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  Date: Fri, 4 May 2018
From: Portland Copwatch
To: News Media
Cc: Chief Danielle Outlaw, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Constantin Severe


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE         May 4, 2018

Data Riddled with Bias, Errors from Minor to Outrageous

In December, 2016, the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) apparently made available an online form for the state's law enforcement agencies to post information about deaths caused by police intervention. Police accountability group Portland Copwatch (PCW) has been urging the DOJ since 2014 to post such data in accordance with SB111 (2007) which required the state to do so. PCW compiled data and sent it to the Attorney General in 2014-2016 and again in 2018 covering two more years. The AG never let PCW know that the site had been created. Regardless, at this point there are 78 unique entries, including 64 covering 2010-2017-- meaning the DOJ missed at least 47 deaths chronicled by PCW.*-1 Moreover, the posts seem to be unedited and unfiltered police perspectives, presenting casual narratives along the lines of "suspect pointed a gun at officers, who shot suspect." Beyond this basic bias, there are errors in the data from wrong dates to outrageous statements. The worst of these is the narrative on the 2010 death of Aaron Campbell in Portland, which claims the young African American man "became confrontational and pulled a gun from the small of his back." The undisputed facts of the case show that Campbell was unarmed when he was killed by Officer Ron Frashour.

Another claim, which doesn't even follow the police's narrative, is that Keaton Otis "reached into car and withdrew firearm" before police shot and killed him; Otis never left the car until police dragged his bullet-ridden body to the sidewalk.

The narrative about one person, Chance Thompson, who was killed by a West Linn Police Officer, states that the "Oregon State Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide." While that statement is true, the fact that one person killed another makes it a homicide and the DOJ should not be perpetuating the myth of "suicide by cop."

Here are some other observations about the data:

--Two Taser-related deaths in Douglas County in 2013*-2 indicate the suspects' deaths were caused by "excited deliruim," which is not a medically accepted term. (Side note: Both reports misspell the verb "tase" as "taze.")

--Eight incidents are listed on the wrong dates, including four in Portland: Nicholas Davis is listed as being killed in January 2017 (when the entry was made) rather than June 2014, Michael Johnson is listed as being killed in November 2016 rather than 2015, Steven Liffel is listed on 10/6/16 rather than 12/5/16, and Billy Simms is listed on July 27, 2012--one day before he was actually shot.*-3

--One duplicate entry gets the suspect's name completely wrong, somehow listing John Bocock (10/12/11) as "Kenneth DeFrees."*-4 It is not clear whether this and the four other duplicate entries are there because it is impossible to delete items once they are posted.

--At least two incidents contain no narratives at all: The 2008 Portland shooting of Jason Spoor says "unknown reason for shooting due to date," and the 2016 Sherwood shooting of James Tylka simply states "homicide suspect."

--While some high-profile cases such as the Umpqua Community College shooter (who reportedly committed suicide) are included, others such as the deaths of Christopher Kalonji and Lavoy Finicum in January 2016 are not.

--At least two Portland incidents are not listed: The death in custody of Darris Johnson in July 2011, and the death of Craig Boehler in November 2010; the police say Boehler died of smoke inhalation rather than their bullets.

--The narrative for the Portland Police shooting of Kelly Swoboda lists the "crime reason" as "warrant service," even though they were looking for a suspicious person and did not have a warrant.

--While several suspects are listed as being "black or African American," none (including Santiago Cisneros, shot in Portland in 2013) are listed as Latino.

Interestingly, a reporter from KBOO tipped off Portland Copwatch about the Oregon DOJ website the day before the "Independent" Police Review published its interactive webpage showing Portland deadly force incidents for 2010-2018. That site contains useful information including the race and gender of suspects (but not the age), as well as officer names (which are not given on the DOJ site).

Find PCW's letters to the Oregon DOJ at:

The DOJ's data are posted at:

IPR's interactive site is at:

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

*1-In an interesting turn of events, Portland Copwatch learned about three shootings and one Taser-related death that were not in its previous data. This means the total number of deadly force incidents from 2010-2017 was 196, with 111 ending in death.
UPDATE 5/18/18: PCW has realized that Mr. Defrees was killed by police on a different date than listed by the Oregon DOJ, and was given data from the Mental Health Association of Portland on one additional deaths from 2010, bringing the total to 113 deaths in 8 years.
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*2-See footnote 1
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*3-There are two other dates which do not match the dates of the incident because the data form asks for the date of death; the two suspects (Joshua Bolster and Michael Gaskill) died one and two days after they were shot and hit by a car, respectively.
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*4-UPDATE 5/18/18: Mr. Defrees was killed on October 21, 2010 where Mr. .Bocock was killed on October 12, 2011.
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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 May 18, 2018

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