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March 16, 2010

Citizen Review Committee

Special Meeting

March 16, 2010

 

Date Approved:  April 14, 2010

 

Meeting Location: Lovejoy Room, Portland City Hall

 

CRC Members Present: Michael Bigham (Chair), Jeff Bissonnette, Loren Eriksson, Ayoob Ramjan, Lewellyn Robison, Rochelle Silver, Jamie Troy

 

City staff: LaVonne Griffin-Valade (City Auditor), Mary-Beth Baptista (IPR Director), Constantin Severe (IPR Assistant Director)

 

Police Bureau:  Captain Ed Brumfield (IAD)

 

Community/Media:  Dan Handelman (Portland CopWatch and Flying Focus Video), Regina Hannon (Portland CopWatch), Debbie Aiona (League of Women Voters), William Summers, Ashlee Albies (National Lawyers Guild), Maxine Bernstein (The Oregonian), Matt Davis (Portland Mercury), various other local media.

 

Chair Bigham called the meeting to order at 5:30 pm, announcing that this was a special meeting to discuss changes to the police oversight ordinance proposed by City Auditor Griffin-Valade and Commissioner Randy Leonard.  A hearing is scheduled for Thursday 3/18/10 at 2:00 p.m. in the Portland City Council Chambers regarding this proposal.

 

City Auditor Griffin-Valade and IPR Director Baptista presented a summary of the proposed ordinance changes.

 

Director Baptista gave a brief overview of IPR, which was created in 2001 to provide independent oversight to the Portland Police Bureau.  Director Baptista and Chair Bigham decided to call this special meeting of CRC to provide an opportunity for community feedback regarding the proposed ordinance changes.  Director Baptista emphasized that input from CRC and the community has served as the basis for much of this proposal. 

 

Auditor Griffin-Valade clarified that this proposal is not about any specific actions of any Police Bureau members but is about protecting and strengthening civilian oversight authority and enhancing police accountability. 

 

Mr. Ramjan commented that he views the proposed changes as an important step in enhancing the accountability of the Police Bureau and opening dialogue between the Police Bureau and the community.  

 

Chair Bigham expressed concern that CRC’s input into this process was limited and that the proposed changes are entirely focused on IPR and contain nothing about CRC. 

Director Baptista responded that the reason there was no mention of CRC was that they did not presume to speak for CRC or preempt CRC’s independence and ability to define and strengthen its own role in police accountability.  She said that the decision to concentrate on IPR was also made in deference to the CRC’s IPR Structure Review Workgroup, which will be proposing some significant changes regarding CRC. 

Director Baptista emphasized that the proposed ordinance changes are viewed as a starting point and momentum builder for future changes. 

 

Ms. Silver affirmed her support for increasing responsibility for IPR through the proposed ordinance changes but said she has some concerns about the process.  She said that from the citizen’s point of view, it looks like there are some “bad politics” going on, particularly in having the City Council hearing while the Police Chief is out of town.  Ms. Silver said that we need cooperation between the Police Bureau and the other City bureaus and the citizens and was concerned that this was setting a bad precedent. 

 

Auditor Griffin-Valade responded that she has been put in an uncomfortable position in this regard.  She said that the date of the hearing was announced on March 2, and it had been known for some time that Chief Sizer was going to be out of town, but nobody told her.  She said she did not find this out until last Wednesday morning when she delivered the final copy of the proposed ordinance to Commissioner Saltzman’s Office.  Since the hearing had already been publicly announced, a decision was made to go forward with the hearing.  It was thought that Acting Chief Martinek could stand in for Chief Sizer. 

 

Ms. Robison said she appreciated the sense of urgency to move forward on these changes but was concerned about the apparent lack of stakeholder input.  She said that it does not appear to her that the proposed changes will make a significant difference.  She said she has problems with proposed changes in the following three areas: the Police Review Board, Bureau-initiated complaints, and the dropping of the requirement to number all complaints that come in to IPR. 

 

Director Baptista responded that there is no intent to change the way complaints are handled, and that language in the ordinance will be strengthened to reflect that. 

 

Ms. Robison agreed that IPR’s responsibility needs to be strengthened, but she noted that Portland has chosen to use an audit approach to police oversight.  

 

Mr. Ramjan noted that the public has made it known to CRC that it is time that the City look at requiring greater accountability by the Police Bureau.  

 

Mr. Eriksson supported the majority of the proposed ordinance changes but said he had some concerns about the amount of power that the Director would have.

 

Director Baptista responded that her view of what police oversight is, and the view of community members that have been heard from, is not watching the police police themselves.  It is being an active participant in what is happening at the Police Bureau.  Director Baptista said that there is concern that we are not able to communicate to the public what we do and what we see at the Boards, and that communication gap leads to  community concerns regarding accountablity and contributes to the crisis of confidence in the community right now.   

 

Addressing the issue of a facilitator for the Police Review Board, Director Baptista said that it is very difficult to be a participant in a board and a moderator at the same time.  She believes that having a facilitator who is completely outside of the process would be very beneficial. 

 

Addressing the concerns expressed about conflict of interest, Director Baptista stated that the whole purpose of IPR is to be interested in police issues and to ensure not only the thoroughness of investigations but that there is accountability at the Police Bureau. 

 

Mr. Troy asked why the vote on the proposed ordinance changes needed to be done on Thursday, when there is inadvertent language in the proposed ordinance that will bring about unintended consequences if passed. 

 

Director Baptista responded that an amendment is being put forward that will give stakeholders 90 days to come back with changes, allowing any problems with the ordinance language to be resolved.

 

Mr. Bissonnette asked about expeditiousness of investigations, cooperation of officers with IPR investigations, and subpoena powers.  Director Baptista and Assistant Director Severe responded. 

 

Mr. Bigham opened the floor to questions from the public.

 

Ms. Aiona, League of Women Voters, suggested that the Police Review Board’s recommendations to the Chief on policy and training issues be made public.  She said she would like to see an increase in the number of community members on the Police Review Board for better balance.  Ms. Aiona agreed with a previously expressed concern about the Auditor having unqualified power to remove a community member from the Police Review Board.  Regarding expeditiousness of investigations, Ms. Aiona questioned whether it is necessary to “pause the clock” on investigations when cases are in civil litigation.  Ms. Aiona expressed concern about some of the unintended language in the proposed ordinance and thought that the problematic language should be fixed before the ordinance is voted on by Council.  Ms. Aiona objected to the term “Service Improvement Opportunity” in the proposed ordinance.

 

Mr. Handelman, Portland CopWatch, said that the big problem that is not being addressed by the proposed ordinance change is that when a citizen complaining about a police officer citizen finds out that the Police Bureau is going to be doing the investigation, they will not want to proceed with their complaint.  Mr. Handelman said that it should be stated in the ordinance that the IPR Director shall be able to compel testimony from an officer if there is no bargaining agreement in place.  Mr. Handelman supported codifying IPR’s ability to look at Bureau-initiated cases.  Mr. Handelman said that the proposed ordinance gives IPR the ability to investigate any case except for cases involving a Police Bureau member’s complaint against another member.  He said that in theory, this should include shootings and deaths in custody, but that is not explicitly written.  Mr. Handelman recommended using the term “minor complaint” instead of Service Improvement Opportunity.  Mr. Handelman suggested having IAD investigators handle only Bureau-initiated complaints and hiring more IPR investigators to investigate all other cases with the money that is saved.

 

Director Baptista thanked Captain Brumfield for being at this meeting.  She stated that the problem with the Police Bureau is not with IAD.  She repeated that just as she sees police oversight as an active process, she also thinks that the oversight program’s authority should come from the Council and not from the Police Bureau.  Director  Baptista said does not view our oversight function a strict auditor model.  She said that to give the community confidence that IAD is doing a good job, IPR needs to be more present in the investigations so that we can report that back. 

 

Ms. Albies, National Lawyers Guild, had two questions about the duties and powers of IPR.  She said that she appreciated that IPR would be given increased access to original database sources, but her concern was that the restriction on obtaining information protected by state and federal law would not prevent IPR from obtaining information related to an ongoing litigation.  Ms. Albies felt that there should be some kind of standards or criteria for when the IPR Director may dismiss a complaint when it is more likely than not that no misconduct was committed. 

 

Mr. Bigham stated that if Portland’s oversight is not an audit model any more, it needs to be defined what it is.  Auditor Griffin-Valade explained that typically performance audits are after the fact, but there are times when an auditor may choose to do “real time auditing.” 

 

Director Baptista and Assistant Director Severe acknowledged that the proposed ordinance changes are not perfect, and there are changes that will need to be done, but they are hopeful that this is a good starting point. 

 

Auditor Griffin-Valade thanked everyone for coming to the meeting and participating in this process.

 

Chair Bigham adjourned the meeting at 8:00 p.m.