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



Contact: Dan Handelman, Portland Copwatch, 503-236-3065

Group Releases Written Analysis, Video Summary of Police Review Board Assessment
Portland Copwatch Uses Humor, Statistics to Point to Shortcomings of Current System

On Tuesday, February 12, local police accountability group Portland Copwatch (PCW) released an analysis of the assessment report on the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR)--Portland's "Civilian Police Review Board." PCW's analysis of consultant Eileen Luna-Firebaugh's 137-page report is accompanied by a video; both insert cultural references into the mix to help paint pictures for Portlanders interested in the issue. In addition, the written analysis includes further recommendations and observations not made by the consultant. The consultant's report is expected to be presented to City Council on Thursday, February 28 at 2 PM.

PCW summarizes much of the report's information regarding the IPR and its 9-member Citizen Review Committee, noting that many in Portland do not trust the system (if they even know it exists), and that IPR has never used its power to conduct independent investigations. An example of pop-culture reference: When the report notes that the IPR prefers to do a lot of its work "behind the scenes," PCW cites the Charlie Rich song that says, "no one knows what goes on behind closed doors." There are also references to South Park, Steve Martin, Looney Tunes, and Pirates of the Caribbean (it makes sense in context--watch the video!).

Among Portland Copwatch's recommendations, some of which are derived from Luna-Firebaugh's research materials, are that:

--The City change the charter to make the IPR fully independent, with an empowered system such as recommended by the Mayor's Majority Work Group in 2001; IPR/CRC needs its own legal counsel to greatly enhance the system's credibility.

--The IPR and CRC be granted the power to recommend discipline, which would then allow them to directly use the power to compel testimony and actually conduct independent investigations.

--Cases investigated by civilians should include: high-profile shootings, deaths, use of force with serious bodily harm, racial profiling, illegal searches, and when there is "high emotion in the community," or a conflict of interest.

--The City fund citizen oversight of shootings and deaths cases, as suggested by the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) in 2003.

--CRC be expanded to 11 or 13 members, even if they are not all required to be a part of every appeal hearing.

--The standard of proof for CRC be changed to "preponderance of the evidence," from the current, confusing "reasonable person" standard.

--Declined cases be eligible for appeal; citizens have a say in Service Complaints; and appeal forms go out with all "disposition letters."

--The IPR adopt review board expert Sam Walker's proposal that "A police auditor may reject any and all demands by the law enforcement agency to see draft copies of public reports."

--Civilians' deadlines should be relaxed so long as officers' are.

Some of Portland Copwatch's further observations include:

--While much is made about the "Sustain" rate in Portland, it is just as important to look at the "Insufficient Evidence" rate-- the officer's word is weighted more than the citizen's in roughly three quarters of the cases investigated.

--These findings, combined with lack of thoroughness and imbalance of citizen and officer satisfaction, is indicative of an institutional bias even if it is not overt in the individual case files.

--When policy issues are resolved "behind the scenes," the solutions could be contrary to the wishes of the public.

--When the IPR was created, Auditor Gary Blackmer resisted including shootings and deaths in its purview, but he now prides himself that the IPR's hiring of outside consultants from the PARC has led to major positive changes in the Bureau's shootings and deaths policies. He should therefore be willing to embrace the recommendations made by the consultant which can also improve Portland's Police Bureau and its oversight system.

The 7-page PCW analysis is broken down into 11 sections: Overview/IPR Lacks Community Confidence; Officers not Disciplined; Transparency; Independent Investigations; Power to Compel Testimony; Empowering the CRC; Independence/Conflicts of Interest; Findings; Standard of Proof; Mediation; and Timeliness. It can be found in its entirety at http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/iprassessmentanalysis.html . The video is posted at http://www.youtube.com/peaceandjusticeworks .

For more information contact Portland Copwatch at 503-236-3065 or copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org .

Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice Works home page

Posted February 21, 2008