August 14, 1997
Police Internal Investigations
Auditing Committee (PIIAC)
City of Portland
AUGUST 14, 1997
CITIZEN ADVISORS MEETING MINUTES
Citizen Advisors Present: Charles Ford, Presiding; Marina Anttila; David Burney, Deborah Haring, Jim Taylor, Robert Ueland, Robert Wells
Citizen Advisors Absent: Less Frank, Stephen Heck, Shanisse Howard, Emily Simon, Randy Weisberg
City Staff Present: Mayor Vera Katz; Sgt. George Babnick, IAD; Sgt. Jeff Barker, IAD; Capt. Bill Bennington, IAD; Lisa Botsko, PIIAC Staff; Adrianne Brockman, Deputy City Attorney; Lt. Jim Ferraris, PPB Tri-Met Unit; Lt. C.W. Jensen, IAD; Sgt. Randy Killinger, IAD; Tom Mack, Portland Police Association; Leo Painton, Portland Police Association; Larry Seiwert, Mayor's Office
Media Present: David Anderson, The Oregonian; Dan Handelman, Flying Focus Video
[Anttila had not yet arrived.] Ford called the meeting to order. He asked for announcements or new business as a quorum had not yet been established, and no official business could be conducted.
Ford announced that the September PIIAC advisory meeting will be held at the Self-Enhancement Building, 3920 N Kirby. The advisors had not previously held an outreach meeting in North Portland.
Botsko said that NACOLE, the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, was holding their annual conference October 15 - 17 in Oakland. She would be attending and has information available for anyone else interested. Although the focus is civilian oversight, the conference is open to anyone with an interest in IAD and police accountability issues. The International conference (IACOLE) will be held in Ottawa in September.
Botsko requested that the advisors come up with a criteria for which appeals could be automatically rejected. In the past, advisors had routinely processed them all, but with staff and budget cuts, and an increase in Botsko's responsibilities, she does not wish to spend time reviewing files and writing up reports on why something should be rejected. Examples might be where complainants protest traffic tickets but have no secondary issues, such as courtesy, or those complainants who embrace some type of conspiracy theory. Ford asked Ueland if the monitoring subcommittee could come back with some recommended criteria. Ueland agreed.
Mayor Katz said that changes made to PIIAC several years ago have been productive. She thinks it is a good time to review the ordinance again and make further necessary changes.
Handelman addressed the panel. He is glad that the Mayor brought up the idea of review of the City Code. He also distributed copies of Portland Copwatch's "People's Police Report #12."
Advisors discussed the lack of quorum and decided to take testimony. If need be, the actual votes would be postponed until the following month, with absent advisors required to review the tape-recorded testimony.
PIIAC Appeal #97-12: Wells summarized. The appellant alleged that officers failed to fully investigate and properly charge the individual who struck the appellant with her vehicle. He had been walking and was struck at what he said was "warp speed," "50 - 70 mph." He also alleged that officers made derogatory remarks about him to neighbors.
Wells asked several questions of the appellant, including his prior relationship with the driver, who also happened to be a neighbor. The appellant began to explain this history. Ford requested that the testimony and questioning be summarized and focus on the complaint at hand.
[Anttila arrived, thus constituting a quorum.]
The appellant addressed the panel. He said that the reporting officer misrepresented his (the appellant's) words. He had no quarrel with the detective who investigated, she was quite professional and objective. The detective had charge the driver with reckless driving, but only based on eyewitness testimony that she had backed up at a high rate of speed. The detective was unable to charge the driver in connection with the actual collision because there were no witnesses. The appellant said that he eventually came to understand the detective's reasoning. He also commented on IAD's lack of response to his e-mails and telephone messages.
Wells said that officers responding to the scene interviewed several people and looked at evidence. They noted that the appellant had no visible injuries or impairment, therefore they declined to make an arrest. The District Attorney had twice considered the charges and decided not to file a complaint. He believed that the IAD review was sufficient and supported the officer's actions.
Wells moved to support IAD's declination; Taylor seconded. The motion carried unanimously [Y-7].
PIIAC Appeal #97-13: Ueland summarized. The appellant had been involved in a traffic stop; according to Officers A and B, he had exited the vehicle and become belligerent. He obeyed commands to get back in but was apparently unwilling or unable to retrieve his wallet from his back pants pocket. He said his pants were tight, he was sitting on it, and needed to step out to retrieve it. Officer A would not allow him out but decided to place a control hold on him to arrest him. The motor was still running, the appellant reacted by drawing his arm across his chest, pulling Officer A's arm into the car up to his shoulder. Officer A's chin banged on the top of the car and he found himself in a precarious position. He used an open-palm "distraction" strike to the appellant's face, which he said enabled him to pull the appellant's arm out the window. With the assistance of a backup officer, the appellant was taken into custody, cited and released.
The appellant alleged injuries and filed suit against the city. Timeliness was a big problem, because IAD had an incorrect address that it did not follow-up. Therefore the case sat for six months. When then-Capt. Jensen came into IAD, he phoned the appellant and the IAD investigation began. However, depositions were in progress and IAD relied heavily on this testimony. That is not an ideal circumstance under which IAD conducts an investigation. Follow-up interviews were not conducted for several more months. Ueland recommended IAD refine how it prioritizes cases and be more pro-active in recontacting complainants. He said that the audit report contains suggestions for how that can be accomplished.
Officer A's commander recommended findings of "Exonerated" for Use-of-Force, and "Unfounded" with regard to "Performance." Ueland questioned this categorization, as it the formal definition applies to fulfillment of administrative requirements and therefore does not seem to fit this case. Then-Capt. Jensen controverted the finding and raised questions about the overall tactical soundness of the situation. PPB's Review Level Committee upheld the original findings.
Ueland said this case raises serious questions about training and how incidents are evaluated. Even if no specific General Orders were violated in this case, how is the officer's overall performance assessed? Do these types of cases just receive Sustained-Not Sustained findings, or does the Bureau use them as springboards for meaningful policy review and training issues?
Command Review is based on an accumulation of complaints, but this complaint was not included in Officer A's command review. Also, the substance of Command Review is not documented so this is a potential gap.
The appellant addressed the committee and said that he is very disturbed at what Ueland said. Despite correcting his address on the traffic citation and being promised a return call from the precinct sergeant who took his complaint, he heard nothing from IAD for a month, and then had no further contact until Capt. Jensen called him.
He recounted aspects of his complaint and said that other officers were at the scene from the very beginning. He did not understand what was going on. The appellant absolutely denied jumping out of the car or waving his arms around. Ford asked him not to recount the whole complaint, Botsko told the appellant that the advisors had read the entire complaint.
Lt. Jensen was asked to explain his rationale for controverting the case. He said that police officers can do a lot of things appropriately and legally, but that doesn't mean the overall incident was handled properly. In this case he believed Officer A made errors along the way. For example, when the appellant got out of the car allegedly antagonistic, Officer A could have patted him down and even taken him into custody. Lt. Jensen's greatest concern was Officer A reaching into a vehicle with the motor running. If the driver had decided to take off, Officer A could have been badly injured.
Wells asked the appellant if he complied with all instructions. The appellant did not give a definitive answer. He said he got back into the car when he was instructed, and the officer just struck him in the face unexpectedly when he couldn't get to his license.
Botsko said that in Lt. Jensen's controversion memo, he referenced a similar case that had been sustained. She had done a brief review of the case and said that officer had also started out with a traffic stop, the driver became antagonistic, even to the point of knocking the officer down after he was removed from the vehicle. That officer used baton strikes to the arm and back, and hit the complainant in the face with a closed fist which he also labeled a distraction. On that case, Review Level exonerated the officer for use-of-force, but sustained on overall performance. Lt. Jensen apparently drew some parallels to this case in his rationale.
Ueland made a motion to have the complaint recategorized and for PPB's Review Level Committee to make a finding for "Procedure." Burney seconded the motion.
Ford called for discussion of the motion. Wells asked about what training officers receive regarding distraction techniques.
Capt. Bennington said that awhile back, several cases involved officers using the term "distraction technique" or "distraction blow." The subsequent training addressed the issue. This case involved an incident that occurred during that time frame.
Botsko asked Lt. Ferraris if he would like to address the panel. He said that while he attended the Review Level Committee hearing, he did not vote, and therefore advisors should address specific questions to voting members.
Ford called for a vote on the motion. He said that he believed PPB was getting the message about advisors' concerns, but needs to provide feedback to the advisors' concerns. Botsko said that if the motion carried, she and a citizen advisor would participate in the Review Level Committee discussions on the case and get the issues on the table.
The motion carried unanimously [Y-7].
PIIAC #97-14: Wells summarized. The appellant disputed a traffic citation and wanted the charges dropped. Officer A's demeanor made him feel threatened. Specifically, Officer A appeared to place his hand on his holster at one point. He was not discourteous. IAD declined the complaint in the absence of potential misconduct.
The appellant addressed the panel and described how he came to be stopped and why he disagreed with the citation.
Ueland made a motion to affirm IAD's declination of this complaint. Anttila seconded. The motion carried unanimously. [Y-6; Abstain-Ford].
Dan Handelman addressed the panel. He said that he did not think appellants were always clear about what was taking place.
He said he was glad advisors were concerned about police officers' use of "distraction blows." He also encouraged advisors to proceed with PIIAC city code review. He suggested advisors produce some type of annual report and added that he had written a letter to the Mayor encouraging an audit of PIIAC. Katz said that she had broached the idea with the city auditor, who is is not terribly interested.
Ueland said Handelman was mixing apples and oranges. Cleaning up city code language will not equate to a self-audit. Ford and Ueland both said that a self-evaluation is not the best way for advisors to proceed.
Burney mentioned that he was unclear exactly what action advisors were taking on the second appeal heard (97-13) and added that it was so old. Advisors said that it had only been concluded recently and was eligible for PIIAC review.
Capt. Bennington wanted to make an administrative recommendation, and asked that he receive a final corrected Report of Examinations that reflect advisors' deliberations.
The meeting adjourned.