(a project of Peace and Justice Works)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (office)
(503) 321-5120 (incident report line)
ANALYSIS: Compliance Officer Outcomes Report: Force Down, Crisis Teams Called, "Progress" Made--For Wrong Reasons
On November 3, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) released its semi-annual Report to gauge outcomes of changes made by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to comply with its Settlement Agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Portland Copwatch (PCW) released an analysis of that Report today. The overall impression PCW found in reading the Report is that the progress being made is the result of backlash against the Agreement rather than the implementation of its terms, which is pretty messed up.
For example, many officers are disengaging with people in mental health crisis-- not because it's a useful de-escalation tactic, but because the City Attorney has informed them it's easier to defend non-action than actions with negative consequences (p. 14). They call in the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT) sometimes because it's required, but generally to make their reports look good, or to "cover their ass [sic]" (p. 49). A survey of officers conducted by the COCL shows 82% don't think the Settlement Agreement improves the Bureau, and 92% think it distracts officers from doing their jobs (p. 73). But, the COCL says, the bright side is that they set up calls for the ECIT to handle that they otherwise would try to handle themselves (p. 74).
The drop in Use of Force we've heard so much about is partly because officers are not willing to go out in the field due to low morale: the survey shows officers say they are less likely to stop people (99.7%) and less likely to use force (98.9%)-- especially against people with mental illness (99.2%)-- "with all the criticism directed at the police" (pp. 72-73).
The report can be found at < link to cocl-coab.org
In its analysis, PCW also notes:
--The COCL frequently exhibits bias, such as asking officers how they feel about the national "criticism of police" rather than the "movement for police accountability" sparked by multiple shootings of African American civilians.
--Good information in the Report includes the issue of the off-duty shooting involving former Chief Larry O'Dea, how it raises serious concerns about the accountability process, and how it may have led to much of the low morale reflected in the officer survey (p. 4).
--The Report also calls attention to the behind-closed-doors meetings used by the City to negotiate the Portland Police Association (PPA) contract and proposed changes to the Independent Police Review Division (IPR), urging the City to engage the community earlier in the process in the future.
--Alarming information in the Report includes that just 6 officers were responsible for 7.7% of all uses of force-- more than 1 in 14, and only three supervisors came to investigate force by their subordinates in 9.7% of all events-- roughly 1 in 10 (p. 32).
--The Bureau uses yelling "Stop and get on the ground!" as an example of de-escalation (p. 12). There seems to be confusion because the Agreement refers to de-escalation as reducing force as resistance goes down ("force de-escalation") while Crisis Intervention training rightly focuses on moving a situation from agitated to calm ("verbal de-escalation").
--Officers' attitudes about race have worsened, with only 12.6% thinking some racial/ethnic populations are treated differently from others, more than a 10% drop-- which correlates with how many think that "stop and frisk" tactics have gotten a bad rap-- 72%, up 11% (pp. 66-67).
--48% of officers, up from about 32% last year, think the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team diverts officers from more important activities (p 17). Only 33% think civilian oversight is good for the Bureau, down from 46% (p 43).
--Most troubling: 82% of officers think the Settlement Agreement isn't improving the PPB, and 90% think it is a distraction (p. 7).
--Regarding mental health issues, the COCL notes: "Many officers believe they are unfairly cast as the responsible party for mental health care simply because they are the first responders to mental health crisis situations." The COCL agrees that county and state resources not adequate, allowing the police to distract from the fact that if there were adequate resources, it's highly unlikely that doctors, EMTS or social workers would be using force on the same people the police encounter (p. 13).
--Saying they can't compare data from the old system (PPDS) and the new one (RegJIN), the COCL skirts the issue of whether there has been any change in force data since last year (p. 56). While the systems may be incompatible, that doesn't mean some basic data can't be compared to show the community (and the DOJ) what, if anything, has changed.
In conclusion, PCW posits that Portland would benefit from having a COCL who lives in the City and works full time on ensuring compliance with the DOJ Agreement. PCW continues to appreciate having the information that is otherwise either unavailable to the public or scattered in so many places it would take hours or days to compile. Copwatch urges the COCL to remember that while the Bureau as an institution needs to change and buy into the change, the community needs to be supportive of the direction they are headed and the policies they adopt.
The full analysis is available at < http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/DOJoutcomes1116analysis.pdf>.