MORE INFO ON THE INDEPENDENT AUDIT AS REPORTED BY PORTLAND COPWATCH. FOR THE ENTIRE ANALYSIS SEE THEIR WEB PAGE...
A long-awaited assessment report on the "Independent" Police Review Division (IPR)--Portland's "Civilian Police Review Board"-- was released on January 24. It contains a lot of useful information, with some basic concerns about the IPR system community members have been pointing out for years. This includes that the IPR doesn't do independent investigations, its 9- member Citizen Review Committee (CRC) doesn't have enough power, the public doesn't know the system exists, and those who use it are far less satisfied than the officers who do. It reveals that officers are sometimes not disciplined even after they admit to or are found to have violated Bureau policies. And, perhaps most clearly, it shows that the system is nearly impossible to understand and tends toward "behind the scenes" work instead of being open and transparent to the public.
The 137-page report by nationally recognized expert Eileen Luna-Firebaugh contains at least 3 dozen recommendations, many of which can immediately bring improvements if adopted. Most significantly, it suggests that the IPR should be doing independent investigations not only on its own, but when directed to do so by the CRC. The current ordinance allows such investigations, but the IPR has never done one in its entire 6-year existence.
Luna-Firebaugh further instructs the IPR to assign a staff person directly to the CRC and have them hold more appeal hearings, issue more policy recommendations, and do more outreach.
On the other hand, the report doesn't go far enough. The mistrust the report wisely notes that the community has for the system is based on the IPR's dependence on the Police Bureau. Currently, all investigations of civilian complaints go to the Bureau's Internal Affairs Division (IAD). The report's recommendation is for some investigations to be done by civilian investigators, not all.
The report highlights the "easy" relationship between IPR Director Leslie Stevens and the IAD. In fact, the day after the report was released, Stevens announced she was planning to leave her post to head up the Police Bureau's "Office of Professional Standards." (This brings to mind the old Looney Tunes cartoons in which a wolf and a sheepdog both punch in at the same time clock every day.) While the move to increase independent investigations has much to be said for it, the institutional problem of this cozy relationship is the kind of thing that brings at best a 30% satisfaction rate for citizens who use the IPR system. There is no mention at all of the conflict of interest inherent in the City Attorney advising both the Police Bureau when they get sued for misconduct and the IPR/CRC when they investigate misconduct.
There are many golden nuggets, including the same recommendations some in the community have made for years for additional "findings" of Policy Failure, Supervisory Failure, and Training Failure, presenting reports to Council annually, and compelling officer testimony to the CRC as a condition of employment.
It is clear that Auditor Gary Blackmer is reluctant to adopt many of the report's 35-plus recommendations. However, when the IPR was created, Auditor Blackmer resisted including shootings and deaths in its purview. He now prides himself that the IPR's hiring of outside consultants from the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) has led to major positive changes in the Bureau's shootings and deaths policies.
The City Council presentation of this report will be held on Thursday, February 28 at 2 PM.