portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary portland metro

human & civil rights | police / legal

Copwatch: COMMENTS ON VEHICLE TOW, ALCOHOL USE AND OTHER DIRECTIVES FEBRUARY 2020

Below are our comments on the six Directives posted for February 2020
 https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/73677

In relaying the first four items to our constituents, we noted that they
all seem to relate to questionable behavior which put officers in front
of the Police Review Board or in the media in the last 10 months:
COMMENTS ON VEHICLE TOW, ALCOHOL USE AND OTHER DIRECTIVES FEBRUARY 2020

To Chief Resch, Capt. Parman, Lieutenant Morgan, PPB Policy Analysts,
Compliance Officer/Community Liaison Team, Community Oversight Advisory
Board staff, US Dept. of Justice, Citizen Review Committee and the
Portland Police Bureau:

Below are our comments on the six Directives posted for February 2020 (
 https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/73677 ). While two have
not been reviewed under this process previously (so far as we know), the
ones that have continue to include problems Portland Copwatch (PCW)
identified in earlier comments. PCW continues to thank the Bureau for
putting out "redline" versions of Directives upon second review, but
urges the Bureau to include notes about reasons first review policies
have been chosen, including possible revisions the Bureau is
considering.

In relaying the first four items to our constituents, we noted that they
all seem to relate to questionable behavior which put officers in front
of the Police Review Board or in the media in the last 10 months:

640.50 Traffic Crash Investigations: Officer Alfonso Valadez chased a
suspect down an off-ramp of the freeway, leading to that person having a
fatal head-on crash (Dec. 2019 PRB report).*
316.00 Alcohol Use: Commander Steve Jones crashed his car into a utility
pole, cracking it in two, in June 2018, leading to the loss of his job
(Sept. 2019 PRB report).
630.23 Reserve Officer Program: The entirety of the Reserve Officer unit
resigned in 2018 when the Bureau failed to train them up to the
standards required by the US DOJ Agreement (Oregonian, April 19, 2019).
317.40 Authorized Use of Bureau Resources: Detective Norville Hollins
III was demoted after he took a police car to the Oregon coast
repeatedly, racking up hundreds of non-work miles (Dec. 2019 PRB
Report).

We are also making comments on the Holding Cells (870.25) and Vehicle
Tow (630.60) Directives, mostly based on our previous input.

As we have commented repeatedly, while it is useful to have 30 days to
make recommendations on the second round reviews, the 15-day window for
the first round is too short and precludes most official PPB advisory
bodies, which only meet once a month (or once every two months) from
weighing in.

We also continue to believe the Bureau should put letters on the
Definitions, Policy and Procedure sections so there are not multiple
sections with the same numbers. Our comments are on the Procedure
sections unless otherwise noted.

Footnote (introduction)
*-Valadez resigned before he could be fired.

DIRECTIVE 640.50 TRAFFIC CRASH INVESTIGATIONS (not previously posted)

PCW's only real comment on this policy is to add under Police Vehicle
Crashes, in the section currently marked b2 (under "investigating member
responsibilities") that information should be collected on what the
officer was doing while driving As currently written, the special report
has to capture "driver information, vehicle information, insurance
information, road conditions, lighting in the area, weather, causal
factors, contributing factors and any other relevant information that
explains how, why, when and where the crash happened." This does not
explicitly include whether the officers were or were not on an emergency
call, whether they intentionally violated posted traffic signals, or,
most importantly for current technology, whether the officers were
accessing their police onboard computer (as seen in the PPB's 2018
annual report).

In January, our group put out an analysis of settlement data from
2013-2020, finding City Council has approved at least $750,869.98 for 30
officer-related auto accidents, an average cost of $25,029 per crash.
PCW encouraged the City to "do a deeper dive into the huge payouts for
police auto accidents, which are suspected to involve distracted
driving. Officers use mobile computers while operating police vehicles,
which goes contrary to any rules of the road, much less for those who
frequently speed, ignore traffic signals, and make otherwise illegal
turns in emergency (and perhaps non-emergency) situations."

DIRECTIVE 316.00 ALCOHOL USE (not previously posted)

PCW also does not have a lot to say about this Directive, although it is
interesting that undercover officers are encouraged to only drink
non-alcoholic beverages, with the exception that if they do drink
alcohol it should not be "an amount which would impair to any degree
their ability to perform their duty" (Policy 2). While many civilians
would be fired for drinking on the job, apparently officers can continue
to perform law enforcement tasks so long as they have let the supervisor
know that they drank and/or why their breath smells like alcohol (Policy
1). The Police Review Board report indicates that Commander Jones'
accident in 2018 happened when the Commander was driving a Bureau car
while technically on call for duty, which would violate Policy Section 3
limiting off-duty drinking so officers will not report to duty while
impaired or smelling of alcohol. However, this Directive was not cited
in his case. Jones resigned before he could be fired.

DIRECTIVE 630.23 RESERVE OFFICERS (PCW's last comments September 2015)

Technical note: The Statement of Purpose, Policy and Procedure sections
are all sequentially numbered in this Directive.

It is not extremely clear from this Directive how the Reserve program
differs from the Public Safety Support Specialist program, except that
there are references to (a) using force and deadly force in the Section
now numbered 11.1.2, (b) participating in a pursuit in 11.1.3, and (c)
firearms training in the awards Section 16.1.

On that issue, in our previous comments we expressed concerns that
Section 16.1 describes a special Jack A. Taliaferro Award for firearms
proficiency for Reserve Officers. We noted that the US Department of
Justice Settlement Agreement encourages the City to move away from using
force and toward de-escalation, and encouraged the City to get rid of
such competitions among officers awarding the use of firearms. We wrote
"certainly if officers are going to use guns, they should know how to
aim and shoot, but the award sends a strange message."

We have not seen any reports of the Reserve Officer program being
re-populated after the mass resignations, but hope the current Trainees
(in "basic reserve academy," Section 8.2.1), and Intermediate officers
(who have to "complete the Reserve Field Training Manual," whatever that
is, Section 8.4.2) and Senior officers, as part of their 500 hours of
training (Section 8.5.3) are being given appropriate crisis
intervention, de-escalation and procedural justice training.

One issue we also raised in 2015 was that the Section now numbered
10.1.4 allows for Reserve Officers at "Community Events," to which we
would add they can also be assigned to "special missions" (Section
10.1.2). Occasionally we have seen or heard of Reserve Officers acting
questionably in crowd control situations. Unless they are specially
trained, we noted, perhaps that is not an appropriate duty for Reserves.

We also called attention to the Section now numbered 5.8, which allows
former police officers to automatically enter the Reserve program upon
approval of the Chief without the required background check given to
ordinary civilians. While it's unlikely the Chief would let an officer
with Sustained excessive force findings or certain criminal convictions
join up, some qualifier should probably be added regarding the officer's
work history that might disqualify them from continuing to be part of
the Bureau.

DIRECTIVE 870.25 TEMPORARY HOLDING ROOMS (last posted in September 2019
but last commented on by PCW in March 2015)

This Directive is now called "Procedures for Members in Specially
Designated Areas in Police Facilities," which is a mouthful, but used to
be called "Holding Rooms" when, as we noted, that term was not defined.
We appreciate the Bureau defining the term in the proposed updated
version. The format of this Directive indicates that the proposed
changes from 2015 were never adopted.

There is still the problem we previously noted where the Directive
creates prohibitions on certain behaviors, but then gives exceptions to
those prohibitions without noting they are exceptions.

a) In the definitions section (no numbers), the meaning of "holding
room" states that "Juvenile status offenders shall not be placed in
holding cells." However, Section 1.2.2 says juveniles will be put into
separate holding cells from adults, with Section 1.2.3 allowing this to
happen for up to five hours.

b) In Procedure Section 1.1.1, the policy states that prisoners should
be handcuffed "at all times" but then proceeds to talk about the ways
officers are allowed to take the handcuffs off in Section 1.1.1.1.
Perhaps 1.1.1 should include the words "except as described below."

Moreover, PCW continues to question the use of holding cells for
juveniles just based on whether they have "engaged in criminal behavior"
(1.2.4), since there's a presumption of innocence until a court hearing
establishes otherwise.

Our final note on this Directive is that section 1.1.4, requiring
officers to remove firearms and ammunition when entering the holding
rooms area, should be reflected in the policy around entering mental
health facilities (850.25, as we commented in January and previously).

DIRECTIVE 317.40 AUTHORIZED USE OF BUREAU RESOURCES (previous comments
March and June 2017)

Areas of interest from our previous comments still deserve attention,
though these are more observations than concerns.

--Officers have no expectation of personal privacy when using City
resources including their passwords to get into computer systems (Policy
Section 3).

--The City can search any property including desks, files and lockers
where the City has complete or joint ownership (Policy Section 4).

--Whereas officers were previously prohibited from using Bureau
technology systems for personal reasons except in "family emergencies,
unforeseen work schedule changes, or communications regarding collective
bargaining activities," they may now do so if it is for a "short
duration" (Section 1.1.2). This revised Section then says such activity
cannot violate the "prohibited uses," but does not define that term.
Perhaps it is a reference to Sections 1,1.6 and 1.1.7 which prohibit
personal use of cameras/video and forwarding criminal justice
information. We noted in June 2017 that forwarded information isn't
supposed to go to smart phones or computer devices, but doesn't
explicitly prohibit them from being sent to email (though that was on
the list of prohibitions in an earlier version), or, we should add, to
the internet/cloud.

--In addition, we expressed concern about a clause that is now in Policy
Section 5 which notes the rules about use of City resources may be
over-ridden by the "union" contract. While we support workers'
collective bargaining rights, there should also be strict limitations
based on the officers' positions as sworn law enforcement, as employees
of the City and as people authorized to use force and deadly force. In
our past comments we referred to the case of the officers who used
Facebook to display their badges and write "I am Darren Wilson," and
officers who "liked" those posts.

Additional concerns from June 2017:

---Section 1.2.4 tells officers to use judgment when transporting
alcohol, whereas Directive 316.00 says alcohol can only be transported
when it is evidence.

--Also related to Directive 316.00, Section 1.2.5 asks officers not to
"consume alcohol to the extent that it would impair their ability to
perform police duties." We noted that some officers may reach the legal
limit but not feel impaired.

DIRECTIVE 630.60 VEHICLE DISPOSITION (last comments made March 2018, and
sent a link to the CRC's 2007 recommendations in August 2019)

It appears the Bureau has made at least a mild gesture to include the
Citizen Review Committee's 2007 Tow Policy Work Group recommendation #7
for special consideration if the person is living in the vehicle in
question. However, the language indicates officers will always tow a
person's vehicle, with Policy Section 1 requiring that officers "shall
enforce regulations by towing" but then asks them to be "mindful of
potential hardship to vulnerable populations." If officers are required
to take action, being mindful is not going to help a person get their
home and belongings back. We urge a more comprehensive approach to
offering discretion to officers.

Items we previously noted had been in the Directive in 2009 but
disappeared, both of which were CRC recommendations.

--The first, ways a vehicle can be driven away by others or locked and
left in place (CRC recommendation #1) is now addressed in two places.
Section 2.3 allows a lawful driver "who is present at the scene" move
the car away, but lets officers call for a tow if that person is not
present and doesn't show up before they make the call. No time frame is
given for waiting. Then Section 2.4 allows officers to leave a vehicle
in place so long as it can be "reasonably secured."

--The second, asking vehicle occupants if valuables should be noted on
the property receipt (CRC recommendation #5), is not listed anywhere. In
fact, we were unable to find any part of the Directive that requires
officers to take an inventory of what is in a vehicle being towed upon
request of the occupant. PCW is wary of officers conducting inventories
without permission, as they can be used as back-door ways to conduct
searches without consent, but if a person is concerned their valuables
may be at risk police should take note.

For some reason, the provision that a person who arrives on scene before
a tow truck is called, and proves ownership, should have the vehicle
released to them has been removed, even though PCW encouraged the Bureau
to emphasize that clause previously. (This was also CRC recommendation
#6). This is a huge step backward in building community trust.

The Bureau should revisit the CRC's Work Group report, especially the
recommendation rejected by Chief Sizer to examine possible bias in whose
vehicles get towed, at:
( http://www.pjw.info/copwatch/CRC_Tow_Policy_Report0907.pdf).*

Other comments:

--In a previous version, specific crimes which might trigger vehicle
tows were listed; now the reasons to tow seem less clear.

--Also still missing are sections telling officers not to release cars
to people who are intoxicated, mailing notice of a tow to a vehicle's
owner and when appropriate to allow access to the vehicle's contents.
This last item is addressed only in circumstances where there is
evidence of a crime and officers can deny access to the vehicle (Section
5.4.2).

--While some clarification has been made to which autos are towed to
private lots and which are towed to the Bureau's lot in Rivergate, it
may be useful to explain that-- if we're reading the Directive
properly-- vehicles which are involved in further police investigation
go to Rivergate. (See CRC recommendation #8.)

--It's not clear why impound notices or citations are not required in
some circumstances, such as if a vehicle is given a "courtesy tow" to
clear streets for large events (Section 4.5.1.3), or if it is towed for
an "alarm disturbance" (Section 2.5.2.4).

--On that note, while there are definitions for "administrative release"
and "administrative fee," the repeated use of those terms throughout the
Directive without context is very confusing. We suggest saying
"Administrative release required from Records division," and
"Administrative fee required from community member."

--The Section allowing officers to write "TOW" on a parking tag
previously explained that was to clarify to the tow company which car
was to be towed, but now does not (Section 4.3.1.2.2). There may be
other reasons to do so, but it seems useful to explain why this action
is important. It is also not clear why this is discretionary and not
mandatory.

--For the third time, we are noting that the term "shop number" is used
in Section 4.4.1.1.1 about towed police vehicles is not defined.

--The Section on "Courtesy Tows" (4.5), in an older version, advised
people who have vehicles in a restricted area that they can use magnetic
signs or other markings to keep their own vehicles in the area. The
current version does not.

--Sections 2.5.2.6.2 and 5.1.1.3 specifically allows Public Safety
Support Specialists to request vehicles with Vehicle Identifications
Number issues to be towed to the Bureau's lot; this is one of the only
mention of PSS Specialists we have seen outside their own Directive. PCW
continues to encourage the Bureau to have more unarmed officers
performing law enforcement duties to minimize the likelihood of use of
force.

Footnote (630.60):
*-PCW posted the CRC report to our site when we could no longer find it
on the City's website.

---------

CONCLUSION

As we wrote one year ago this month, "PCW again appreciates that the
Bureau asks for community comments on its policies, and the few changes
that were made in response to our feedback. However, the other
common-sense ideas we are putting forward which would lead to a more
trustworthy and community-minded police force should not be brushed
aside. We are hoping that the once the PCCEP starts making
recommendations, the Bureau will engage in public discussions (involving
the Committee members and the general public) rather than continuing to
go behind closed doors to assess community input. That would show a true
commitment to 'community engaged policing.'" Now that PCCEP has proposed
a policy, albeit not related to a specific Directive but rather
generally about how to approach traffic stops, we hope the Bureau takes
up this challenge and engages in meaningful discussion.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment,

dan handelman and other members of
Portland Copwatch

homepage: homepage: http://www.portlandcopwatch.org