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Portland Copwatch Releases Analysis of Police Review Board Assessment

Portland's laughable "police accountability" procedures have been called into question recently by an independent report issued by consultant Eileen Luna-Firebaugh. Those of us who actually live in Portland have been complaining about the lack of any meaningful accountability for some time, and were not at all surprised by this report. See below for information about the report and the IPR from Portland Copwatch.
NEWS ITEM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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," and 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.