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Auditor's Weakened Civilian Review Board

AUDITOR'S WEAKENED REVIEW BOARD
WILL BOOST POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY INITIATIVE
Gary Blackmer Ignores City Council and Public Testimony,
Proposing a System Worse Than the Current Structure

an analysis by Portland Copwatch
Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065
 copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 31, 2001Contact: Dan Handelman, Kristian Williams
or Diane Lane (503) 236-3065



City Auditor Gary Blackmer's recently revised proposal for an Independent
Police Review Division (IPR) is destined to fail. The sloppy work of the
original ordinance, combined with Blackmer's recent minimalist revisions,
will only re-inforce arguments in favor of an independent police review
board proposed by the Police Accountability Campaign (PAC-2002). PAC-2002
is gathering signatures to put such a board on the ballot in May, 2002.

At a public hearing last Thursday, May 24th, about 30 people testified in
favor of an independent board, as opposed to two or three who supported
Blackmer's plan. City Council directed Blackmer to make changes based on
citizens' concerns (and some of their own), but very few of those
revisions actually appear in the code which will go before Council on June
6 at 10:30 AM ( http://www.ci.portland.or.us/auditor/ipr_ordjune6.pdf).

First, the Auditor postponed implementation of reviews of police shootings
and deaths in custody until December 31st, despite Council's clear
directive for the IPR to take these cases on. Such reviews are one of the
four major elements of the Mayor's Work Group plan (and the PAC-2002
initiative).
Meanwhile, Blackmer has sent the revised ordinance back as an "emergency,"
stating that the board must begin implementation on July 1. How the
ordinance itself, written in two months, is an "emergency," while reviews
of the most serious use of force by police can wait seven months is
unclear.

Despite the fact that the Mayor's Work Group crafted a credible,
well-researched plan over the course of five months, the Auditor has
slapped together his ordinance and is in a hurry to put it in place.
Without speculating on reasons why, here are some problems with the
original ordinance which have still not been fixed:

--The "independent" investigators of the IPR will be asking questions to
the police through an Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigator.
Moreover, the proposed code states that the IAD investigator "may" repeat
the question or order the officer to answer it. In other words, the IPR is
not independent of the police (Sections 3.21.120 C and D). Most alarming
is that the original code stated that the IAD investigator "shall" have
the officer answer the question; the revised version permits the IAD to
refuse to cooperate with the IPR, making the civilian board even weaker.
Given that Commissioner Saltzman repeatedly brought up concerns regarding
the IPR's ability to ask direct questions during officer interviews, it is
striking that there is no new language in the revised ordinance.
Commissioner Francesconi wanted a legal opinion on the matter. The
discussion at Council clearly showed that more dialogue is necessary
before this ordinance is passed.

--The review board is not explicitly given the power to recommend
discipline, which damages their legal ability to compel officer testimony.
In addition, the IPR ordinance omits a part of the current city code
defining the Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee (PIIAC)
that gives City Council the ability to compel officer testimony.

--Two sections of the proposed code give the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)
and the City Attorney the power to withhold information, potentially
crippling the IPR. One section allows the City Attorney to shield
documents considered to be "Attorney-client communications" from the IPR
(3.21.070 H); the other requires the IPR to get clearance from the PPB
before releasing public information (3.21.110 C).

--The Citizen committee of IPR has less power and fewer members than the
current PIIAC. Currently, the Citizens can review a finished complaint and
either (a) agree with the finding (b) send the case to City Council for a
changed finding or (c) request that further investigation be done. The
Auditor's proposed code strips the Citizens of the ability to request more
investigation (3.21.160 A.1). Furthermore, although the current citizen
board and at least half a dozen other individuals testified to Council
that the number of citizens should remain at 13, the Auditor has only
increased his proposed seven member board to nine (3.21.080 A).

--Officers will not be able to use the IPR, nor will officer misconduct
not involving interactions with civilians (such as falsifying time sheets,
etc.) necessarily be part of its purview. "Misconduct" is defined as
conduct during an encounter with a person who is not an employee of the
PPB (3.21.020 P and D).

--The Chief of Police may still have final say as to whether the complaint
should be sustained, because the proposed code does not explicitly state
that the Chief must accept the Council's finding (3.21.160 A.2).
Ironically, this issue is one key reason Council agreed to restructure the
current system.

Clearly, if the proposal is adopted as written on Wednesday, the IPR's
power will rely on a weak document that is open to interpretation, as
opposed to a strong system which can stand up to scrutiny from either
civilians or the police.

In addition, the Auditor has created an unnecessary bottleneck by halting
appeals to PIIAC until the new system is in place. The PIIAC Citizen
Advisors have been handling appeals throughout the revision process and
could continue to do so. The process is already overly long, with IAD's
current average time to resolve cases at 13 months, with another three to
six months for PIIAC to hear appeals. This seems unfair to people whose
cases were already investigated by IAD in the old process.

Copwatch has previously released a longer analysis of ways in which the
Auditor ignored the recommendations of the Mayor's Work Group Majority
report. That report called for a viable, strong and independent police
review board. A copy of that analysis can be found on our website,
www.portlandcopwatch.org.

In short, by rushing his proposal into effect without listening to the
overwhelming testimony favoring an independent board, the Auditor is
ushering in a system which, in some ways, is worse than the current PIIAC.
We can think of no greater gift to the organizers of the PAC-2002
initiative.

For more information, please call our office at 503-236-3065.