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The City of Portland, Oregon

Independent Police Review

Providing independent, civilian oversight of the Portland Police Bureau

phone: 503-823-0146

fax: 503-823-4571

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 140, Portland, OR 97204

Tort Claim Review

Reference: PSF 5.24

Policy updated: March 2016

Review of Tort Claims


Overview & Background

IPR reviews all civil claims, except auto liability claims, that allege tortious conduct by officers. Administrative Rule PSF-5.24 – Review of Tort Claims and Civil Complaints describes the standards for review. 

IPR may open a C case based on tort claim notices and civil complaints. The protocol states: “IPR will review civil claims filed against Portland police officers and will open complaint files in cases involving substantial allegations of serious misconduct.” The reviewer must consider, for force allegations, the following provision of the DOJ Agreement:

The City and PPB shall ensure that all allegations of use of excessive force are subject to full and completed IA investigations resulting in findings, unless there is clear and convincing evidence to IPR that the allegation has no basis in fact (Sec. 129).

A designated IPR Director, currently the IPR Office Manager, receives copies of civil claims from Risk Management several times a month. If there is an associated case in AIM, the Office Manager writes the case number at the top of the document and forwards them to the IPR Director for review. The Office Manager also communicates back to Risk Management to let them know if IPR has associated cases.

Starting in 2013, the IPR Director assigned to tort review has been invited to attend the PPB tort review meeting conducted bi-monthly by the Professional Standards Division. These meetings provide the opportunity to obtain more information on a case quickly and determine whether there should be an administrative inquiry if there hasn’t already been one. IPR also attends the Quarterly Tort Review Board, which is more focused on making policy recommendations to the Bureau based on recent tort filings or civil cases.

Administrative Procedures

IPR Tracking. IPR tracks each claim in an Excel spreadsheet. In the claim tracking sheet, the reviewer should enter information under each column as prompted, including date received, Risk management file number, the names of attorneys and claimants, and any IPR associated case number. There are several other columns in which to track the review process. At the very least, each case needs to be marked with a decline code letter or that it was referred to full investigation. It is helpful to write a short note in the note section. (This can be particularly helpful to scan for policy issues, for example, a pattern of people having difficulty getting personal property returned.)

IPR internal Declination Code. The reasons for decline are specifically spelled out in the protocol and are each assigned a letter code in the key for the tracking sheet. Most claims are for damages resulting from lawful police action (e.g., “they broke down my tenant’s door during a raid.”) or lost/misplaced property (“officer left my cell phone on top of the patrol car when he took me to jail”). A number of civil claims already have associated C case numbers. Do not open another C case if one already exists. IPR and/or IA may open a C case solely on the basis of the civil claim. If so, enter the C case number in spreadsheet. More frequently, IPR will request reports or listen in on the tort review discussion of a case to determine if a case should be looked at more closely.

Each tort claim reviewed by IPR should have a sequential number written at the top, to correspond with the spreadsheet.

Other Notes

Initial Screening. Most civil claims are not reviewed further because they do not allege misconduct.  If the reviewer declines a claim, the reviewer should write the date and declination code for the decision on the face of the claim.

In some cases, the reviewer will want to read the read the police reports before deciding whether to open a C case. The reviewer may request these directly from the bureau, ask an investigator to obtain them for you, or review them at PSD when attending the tort review meeting.

Open a file. When the reviewer decides to open a C case, it will be assigned to IA, assigned as an IPR intake, or assigned as an IPR Independent Investigation. The Professional Standards Division Captain may be reviewing these cases at the same time and also determine that an administrative case should be opened. In these cases, it is appropriate and more efficient for the case to be opened directly at IA. However the case is opened, the case then goes through the same review procedures as every other misconduct case.

Post-civil trial Procedures.  The DOJ Settlement Agreement requires review of civil cases as follows:

If an officer’s use of force gives rise to a finding of liability in a civil trial, PPB shall: (1) enter that civil liability finding in the EIS; (2) reevaluate the officer’s fitness to participate in all current and prospective specialized units; (3) if no IA investigation has previously been conducted based upon the same allegation of misconduct and reached an administrative finding, conduct a full IA investigation with the civil trial finding creating a rebuttable presumption that the force used also violated

PPB policy, which presumption can only be overcome by specific, credible evidence by a preponderance of evidence; (4) if an IA investigation has already concluded based upon the same allegation of misconduct and failed to reach a sustained finding, identify whether any new evidence exists in the record of the civil trial to justify the reopening of the IA investigation, and if so, reinitiate an IA investigation; and (5) if an IA investigation has already concluded based upon the same allegation of misconduct and failed to reach a sustained finding, and no new evidence from the civil trial justifies reopening the IA investigation, work with IPR to identify the reason why the administrative finding was contrary to the civil trial finding and publish a summary of the results of the inquiry.