portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article portland metro

community building | human & civil rights | police / legal

What a Mess - the police state

On Wednesday, August 1, PIIAC presented their last quarterly monitoring
report (combined 1st-2nd quarters, 2001) to City Council. Three of us from
Copwatch were there to observe and comment.
Significant highlights included:
Distraction techniques:
(This is a police practice which has been alternately acknowledged and
denied over the last 5 years, in which officers use force to "distract"
suspects in order to "gain control.")
Citizen Advisor Bob Ueland charged that police use of the "distraction
technique" to justify hitting citizens in the head or other areas of the
body seemed like a way for them to "get a free punch in." Ueland was
roundly criticized for his language by Chief Kroeker, who as usual got
support from Mayor Katz.
Kroeker stated that since a "distraction" could be anything from verbal
cries to the firing of a weapon to break a house window, it could not be
narrowly defined. However, Commissioner Sten noted that officers seem to
be using the term "distraction technique" to justify using force when no
other justification exists. He requested written guidelines. Commissoner
Francesconi also asked the Chief for more information, which Kroeker
promised to put into his written response to Council.

Although the Oregonian noted that statistics show that no allegations of
misconduct were sustained so far in 2001, Chief Kroeker and new Internal
Affairs Captain Darrell Schenck claimed that many cases are sustained, but
just don't show up in the stats. !. Schenck, who took over IAD a month
ago, claims that 76 cases were sustained in 1999, which conflicts with the
stats the IAD published earlier this year showing only 10 cases sustained
that year.
Commissioner Francesconi urged the Bureau to report on case progression
and Early Warning System.
Mayor Katz agreed with our point that the IAD statistics are confusing as
presented, and also agreed that she'd like to see stats on discipline
included (though she did not direct the Bureau to do so). On the other
hand, she requested that PIIAC show a "rolling average" length of time for
resolved cases to show progress made by the 5 new sergeants at IAD. We
pointed out that if the average time were dropping since they began work
in October, the overall average could not have increased from 14 months to
15 months.

Kroeker's honeymoon not over:
Even though Kroeker (a) overturned a Council finding in one case, (b)
missed his 60-day deadline by two months on another case and (c) never
turned in a written reply to the last PIIAC report as required by
ordinance, he was let off without admonishment.
He claimed he will have a response to the new report by the end of the
month, which would include updates on "interpersonal communication"
training done in the wake of the Mejia shooting.
We made a point that Kroeker's lack of attention to PIIAC sends a message
to the Police Bureau and to the public that he does not take them

He also fumbled through excuses for not having prepared remarks on this
report, although the Bureau apparently had a copy of it for three weeks.
He prefaced each one of his comments with, "Had we had the report earlier,
we would have been able to say..."
Kroeker also announced the upcoming publication of a manual containing
police General Orders which will be available for purchase and in the
public library. However, he did not address which other information the
police would make publicly available, nor did he address the fact that if
GOs get changed in the future, the manual will need to be reprinted in
full. The current GOs are bound in notebooks and individual pages can
easily be replaced.
Also, although this did not come up at Council, we wanted to point out
another contradiction. While Kroeker's half-hearted apology about his
anti-gay and other statements won him praise, School Board Member Derry
Jackson's very similar half-hearted apology about his anti-Semitic
statements have caused calls for his resignation. Both men apologized only
for the harm their words caused, not the words themselves. Logically
speaking, either Kroeker should go or Jackson should stay.

Final say questioned:
Based on our comments, Commissioner Sten asked for someone to show him the
language in the City Code so he could be sure that Council would have
final say on the disposition of cases in the future. Copwatch is working
on a reply.

Captain Smith not missed:
When Mayor Katz, with a smirk, asked the audience whether they wanted to
know what had happened to former IAD Captain Bret Smith, nobody replied.
There were some giggles and some shock at the Mayor's candid disdain for
Smith, then Chief Kroeker reported Smith had been transferred to be
Commander of North Precinct.

IPR Changeover:
Although the Director of the new "Independent Police Review Division"
(IPR) was supposed to be named by Monday, Auditor Gary Blackmer was still
at the helm to introduce the PIIAC report. Wednesday evening, the Citizen
Advisors of PIIAC began the process of selecting the 9 new board members
out of 48 applicants. Blackmer was reviewing files, too, as the de facto
Director of IPR until he hires someone. Perhaps he delayed naming a new
director so that he could help pick the board members prior to hiring the
new person in charge.
The Advisors briefly considered breaking into groups based on one
criterion apiece, which would have allowed two people to decide, for
instance, which applicants had conflicts of interest that would prevent
them from being on the board. After we objected that people who think it's
OK to have former cops on the board could then sway the whole tally, they
decided that all 7 PIIAC members present would read over all 48
applications. They will be meeting again next week, and presumably
tallying up their ratings to choose the a dozen or so finalists, who will
then be interviewed.