Police accountability has become a heightened subject of community concern in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd in May under the knee of a Minneapolis officer. The Auditor’s Office has expertise and resources to help Portlanders understand our accountability system and evaluate proposals to change it.
The Auditor’s Office has played a specific role in police accountability since Independent Police Review was created in City Code in 2001. It has conducted periodic performance audits of the Police Bureau longer than that.
Portland’s accountability system is a shared responsibility between the Auditor and the Police Commissioner. The Auditor’s Independent Police Review takes complaints, investigates, and makes recommendations about policy violations to Police Bureau managers. It also monitors all cases investigated by the Police Bureau’s Internal Affairs. The ultimate decision-maker in cases that involve serious discipline is the Police Commissioner, who is also the Mayor.
See graphic of roles and responsibilities.
The system has changed over the years, including steps the City has taken to meet its obligations under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. More improvements can be made, but it helps to understand which questions to ask and the answers provided by the existing system.
See the Auditor’s suggested questions and references for community discussion.
City Council is on track to consider changes to the accountability system on July 29, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. I cautioned at a virtual townhall meeting that it would be a mistake for Council to rush a new model onto the November ballot without first understanding the barriers that impede the existing system and allowing the community to discuss who the ultimate decision-maker should be if not the Police Commissioner.
See July 9, 2020, presentation slides.
Listen to Think Out Loud conversation.
There are unfortunately too many misleading and misinformed statements in the discussion about the role of the Independent Police Review, so we’ve corrected the record on those as well.
See the corrected record.
The following are links to resources added to this blog post on July 28th, 2020 after the Auditor's press conference: