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Portland Copwatch Testimony on
US Dept of Justice/City of Portland Settlement (Section 3)


Summary: The process for investigating most complaints of police misconduct still relies too heavily on the police to produce trust; timelines must allow for the process to be completed.

The IPR was created in 2001 as a civilian agency to handle complaints of police misconduct. At the time, IPR was given the authority to conduct independent investigations if the Bureau's Internal Affairs division (IA) were not meeting certain standards. The original ordinance had no provisions at all for shootings and deaths in custody, which was soon changed to allow annual external reviews of such cases.*-6 No provision in the ordinance prohibits investigation of shootings by IPR.

The DOJ Agreement calls for the City to "enable meaningful independent investigations by IPR, when IPR determines such independent investigation is necessary." On January 8, Council voted to create a process whereby the Police Bureau sends a representative to IPR interviews of officers, in order to compel the officer to testify.*-7 The IPR Director himself testified on October 23 18 that the then-existing system, which called for an Internal Affairs employee to direct the suspect officer to answer ask questions, was "crazy." Clearly, this new system is not terribly different, and from the community's standpoint, the IPR is still fully dependent on the Bureau to conduct its investigations.

To be clear, the IPR never conducted a single independent investigation until mid-2013, and when they did, it involved a high-ranking officer and his subordinate, but no community members.

The IPR's original intent was to meet the Agreement's "meaningful independent investigations" standard by simply writing in the ordinance that they could compel officer testimony, believing they, as an agent of the City, were capable of doing so. The City Attorney apparently gave contradictory advice sometime in November, leading to the changed and weakened new ordinance. Portland Copwatch began suggesting to the City that a fully independent review body could be established with sufficient powers by changing the City Charter back in 2006. We worked with the Charter Commission that year and in 2011-2012 to recommend such a change. The first time, the proposal ended up as a footnote.*-8 The second time, the City defunded the Commission before action could be taken.*-9 In December 2013 at the hearing to discuss the revised IPR ordinance, we suggested that Council put forward a Charter amendment to fix this problem. The response from one Commissioner was "what shy of a Charter change would you have us do?" We believe that given the seriousness of the constitutional issues found by the DOJ, the majority of Portlanders would support Council if they proposed making IPR independent through the Charter process. We believe that the intention to make such a change should be spelled out in the Agreement.

What the community has been asking for over at least the past 20 or so years is an agency that can conduct such investigations without the involvement of any Police Bureau employees other than the ones under suspicion of misconduct and witness officers. Neither the DOJ Agreement nor the way in which the City has chosen to implement this activity are fair, adequate or reasonable. IPR should be investigating, as called for by the City's 2010 Police Oversight Stakeholder Committee, incidents "including shootings, deaths in custody, and physical injury requiring hospitalization; racial profiling, illegal searches, conflicts of interest, or other 'high emotion in the community' issues."*-10 The Agreement should not leave it solely to IPR's discretion when to conduct investigations, but rather should include a similar list of criteria.

Also, the Agreement instructs that "the City shall complete all administrative investigations of officer misconduct within 180 days... including appeals, if any, to CRC" (paragraph 121). We note that when this language was proposed for the IPR ordinance, it could have meant that an investigation had to be terminated on the 180th day. In other words, an officer under suspicion of misconduct could have walked free if IA or IPR did not finish the investigation in a timely manner. Fortunately, as noted in the background section, the City did modify its language, which now only requires that "the Police Commissioner and the City Auditor shall be notified... in all cases where an administrative investigation exceeds 129 days."*-11 We want to underscore that this is one instance in which we support the City not going as far as the Agreement requires, but strongly recommend that the Agreement be modified to indicate that the removal of the "shall" language adequately remedies the issue of lengthy investigations. We discuss other needed changes to this section regarding the CRC in section 4.

*-6- City Code 3.21.070 [L]
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*-7- City Code 3.21.220
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*-8- Charter Review Commission Report to City Council, January 2007, p. 58
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*-9- Though no final report was filed, the testimony of JoAnn Hardesty reflects the focus on the issue and the City Council's lack of interest, on pg. 20 of the official Council minutes of December 21, 2011
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*-10-Recommendation 1-B, Police Oversight Stakeholder Committee Final Report, September 2010
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*-11- City Code 3.21.120 [G][8], with 30 days set aside for an appeal to be filed and 21 days to hold the appeal hearing.
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DOJ Letter of Findings (September 12, 2012)

DOJ / City of Portland Settlment Agreement (November 14, 2012)

Next Section: 4. Accountability-- Citizen Review Committee

Back to Copwatch DOJ information page

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Testimony sections:

1. Appealing Findings
  on Deadly Force Cases

2. Taser Use
  and the DOJ Agreement

3. Accountability--
  Independent Police Review

4. Accountability--
  Citizen Review Committee

5. Accountability--
  Police Review Board

6. Use of Force
  and the DOJ Agreement

7. Mental Health Provisions
8. Training
  and the DOJ Agreement

9. Tracking Police Contacts
  / Demographic Information

10. Implementation and

11. Oversight of the
  Agreement / Conclusion

(Additional Materials

Testimony in pdf format
  (16 pgs)

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

Posted January 31, 2014
Updated February 12, 2014 to include corrections to section 3 re: date of IPR testimony to Council (October 23, not 18)
and that Internal Affairs orders officers to "answer" questions, not "ask" them.
Portland Copwatch regrets the errors.

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