As reported by the Willamette Week, one of Commissioner Leonard's key initiatives for 2010 will be to improve the oversight of the Portland Police Bureau, particularly with regard to the Bureau's handling of cases involving the use of force. The current Office of Independent Police Review (IPR) lacks the authority and the resources to effect the necessary change within the Police Bureau.
The City has paid out large settlements for a series of citizen claims against the Police Bureau alleging excessive force by police officers. The administration of the Police Bureau consistently finds that the officers involved in those same cases acted within the Police Bureau's operating guidelines, and often no discipline is issued. This dynamic has occured consistently enough that it can safely be called a pattern.
The time has come for effective oversight of the Police Bureau's internal investigations processes. Internal reviews of alleged police misconduct need to be made more transparent to the
Here are a few examples to illustrate the need for stronger oversight:
In 2003, an Oregonian editor witnessed an assault on a man who had fled from police officers that included a “devastating uppercut” followed by a kick to the abdomen. A complaint by the editor to the City’s police review body yielded an unacceptably long wait for a dismissal of the charges by then Police Commander Rosie Sizer, who stated that contrary to the Oregonian editor’s account, the “devastating uppercut” was simply an “open hand slap” that was within the Police Bureau’s policies.
In 2004, Eunice Crowder, a 71-year old woman, was tasered during a dispute over nuisance code violations, causing her prosthetic eye to fall out.
In 2005, Barbara Weich, 58, was pulled over and issued a citation for a traffic violation. After shouting an expletive at the officer as she pulled away, she was pulled over again by the officer, punched in the face, and had her arm broken.
In 2006, Lyudmila Trivol, an immigrant from
, had her arm broken by officers during a dispute about her car being towed from a condominium parking lot. Ukraine
In 2006, James Chasse, a mentally ill man, was urinating in public. When confronted by officers, Chasse fled, and was tackled and beaten, not given medical attention at the scene, and later died.
In 2006, Jason Krohn, the son of a well regarded Portland Police officer, was arrested during an altercation with other men outside a Portland night club, and received what he believed to be excessive physical abuse by the arresting officer that led to a complaint and an internal investigation by the Police Bureau. The investigation was lengthy, and revealed a strong commitment on the part of the investigating officers to “protect their own.”
In 2007, three African American men sued the City of
after they were held at gunpoint by Portland Police officers in a downtown parking garage for nearly 40 minutes. The Oregonian’s Steve Duin describes the account in his article “One peep away from getting shot.” Portland
In 2009, a 12 year old girl who had been barred from riding
MAXby Police was wrestled to the ground and shot with a bean bag rifle after being spotted on a MAX train.
Commissioner Leonard is already working with his colleagues to create a structure outside of the control of the Police Bureau administration that will have the authority, the resources, and the objectivity to investigate and make reasoned judgments on police incidents from the perspective of what is in the best interests of the City and the community, rather than the best interests of the Police Bureau.