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Lack of Data / Details and Incorporating 2017 Activities Creates Confusion, Deferential Attitude Creates Mistrust
Portland Copwatch
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Lack of Data / Details and Incorporating 2017 Activities Creates Confusion, Deferential Attitude Creates Mistrust

by Dan Handelman, Portland Copwatch, May 26, 2017

With its 2016 annual report, the "Independent" Police Review (IPR) has added a few new tidbits about Use of Force and discipline, but cut out trend markers such as most common allegations-- and by including data from 2017, caused confusion. In addition, IPR defers quite often to the supposition that state-sanctioned violence and other misconduct is reasonable because the police say so. There are also a number of inaccuracies and, as with the last three years, a lack of information needed to cross-check the report's claims. The report, which can be found at < https://www.portlandoregon.gov/ipr/article/639598>, has a data set included as a separate document, with no cross-references, numbering of the charts, or, in many cases, year-by-year data to examine. < https://www.portlandoregon.gov/ipr/article/639599>. IPR's trend toward making information harder to find proves its stated commitment to transparency is, at best, defined differently from what some would expect. IPR is required by ordinance to produce quarterly reports but none have come out since the 4th quarter of 2015, which was mildly disturbing when Portland Copwatch (PCW) noted this last year but now is a flagrant violation of City Code.

While some data in the report itself are now published including four-, five-, six- or nine-year trends, some only compare 2016 to 2015, while others have no comparison points. The report claims that six Force allegations made in 2016 were "Sustained" (the officer was found out of policy), but the data tables show only one such finding out of 52 allegations investigated (data p. 2). IPR told PCW they included five findings that were made in 2017 in the narrative. PCW believes that information should have been separated out into a footnote or parenthetical thought. Last year, IPR failed to release the data tables, so PCW was forced to speculate on a number of issues, but some of those data are in this year's appendix. As such, it is now certain that from 2002-2016, only 0.8% of all Force allegations were Sustained, a remarkably low number, and down from .84%.

Additionally, IPR continues its habit of misrepresenting how likely it is a person's complaint will be Sustained. They show that 13% of allegations were Sustained, which is 19 out of 144 investigated (data p. 2). However, since 1036 allegations came to IPR in 2016, the real figure is 1.8%. This means a complainant has a one in 50 chance of being affirmed, not a one in eight chance as IPR suggests.

Just in its news release announcing the report, IPR contradicted itself and made a factual error:
--It says "IPR initiated 29 independent investigations into misconduct in 2016," yet the data tables show only 22 (data p. 3). The report itself adds that IPR opened four investigations into Bureau complaints (not involving civilians), but that adds up to 26, not 29. (The chart on p. 16 also indicates IPR only opened 22 investigations.)
--It says the Citizen Review Committee (CRC), which hears appeals on misconduct cases, "affirmed findings in three cases and challenged findings in four cases," three of which they said led the Chief to change findings. But in reality, CRC challenged findings in 6 cases, CRC itself dropped its challenge to one of the findings after the Chief attended a "Conference Hearing," and City Council changed another finding in 2017, rejecting both the Bureau's "Exonerated" (in policy) finding and CRC's "Sustained" recommendation, opting for "Not Sustained" (Insufficient Evidence).

As with the Force data, information about the Council hearing could have been added to avoid confusion. The Compliance Officer/Community Liaison, which reports on the implementation of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement semi-annually, makes a point of referring updates after the close of the period under review to their next report. IPR should do the same.

Similarly, IPR reports on the number of people shot/shot at by Portland Police from January 2012 through March 2017 in its 2016 report, including the shootings of Quanice Hayes and Don Perkins from February this year (p. 8). This is a very confusing way to track data. What will the 2017 report say?

Additionally, for example, last year's report said IPR opened 11 investigations in 2015 but the data tables show only 10, adding that the Bureau's Internal Affairs unit (IA) investigated 51 cases, but the data now show 77 (data p. 4). An even larger discrepancy in 2014 data shows IA looked at 52 cases, rather than the previously reported 26.

IPR improved some of their charts and graphs by adding more years and data points, but still many charts show graphical representations without numbers included. On page 8, they put the actual number of officer-involved shootings (2 in 2016) into the bars of a graph, but no numbers are in the graph showing how many cases were dismissed because they (allegedly) did not violate Bureau policy (p. 16). The text tells us it was 52% of the cases, but only the data tables show the numbers were 107 "no violations" out of 206 dismissals (data p. 4).

Significantly, IPR has removed all data explaining in detail what the most common complaints are. There is one chart showing broad categories ("Procedure," "Conduct," "Courtesy," etc.-p. 12) and several about use of force (pp. 13-14). However, neither the report nor the supplemental data provide insight into the most frequent allegations. Last year they were Failure to Act, Rudeness, Force and Inadequate Investigation. PCW has tracked these data for years, especially the shifts among the top three categories from 2015 taking the number 1 spot at various times. We cannot do so for 2016 based on IPR's meager reporting.

IPR notes an uptick in force complaints but attributes them to complaints from protests in September (not sure what this was) and October (when police attacked people protesting the Police Association's Collective Bargaining contract). It's not clear why they do not mention November, when major police violence took place at post-election demonstrations. PCW has asked over and over again why the police force statistics don't seem to include force used in crowds-- especially since, for instance, the force data tend to show fewer than 10 people per year affected by pepper spray even though dozens are exposed to it at protests. The IPR report states that "when an officer pushes someone in a crowd control situation, such an action could be considered an appropriate crowd control technique as described in Police Bureau policies." In other words, they play fast and loose deciding what is force depending on the context. IPR's case summaries also show a predisposition that the Bureau's conduct is nearly always justifiable-- unless officers fail to write a report.

This annual report clocks in two pages longer than last year's at 25 pages of substance, but compared to the 2002-2004 reports which were about 120 pages (plus tables), it's not clear why IPR continues to refuse to include the 9-page data table appendix in the main report. The report only includes four case summaries, (only one of which involved a Sustained finding), while the 2015 report included 11 summaries and 2014's had 28.

A release in May rather than July (as with last year) makes this among the four earliest reports, yet still in theory too late still for the DOJ, which has been scrutinizing the Bureau's use of force and treatment of people in mental health crisis since 2012. In reference to DOJ, IPR notes (on p. 2) that since the Agreement, it is doing more investigations, and processing more complaints in less time. In general, IPR avoids judgment on its own behavior (which we called out last year) but hardly says anything substantive. As IPR is working on a five-year strategic plan, it would be important to use these reports to achieve some of their goals for transparency and better explaining things to the community. To improve transparency, PCW has examined and included summary information on all CRC hearings, including vote tallies (information which used to appear in IPR's reports), and Police Review Board hearings, in the body and the footnotes of its 13-plus page version of this analysis, which is posted at: < http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/iprannual2016analysis.html>.

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