough evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. However, the Report states that the majority found the officer's action was "appropriate." So did the Board not understand the finding, or did the facilitator report incorrectly? The Board went on to say that because of the "unprecedented" ongoing protests and the "attempts to harm police" it was a justifiable effort to "contain criminal acts" (more biased language).
None of this jibes with the Directive, since the people running away were not engaged in Active Aggression. However, the Report says that the officers knew the people "intended to engage in active aggression," implying a precognitive ability that rivals the science fiction movie "Minority Report." They said the Less Lethal weapon's use prevented future violence. They point to a clause in the Force Directive which allows force to avoid a higher use of force (would the officers have otherwise shot the protestors?) and to prevent imminent harm to themselves or others. This analysis ignores the last sentence of that clause (126.96.36.199.4) which says "mere flight from an officer is not sufficient cause for the use of the impact munitions." Two of the four PRB members added the force was justified because the people failed to comply with an order to disperse.
The other three Board members wanted to Sustain the allegation, noting the people were unarmed, posed no direct threat and were running from police a considerable distance away from the Justice Center. The Board members felt Officer #1 was responding to the people failing to comply with officer commands.
Two of the three suggested Command Counseling, the lowest form of discipline, noting this was the officer's second violation in two years, but mitigated by the unusual daily protests. The third suggested a Letter of Reprimand, noting the previous violation was around Use of Force. The cover memo says that Chief Lovell imposed a Letter of Reprimand. For that to have happened, he must have decided to agree with the minority's proposed finding, and for that matter the lone person's suggested discipline; the Report should relay that information explicitly.
It's notable that IPR and an Assistant Chief referred this case to the Board, feeling the proposed finding should have been "Sustained." If they were two of the three votes, that means at most one of the two civilians agreed the officer was out of policy. PCW continues to urge the PRB civilian pool to hold public meetings to hear community concerns.
Three members of the Board recommended the Training Division do a better job clarifying when it is ok to use Less Lethal weapons; the Bureau accepted the recommendation.
(C4) At a protest that lasted overnight between August 9 and August 10, 2020, the Rapid Response Team confronted protestors outside the Portland Police Association's then-headquarters in North Portland. The Report calls them "volatile" protests, again an unnecessary adjective to sway the audience. Officer #1 (probably not the same as in C3) fired a Less Lethal round and hit the wrong person, apparently in the arm. Four Board members found the officer's action within policy (Exonerated) but wanted to add a debriefing about readjusting their aim, to be sure to hit the right person. Their logic was that because it was within policy to hit the intended recipient of the force, the action was reasonable and lawful. They emphasized that the intended subject was "aggressive" because they had thrown eggs at police. The Report states the eggs hitting officers' face shields could effectively "blind" them and frozen eggs could do worse harm. The officer said he had a "clear line of fire" but a bystander's arm got in the way.
Two people thought the allegations should have been sustained, noting the person who was hit was at worst passively resisting and not posing a threat. They made the important observation that hitting a person who legally should not be subjected to force is not allowed since the Directive doesn't talk about officer intent. Think of it this way: if they killed the wrong person, wouldn't that result in consequences, even if they were shooting at a suspect legitimately? The two Board members also noted that anywhere under 21 feet, officers with Less Lethal weapons should aim for people's legs. The seventh Board member felt there wasn't enough evidence to prove or disprove the allegation and recommended "Not Sustained with a Debrief"-- in this case both they and the facilitator got this finding definition correct.
The two members recommending discipline suggested a Letter of Reprimand. As with case C3, the Report doesn't explicitly say it but Chief Lovell must have agreed with their assessment and Sustained the complaint, as he did impose a Letter of Reprimand on the officer.
Interestingly, the RU Manager initially proposed a "Not Sustained with Debrief" finding, which the IPR controverted. The Bureau sent the case back for more investigation and came back with the same finding, but IPR still thought it should be Sustained, while an Assistant Chief proposed an Exonerated finding.
The Board made three recommendations, saying the Bureau should: 1) get body cameras, since much of the evidence came from the officer's "honest" documentation of hitting the wrong person; 2) fix the protest Directive since the current one isn't working well; and 3) do a holistic review of the 2020 protests. Interestingly, this last recommendation was made on February 17, shortly after the DOJ and Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) made the same recommendation. The Bureau said they agreed with all three, though they deferred the body camera issue to City Council during a hearing held one week later (case C5).
(C5) This is the case in which the officer pulled down a protestor's gas mask to spray them with a chemical irritant. The complaint, says the Report, was filed "by a member of a protest group." Why it's not simply labeled a community complaint is unclear. An Assistant Chief sent this case to the Board for review; as noted above, it's not clear why there were only six voting members involved.
Five of those six people thought it was reasonable for the officer to pull down the gas mask based on the totality of the situation. They said the civilian was engaged in active resistance by not obeying the officer, pushing at them and grabbing their baton. While pulling off a gas mask is not part of police training, they claim, it prevented the need for a higher level of force. It's alarming that there was no attention paid to the fact that these protests were happening in the middle of a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system. The Board said it was the "best action in a very challenging situation."
One member said it should be "Not Sustained" because the officer wasn't trained to take the gas mask off but it was a reasonable way to be sure the pepper spray would work.
Deputy Chief Davis agreed with the Exonerated finding.
As noted in case C4, the Board recommended adding body worn cameras. They also said the Bureau should train officers to counter devices such as laser pointers, gas masks, strobe lights and burning projectiles, to have officers explain their responses to protestors' actions, and to communicate supervisors' expectations to officers. The Bureau said the Council would have to act on Body Cameras, accepted the idea of training against new tactics, and said the last two items were already being done.
Aside from the three protest cases, these were the other cases labeled by the Bureau as "C" (community member) cases:
(C1) Officer #1 in this case confronted a civilian ("Person 1") and another officer (Employee #2) while on duty and in uniform. They admitted violating the Conduct and Satisfactory Performance Directives, saying they had no emotional skills to deal with whatever the "verbal disturbance" was about. They also admitted to violating the Use of Bureau Resources policy by using two law enforcement databases to check up on the civilian. The Report says this resulted in the harm that the Directive is meant to prevent. This action also violated the Laws, Rules and Orders and Conduct policies. Similarly, the officer admitted using another police computer resource to find out where Officer #2 and the civilian were so they could confront them, though it had nothing to do with their assigned duties, which violated the same three Directives.
The Board Sustained all three allegations on 5-0 votes and recommended a two day suspension without pay, which Chief Lovell implemented.
There were three other allegations which were apparently categorized as "Unfounded," meaning the evidence did not support that the actions happened at all, so the Board was not allowed to review them. The case came to the Board from the RU Manager's recommended Sustained findings.
The PRB recommended that Bureau members should talk to Officer #2 about their interactions with Officer #1; this recommendation was accepted.
(C2) A video recording showed the officer in this case using force to take a bicyclist to the ground. Six of the seven members of the PRB felt there was not enough evidence that this was a policy violation because the person had reached into their backpack (!?). The other Board member wanted to Exonerate the officer. However, the officer did not write a report about using that force and all seven PRB members found the report-writing allegation should be Sustained. The delicate language that the subject was "removed from the bicycle not by their own accord" was used to describe the Force incident in the PRB Report.
All seven suggested a Letter of Reprimand be issued; Chief Lovell agreed.
In this case, there were two other allegations-- one that Officer #2 used force and another that one of the officers inappropriately touched the complainant. Both were found Not Sustained and kept away from the PRB's purview. The RU Manager proposed the Sustained finding about the lack of reporting, while IPR wanted to controvert the Force allegation from Not Sustained to Sustained. This leads to the question, why was there no vote to Sustain that allegation when the Board, which includes an IPR staffer, reviewed it?
In three other incidents, the Bureau labeled the complaints as "B" cases even though the officers' actions affected community members, who should have been allowed to file appeals about the outcomes.
(B/C3): An officer's spouse was among several community members who were assaulted or otherwise confronted by a person with mental health issues. Because they had a history with the Bureau's Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), the suspect was not referred on criminal charges but rather put on a mental health hold. The officer was upset and wanted the person charged with menacing their spouse. A supervisor contacted a Detective to question the decision. However, the hold went ahead and a pre-hearing about civil commitment was held at which the officer appeared in uniform and talked about how victims' rights were being ignored. BHU officers and the Detective notified the Professional Standards Division, who turned it over to IPR. Apparently the officer's supervisor had encouraged them to wear the uniform over the officer's objections, even though it is inappropriate to appear in one's role as a civilian seemingly representing the Bureau. As a reminder, the Nuremberg principles established that obeying an unlawful order still makes you guilty.
The Board reviewed two allegations. The first was that the officer made unprofessional statements at the hearing. Three found this allegation Exonerated with a Debrief, while two wanted to Sustain it. To be fair, the debrief suggested was for the officer to push back on the supervisor who suggested going to court in uniform to discuss a matter in which the officer was testifying as a community member upset about their spouse being victimized. However, the three people who said the action was in policy emphasized it was a pre-hearing, and that the officer made their intention clear about why they wanted to attend. They claimed that no civilians were concerned about the officer's behavior. They pointed to the DA saying the officer didn't sway their decision. This kind of logic completely ignores the impact officers have just by showing up in uniform. In fact, when the Bureau had a chart showing a continuum of force (which was done away with many years ago), the first level was mere presence. The two PRB dissenters said that the officer should never have behaved unprofessionally while in uniform, and pointed out that civilians were unlikely to know that the officer might be violating policies.
The other allegation was that the officer lied during the administrative investigation interview. Three members (likely the same three, and likely but not definitely the officers on the PRB) said they believed the officer's claim that due to their emotional involvement in the incident, they did not remember the things they were alleged to have said. Those three suggested a Not Sustained finding, again not clear from the context whether they thought the officer was in policy (Exonerated). The Board majority said only one person remembered the officer bringing up the term "menacing" in court, which was, presumably, one of the issues at hand. The other two people found the officer's memory lapse to be "convenient" and felt they were dishonest by leaving things out. These two members also say that multiple people heard the word "menacing," and voted for a Sustained finding.
There were four other allegations not presented to the Board, the substance of which is unclear. Two were found Not Sustained with a Debrief, one was Exonerated and one was Unfounded. Again, PCW would like to see the Board review the case in its entirety to see whether one allegation builds off of another one. This case came to the Board via IPR, who proposed Sustained findings on both allegations that were considered.
For recommended discipline, the PRB facilitator had to reconnect with the two members who suggested Sustained findings. There's a reference to attached memos, which we the public do not get to see. One of the Board members suggested a Letter of Reprimand despite the fact that violating the Truthfulness Directive is supposed to automatically lead to termination. They explained their proposal was because the officer had no previous discipline. The other person only suggested one day off without pay because the officer was "put in a tough role" by having the supervisor tell them to show up in uniform. No changes were made by the Chief's office to the Exonerated and Not Sustained findings of the Board-- in fact, no name is attached to the Chief's review in the cover memo.
It is not clear that the person whose civil commitment hearing was at the heart of the complaint was informed about the officer's actions, and as PCW has pointed out, if they disagreed with the findings they should have been able to appeal.
The Board recommended finding a way to avoid changing the "tenor" of interviews by raising the question about an officer's truthfulness. The Bureau rejected this recommendation, saying the officer or their "union" advocate could always ask for a break, and that there was no guarantee that avoiding certain words would keep a situation calm.
(B/C4) Officer #1 in this case was searching a vehicle in relation to a warrant issue. Officer #2 saw them pour out a soda onto the passenger seat and asked #1 to stop and clean it up. Four Board members felt there was a preponderance of evidence with two reliable witnesses (it's unclear who other than Officer #2 acted as witness) which outweighed Officer #1's claim that they "bobbled" the soda. The PRB majority said that was inconsistent with evidence, including that the bottle was not put back in the cupholder as #1 claimed. The fifth member said there wasn't clear evidence and suggested a Not Sustained finding (using that term correctly). This action violated the Laws, Rules and Orders and Conduct Directives.
The Board also found, on a 4-1 vote, that the officer was untruthful during the administrative investigation by claiming that pouring out the soda was unintentional. The dissenter said there was no proof it was intentional.
Three of the Board members suggested termination, as required in the Discipline Guide. One only suggested two days off without pay because it was the officer's first violation in five years.
This case came to the Board at the recommendation of the RU Manager, who made Sustained findings on the allegations, and an Assistant Chief, who felt they should have been "Not Sustained."
As noted above, Deputy Chief Davis changed both findings to Not Sustained with a Debrief, overruling a solid majority of the Board. There is no explanation in the Report as to why.
The Board recommended a debrief with the supervisor to ask questions early on about what may have happened on scene so there is no gap in information later on. The Bureau accepted the recommendation.
(B/C5) In this relatively short case file, it's explained that an officer did not file a report about a Domestic Violence (DV) incident, despite a Directive requiring that be done. The officer knew the two community members shared a child and had co-habitated, qualifying this as a DV incident, even though apparently it took place at a hotel. The officer claimed they didn't want to label anyone a "suspect" without evidence. Strangely, the PRB Report narrative says that an officer was assaulted later on when called back to deal with the same two people, though that did not seem to factor into the review of Officer #1.
The Board unanimously (this is the case where no numbers are given) voted to Sustain the complaint and suggested Command Counseling. Deputy Chief Davis agreed.
The case appears to have been sent to the PRB because all three reviewers-- IPR, Internal Affairs, and an Assistant Chief-- controverted the original proposed Not Sustained finding by the RU Manager.
While there are implications to the public, the last two PRB hearings revolved around properly labeled "B" cases.
(B1) The officer who crashed their car into another cop car did so as they drove after a suspect. They claim it was not a chase but an effort to get out ahead of them to lay down spike strips. We say, tomato, tomahtoh. However, the Board voted 5-0 to find there was no violation of the Vehicle Pursuit policy by failing to announce a chase because the officer did not intend to pursue the suspect; though their proposed "Not Sustained" finding actually means there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. They emphasized the cops were in a "high drug area" where there are also a lot of stolen vehicles. This does not excuse improper behavior, we think.
The second allegation was that the officer failed to drive properly, thus violated the policies on driving, satisfactory performance and authorized use of Bureau resources. The PRB sustained this allegation on a 5-0 vote, because the officer caused a collision when trying to catch up with the suspect. (We still don't get the nuance of "trying to catch up" versus "pursue," but at least there was a violation noted here.) The officer drove 88 miles an hour in a 25 MPH zone.
The third allegation, that there was a pursuit in violation of the chase policy, was found "Not Sustained" on a 5-0 vote because the officer was not trying to engage the suspect but also didn't turn on their lights and siren.
They recommended two days off without pay as it was the officer's _third driving violation in two years_, with the other two involving hitting poles in parking lots. But because they work the [REDACTED] shift, made arrests and recovered guns, the Board didn't ask for a higher level of discipline. Chief Lovell seemed to think two days was too much and lowered the discipline to one unpaid day off with no explanation given as to why.
The case was referred by the RU Manager to the Board.
(B2) The officer in this case made inappropriate comments about gender and the transgender community, and talked about their substantial income-- in front of new recruits. The first allegation, about violating the Discrimination policy, was found Sustained on a 5-0 vote based on the officer's derogatory comments about a Transgender community member with a term that is "not normally for people." (It's unclear what this term was.)
They also found the Conduct policy was violated by the officer's comments to the recruits implying they had gamed the system to make more money. The officer also told recruits they would be the first to be laid off.
The Board recommended one week off without pay, particularly as it was the second violation with similar behavior in three years by a long-time employee. They suggested the officer go to special training about equity. However, the officer retired before the discipline could be imposed, even though Deputy Chief Davis apparently agreed with the Board. As a side note here, we say "apparently" because the cover memo states the Discipline Guide category (C-- second violation, aggravated) and not the actual proposed discipline; that part of the Guide indeed suggests one week off without pay.*-8
PCW has repeatedly suggested that the cases resolved through stipulated discipline should still go to the Police Review Board. They would then be made aware of any ongoing trends, look for other possible violations that occurred during the incident, be able to comment if they had concerns about the deal the officer made with management about their discipline, and make recommendations for improvements to the PPB. Instead, the case that was included this time is summed up quickly this way in the cover memo:
"Disobeyed a direct order to leave a location."
Well, that really shows the PPB's commitment to transparency, don't you agree?
The officer agreed to take one unpaid day off as punishment that was approved by Chief Lovell and Mayor/Police Commissioner Wheeler.
PCW has asked many times for the PPB to include the following data points to improve the readability, clarity and transparency of the Reports:
--the date of the incident in question
--the number of voting members and number of votes
--which opinions were from officers, civilians,
--the gender of all persons involved (both for clarity in
--the names of officers, particularly in cases which have already
--more thorough background summaries for all cases, especially
--an explanation of the delay in publishing a case;
--a general summary of the purpose of the PRB with a citation of the
--reports on the progress of PRB recommendations,
--a list of the names of the civilian members of the Board, which
As we have said in the past, the Bureau is to be commended for sharing information about these secret hearings, but should adopt our recommendations in order to make a more readable and meaningful Report that will engage the community. We continue to be confused as to why the names of officers and victims in shooting incidents aren't included in these Reports, despite the City's law saying that can be done.
We have also called for the City to publish a chart of the various stages of review that cases undergo, so that IPR monthly Director's Reports about the status of PRB deadly force cases are clearer. (They use terms such as "Investigation," "Review Level," "Debriefing," and "IAD Closure" without explaining what these mean.)
Overall, we found that reading this particular set of case summaries was incredibly discouraging, with the Board making excuses for officers and using loaded terminology about protestors and protests, for instance. If the Bureau wants to build trust with the community it is supposed to "protect and serve," officers need to be held at least to the same kinds of standards that officers demand of the community, but more so as they are given leeway to use force and deadly force in ways that would land laypeople in jail.
Looking forward to a response about these comments someday.
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Posted October 7, 2021