Analysis of OIR Group's March 2023 Report on Portland Police Deadly Force
by Portland Copwatch

Table of contents

April 18, 2023

OIR Group Reviews Eight Cases Including Five Fatal Shootings and a Choking Incident
No Attention Paid to Race in Deadly Force Used on Two Black Men; Most Mental Health Concerns Diverted

The OIR Group, a consulting firm which has been reviewing deadly force cases in Portland since 2010, released its new Report in March.,*-1 Clocking in at roughly 100 pages plus a useful table of all 65 incidents and the Chief's response, it covers several controversial incidents. Among those are the shooting deaths of Samuel Rice, Andre Gladen, and Lane Martin, all three of whom were in mental health crisis. There is no line of questioning about whether the officer who killed Gladen or the one who choked Jonathan Harris without killing him acted in part because each of those men are Black. OIR is most critical of Sgt. Kelly VanBlokland, who killed Rice after seeing him through a motel bathroom window without communicating his intent to other officers on the scene. But the Report's general approach to cases involving people who are clearly in mental health crisis boils down to two things: first, that "recognizing and safely accommodating a subject's compromised decision-making can be challenging in a moment of conflict" (p. 3) and the old tired trope that the mental health system is broken (pp. 52-53, for instance). The mental health system did not kill Rice, Gladen, Martin (or James Chasse, Keaton Otis or dozens of others). The Portland Police did. Regardless, Portland Copwatch (PCW) continues to appreciate the Group's willingness to challenge the decisions of the officers and those who reviewed their actions, to relay details to the public that are otherwise difficult to find, and to make meaningful recommendations, even though they themselves are becoming exasperated that the Bureau isn't implementing them all.

It was nearly three years between the completion of OIR's last Report in 2020 and the release of this one on March 10. Text in the appendix indicates that the Report was nearly done in November 2022 (Appendix p. 6), while the cover sheet shows a release date of January, 2023. The Chief's response is dated February 28. These delays are particularly troubling since the incidents under review are all from the years 2018-2019, meaning the observations are four to five years out of date.

Sometimes, the perspective of the community member who was subjected to deadly force is included. But for the five incidents that ended in death, there is little mention of other people's perspectives, such as family members who might have had something to add.

In some places in the document, important information is tucked into footnotes rather than being included in the narrative or analysis; PCW has included some of those tidbits below in our summary of the Report.

Altogether there are 18 recommendations in the new Report. Among the repeat recommendations are to analyze the officers' actions that lead up to the use of deadly force (#9, fourth time) and to be sure to collect medical records and photos of any injuries (#7 second time).

Here are details on the eight cases:

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Rice had barricaded himself in a motel room with his girlfriend in October, 2018. While Rice was in the bathroom alone, VanBlokland fired at him independently of other officers, even though the commander said there was no permission given to take a "shot of opportunity" (p. 21). A footnote adds that another supervisor said maybe firing at Rice was the "safest way to end the conflict." Yeah, not for Rice. VanBlokland decided to shoot because he heard others on the radio saying they heard the girlfriend screaming... but he did not radio back about being ready to fire his weapon, claiming the channel was full. The Bureau found his actions in line with training and policy (pp. 23-24).

The Report reveals that one officer had possibly been in touch with Rice's girlfriend via text message, indicating she wanted the police to go away. Though Rice could have authored the text, investigators didn't even look into it, including asking the woman herself, or mentioning it in the police reports (p. 20). The officer who was texting was also not interviewed (as revealed in a footnote on p. 18). The girlfriend was in a separate room at the time Rice was shot, therefore not in immediate danger. OIR also pointed out that Rice was known to have mental health issues and had had a run-in with police shortly prior to the incident, at which the girlfriend was threatened but helped de-escalate, ending the need for police presence.

It's a little disturbing, given the history between this woman and Rice, that the OIR refers to her as a "hostage" (pp. 19 and 21). Using the police narrative to amp up the risks involved only feeds their ability to justify state-sanctioned murder.

Notably, the PPB did not explain why this case took 262 days to investigate.

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Andre Gladen similarly had encountered police earlier in the same day as he was killed in January 2019, OIR points to his release from a mental health hospital after just a few hours as one reason he ended up dead at the hands of Officer Consider Vosu. Vosu was, however, criticized by OIR for: (a) not calling or waiting for backup right away, particularly because it was apparent that mental health issues were involved, (b) asking the person whose house Gladen entered to help restrain him, (c) moving the knife which Gladen allegedly threatened him with and _putting it back_, and (d) carrying a knife on the outside of his vest in the first place. Gladen allegedly grabbed Vosu's knife, an issue raised by the Grand Jury but not investigators (p. 47). There was no analysis by OIR about Vosu backing himself into a corner of the house, then using that to justify the killing.

OIR also points out inconsistencies in testimony that were not examined, such as the resident saying he did help restrain Gladen but the officer saying he didn't, the resident feeling he was in the line of fire though Vosu said he wasn't, and the resident saying he was the one who picked up the knife (p. 49).

Vosu's messing up the evidence (the knife) is attributed in part to the fact that he hadn't received training on that issue yet (!- p. 50). Apparently he wasn't the only one interfering with evidence, as an officer who arrived on scene got into Vosu's car within the crime scene area in order to escape the weather (p. 50). Similarly, Acting Sergeant Delton Stroh didn't ask Vosu for an on-scene statement because he hadn't been trained to do so (p. 51).

A tidbit PCW had not heard before is that after Gladen was kicking at the door of the house, the civilian picked up some kind of wooden stick to threaten Gladen (p. 43). That's when Gladen was able to make his way into the house. Again in a footnote (on p. 46) the OIR calls out the PPB investigation for not examining Vosu's request for the civilian to help him restrain Gladen, pointing out that many agencies say to only do that as a "last resort."

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The consultants seemed to have a little more compassion for Lane Martin, who was swinging a small axe around in the streets in July 2019. He dropped the axe after officers hit him with less-lethal rounds, and then Martin was seen with a pocket knife. OIR recognized that Officer Gary Doran was the only one of seven officers lined up facing Martin to decide to fire his weapon... eleven times. No inquiry was made into Doran firing repeatedly without stopping to see if Martin was responding. A footnote implies Doran's claim that his training was to keep firing was not consistent with actual training (p. 76). OIR wisely suggests that the Bureau look into reasons why one officer decides to use deadly force when others do not (Recommendation #13).

Martin apparently had the axe tucked in his belt, but took it out after officers started yelling commands at him, which sounds like the opposite of de-escalation (p. 68). Officers Nicholas Bianchini and David Kemple (acting as a Sergeant) apparently discussed the "need" to shoot Martin with "less lethal" weapons (p. 69). Incidentally, Martin was waving pieces of paper around as well (p. 78).

After Martin was killed, officers say they found a knife near him, but moved the evidence (revealed in a footnote on p. 70); Training found this was ok to be sure Martin could not reach it (p. 75). One reason Internal Affairs supposed that Doran decided to fire was that he was within 21 feet of Martin. But as OIR has pointed out before, the so-called "21-foot rule" where officers say they need to shoot someone with a knife who's that close is "simplistic" and no longer used by police. Instead they talk about a "reactionary gap." Doran himself did not rely on the 21-foot rule; OIR reports that the Training Division told Internal Affairs to get updated (also p. 75).

An interesting side note: Internal Affairs discussed alternatives to lethal weapons such as pepper spray or gel that can travel 35 feet. But nothing was made of the idea, prompting Recommendation #14 for the PPB to use these incidents to find ways to safely resolve these conflicts, presumably without firearms.

In this particular case, OIR calls out the Bureau for not doing more analysis of the mental health aspects of the situation. This led them to make Recommendation #15 that Training should analyze the efforts of the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team in deadly force cases.

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In what may be a first, a non-lethal use of deadly force other than by firearm was subject to OIR's scrutiny. It's not mentioned in the narrative, but is specified in the Appendix, that Jonathan Harris, who was choked by Officer Larry Wingfield in August 2018 and lived, is a Black man. In a footnote (on p. 7), OIR notes that Officer Wingfield was shouting out information about Harris' warrant to justify the violence the police were using, which included Officers Timothy Giles and David Harding punching Harris multiple times in the back. In 2006, after beating James Chasse, Jr. so severely that he later died, officers told bystanders that Chasse had drugs on him (which wasn't true). Perhaps an examination of whether the officers are convincing _themselves_ to justify their brutality is in order.

Harris admitted to investigators he had a gun on him, but said he wasn't sure the men were really police officers. The investigators "challenged" this statement (p. 8).

In another footnote (on p. 15), it's noted that Officer Giles recognized things could have gone differently if they had waited for one or two more officers to arrive on scene.

The Training Division said Wingfield putting pressure on Harris' neck was not a carotid neck hold and thus was not deadly force. OIR disagreed, but seems to agree with the findings that because Harris may have grabbed Wingfield's gun, the force was justified. Alarmingly, Wingfield felt Harris was not in danger because he was able to talk; in a footnote, the Report cites the idea that "if you can talk, you can breathe" is a discredited, oversimplified reading of such situations (p. 13). While OIR suggests looking at previous police-related incidents involving the victims of the police shootings to compare the outcomes (Recommendation #4), it would also be worthwhile to examine the officers' histories. Wingfield shot and killed Thomas Higginbotham in 2011 and wounded Jonah Potter in 2012.

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Notably, though the OIR Reports have consistently warned against supervisors becoming involved in tactical situations (instead of, you know, supervising), they withheld judgment on Sgt. James Mooney for getting involved in the tactical situation and firing at Jeb Brock in April 2019. Brock was holding a woman at knifepoint and had apparently gravely injured or killed other people. In that case, they also did not criticize Officer Aaron Rizzo for hitting both Brock _and the hostage_ with rounds from a less lethal weapon. It's not clear what she might have thought was happening when she was hit with the projectile(s).

Overall they agree with PPB that because there was an "active threat," the fact that officers were able to coordinate their actions at all means the shooting that ended in Brock's death was "admirable" (p. 59).

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The report also covers another "hostage" situation, where David Downs held a woman at knifepoint in a stairwell and claimed he had a bomb in June 2019. In a narrative which seems ripped from a (trite) Hollywood screenplay, Officer Nathan Kirby-Glatkowski said he saw the woman move down while in Downs' grasp, giving him the ability to shoot Downs in the head. While this eases the concern that the police might have killed both people (as was possible in the Brock case and actually happened when police killed 12 year old Nathan Thomas along with his hostage-taker in 1992), it does not mean PCW or anyone should condone police taking a person's life. Even those who believe in the death penalty would agree that a person has a right to a trial, not a summary execution on sight.

Interestingly, there is no contrast here between the officers deciding not to use "less lethal" rounds for fear of hitting the woman and the fact that the opposite decision was made in the Brock incident. OIR praises the "noteworthy accomplishments" of the officers (p. 66). In a footnote, they reveal that an officer was asked to issue a warning but the record isn't clear whether that happened, with no follow up by the Training Division (also p. 66).

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Another case was that of Ryan Beisley, who was inside the Fred Meyer Starbucks in December 2018 and emerged with a gun, leading to four officers shooting 18 times and only hitting him twice. OIR suggests re-training officers who miss their target with so many bullets (Recommendation #8). For what it's worth, in the 60 shootings covered in OIR reports, officers missed their targets altogether in nine of them (15%) using 45 bullets (about 5 per incident). They don't break down how many bullets hit the people who police did not miss, but in 51 incidents officers fired a total of 410 bullets (about 8 per incident). That's a lot of lead flying around.

Shortly after Beisley allegedly pointed a gun at Officer John Shadron, the officer fired at him three times, causing Beisley to fall to the ground. The officers apparently backed out of the store in an effort to de- escalate, leaving several employees stranded in a back storage room with the alleged gunman between them and the exit door. Shadron said he left because he felt he would be "forced to shoot him again" (p. 39). When Beisley came out, Officers Dustin Lauritzon, Lucas Brostean and (acting Sergeant) John Sapper all fired at once. No grand jury was held in this case, which again shows that attempted murder by police is not treated as a serious potential crime by the District Attorney's office. OIR points out that the Training Division didn't question the officers' decision to leave the store even though they should have known Beisley could still pose a threat, saying "the purpose of the Training analysis is not to assess blame, but to aid the Bureau's training efforts."

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The last case was of Jason Hansen, who fled from a traffic stop in October 2018 and was wounded by police bullets. The shooting officer, Kameron Fender, himself a K-9 officer, was bitten by a Clackamas County police dog as he was trying to put cuffs on Hansen. The PPB did not investigate the Clackamas deputies for the dog's behavior, though Fender and the deputy who also fired on Hansen were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury. This led to Recommendation #6 that the PPB include other agencies' actions in their reviews of deadly force. The Clackamas dog also allegedly bit Hansen, but the police did not take a picture of the injury.

Apparently, Fender did not radio in that he was on scene, which led the Training Division to suggest that K-9 officers communicate their locations. Since that led nowhere (p. 31), OIR repeated that idea as Recommendation #5.

Despite OIR's consistent reminder that officers should be interviewed right away, and not even as long as the 48 hours now afforded to them by policy, they use a footnote on page 32 to say it was OK for Officer Fender not to be interviewed for three weeks due to the dog bite injuries. PCW believes the police have interviewed many civilian suspects while they were recovering in the hospital and thinks that more scrutiny is needed whether officers are truly not able to answer investigator questions. Furthermore, the case took almost 100 days more than the required 180 days to investigate, and those three weeks no doubt played into the delay.

In this particular case, it appears that then-Chief Outlaw asked a number of important follow up questions after receiving the Police Review Board recommendations. OIR notes this is the first time a Chief has done this in all the cases they reviewed and encourage it be done more (p. 33). So long as the Chief is involved in the discipline process, PCW agrees.

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Chief Lovell agreed with all eighteen recommendations, more or less. Where OIR suggested the use of profanity, such as that used by Officer Giles in the Harris choking incident, should be investigated as part of the deadly force review (Recommendation #1), Lovell claimed that such behavior would be addressed prior to the case getting to the Police Review Board. It's not clear that any such misconduct has ever been dealt with in deadly force cases.

Rather than commit to ensuring that someone like Officer VanBlokland be required to communicate with other officers on scene before taking independent action to kill someone (as suggested in Recommendation #3), the Chief states that the Special Emergency Reaction Team will check to be sure they are "working within industry best practice."

His response to retraining officers who wildly miss hitting their targets is that studies suggest accuracy under stress is "between 18 and 54 percent, depending upon the distance from the subject." Where do all those bullets go?

Interestingly, about the suggestion that the Chief formally respond to all recommendations from the Police Review Board (#10), Lovell refers to an existing database that tracks all recommendations from the PRB. It is odd that OIR Group-- and the public for that matter-- do not have access to that database. Also, it appears recommendations made by the Training Division (which OIR said to address in Recommendation #17) were sent to the Deputy Chief and the PPB's response indicates those would later be added to the tracking database. That database may or may not include all of OIR's recommendations, according to the reply to the Group's suggestion that they be added and reviewed by an assigned individual (#18).

A very telling part of OIR's analysis is that one of the biggest holdups leading to these investigations lasting much longer than the 180 days required by the US Department of Justice Settlement Agreement is that the officers' supervisors do not write memos about their suggested findings in a timely way. They recommend (#16) that the memos either be required or that the PRBs simply proceed without the commander's input. The Chief says the Bureau "does not object" to requiring the commander to write a memo.

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One final note: OIR mentions (again) that having footage from Body Worn Cameras would help a lot to determine more accurately what happened in these instances. While that may be true, it is to their credit that they acknowledge the footage is not perfect because it is only from one perspective (p. 5).

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Portland Copwatch repeats our note from 2019 that "if a civilian body tasked with reviewing the deadly force cases at the time they happened used the same expertise and lenses as the OIR Group, there likely would be more examples of officers being found out of policy and perhaps even disciplined." As a new oversight system is being designed, the Citizen Review Committee, which has not heard an appealed misconduct case since June 2021, should fulfill its obligation under City Code ,*-2 and make sure OIR's recommendations are being implemented. CRC is holding a meeting about OIR's report on May 3 2.

It is unclear whether the OIR will begin a new round of analysis at this point, since the Independent Police Review's list of deadly force cases from March 2023 indicates that of 21 other incidents that occurred since Mr. Martin's death, only seven have been through the Police Review Board process and are thus eligible for review.

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*1- Find the OIR Report at
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*2- Portland City Code 3.21.070[L].
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Posted April 18, 2023