JANUARY 21, 1999
Citizen Advisors Present: Charles Ford, Presiding; Gene Bales; Deborah Haring; Les Frank; Leora Mahoney; Robert Ueland; William Warren; Robert Wells
Citizen Advisors Absent: Marina Anttila, Steve Heck; Dapo Sobomehin
City Staff Present: Capt. Bill Bennington, IAD; Sgt. Vince Jarmer, IAD; Sgt. Pam Kauffman, IAD; Lisa Botsko, PIIAC Staff; Sgt. John Smith, IAD
Media Present: Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian; Dan Handelmann, Flying Focus Video
Ford opened the meeting. Advisor approved the September and November meeting minutes.
PIIAC Appeal #98-09: The appellant was not present. Warren and Botsko summarized. The appellant, a hospital charge nurse, complained that PPB detectives, who had been interviewing a juvenile patient, were rude to her and ignored her concerns about the boy.
The investigation revealed that detectives had been interviewing a patient who witnessed a murder, and had himself been assaulted during the crime. Testimony differed about what instructions the detectives were given about proceeding with an interview. The attending nurse stated that he had to summon the appellant when detectives ignored his requests to cease the interview when their questioning became aggressive. He [the nurse] stated that detectives said they would cease the interview only upon doctor’s orders. Detectives disputed ever being asked to cease the interview.
The appellant stated that when she entered the room, she was concerned about the patient’s well-being and asked whether his parents should be there. She was told the parents were in Mexico, as the patient was an illegal alien, and she was then backed out of the room where she was subsequently treated rudely, threatened with handcuffing and arrest.
There were some discrepancies in testimony; detectives stated that the appellant came into the room in a belligerent and ordering manner, not asking a question at all. Other witnesses had differing views on whether or not the detectives were rude to the appellant.
Botsko said that part of the difficulty with the complaint was that the appellant raised questions about the patient’s legal rights, rather than focusing on his medical well-being. Otherwise the complaint would have to be reviewed in a different light. Still, there is no written guideline or protocol about interviews or other police actions in this particular custodial setting. In her view, the more important allegation was whether the attending nurse had requested the interview cease or slow, and whether the detectives had ignored that.
Capt. Bennington said he reviewed the case and all the elements of a sound decision were there. The detectives did not interfere with the subject’s medical condition. On the other hand, it is a felony to interfere with an investigation, and in this case, the detectives were representing the deceased victim by conducting this investigation. Because of the circumstances and setting, Capt. Bennington viewed this as a communications issue.
Bob Ueland said that the complaint was not that the patient’s health was damaged. He saw no reason to prolong the investigation. Robert Wells asked whether the attending nurse called a supervisor for a reason -- had there been a medical reason?
Ford said that he did not think good judgment had been demonstrated on either side. He felt that the appellant’s concern was appropriate, and that detectives should have demonstrated better patience and sensitivity. He reminded the panel of a previous complaint they had dealt with, involving how an officer interacted with a minor female whose car was being towed.
Bales said that the appellant should have been listened to more; the charge nurse is, after all, in charge. Wells said he worked in a hospital for ten years. The care and well-being
of a patient is up to subordinate care-givers, not just a physician.
Ueland suggested discussing the protocol question with training, as well as address the policy issue in a monitoring report. He then made a motion to affirm the PPB investigation and finding; Frank seconded. The motion carried unanimously [Y-8].
Ueland added a point that mediation had been offered but declined. He thought this would have been a good option, as both sides would have had an opportunity to vent but not necessarily each get their own way. Ford suggested inviting the new Mediation Center director to a meeting.
PIIAC Appeal #98-10: Botsko summarized. The appellant claimed that as he was coming out of a tavern, an unidentified female bicyclist ran into him and knocked him over. Shortly thereafter, this same person tackled him to the ground from behind, knelt into his back so painfully he had to throw her off. She turned out to be a Portland police officer, the same person who earlier ran him down.
The officer’s report stated that the appellant had been cursing at her. When she approached him to ask him what his problem was, he attempted to hit her. She and her partner placed him in their vehicle and transported him. He had to be forcibly placed in and out of the car, and forcibly transferred to an Explorer where he kicked the window off its track. Polaroid photos of this window were placed in the IAD file. The police report also stated that the appellant’s feet had to be tied down to prevent him from kicking. He was cited
IAD declined further investigation partly because of the discrepancies, but also because the clothing that the first bicyclist was said to have worn is not the clothing of a Portland police officer.
The appellant addressed the panel. He recounted his complaint, and when asked, described the bicyclist as wearing a white t-shirt with cutoff shorts. She was carrying a pager, not a gun. He contested Capt. Bennington’s declination letter, which referred to the appellant’s having pled guilty to the charges. He said that was no basis for rejecting his complaint, he had in fact pled "no contest."
The appellant’s attorney was present. He told the panel that the appellant entered the "no contest" plea because he wanted to put this incident behind him, and the two charges had been combined.
Ueland asked if the police officer had been accompanied? The appellant he never saw another officer until later, when one pulled up in a vehicle. [Police report indicates that the officer was working with a partner.] He also was not injured enough to seek medical attention.
Frank asked him about the amount of time he spent in the tavern. The appellant said he had been drinking coffee and watching television.
Ueland made a motion to affirm IAD’s declination; Haring seconded. The motion carried [Y-6; Abstain - Bales; Warren].
Bales told the appellant that the committee had two different stories that were difficult to reconcile, especially since part of the appellant’s description really didn’t fit. Ueland said that the appellant was not claiming injury, and asked him what he had wanted from IAD? The appellant said he had wanted IAD to address the issue of the falsified police report.
PIIAC Appeal #98-11: Botsko summarized. IAD had declined the complaint, which was filed from a man arrested under the Domestic Violence Act. His wife had called 9-1-1, complaining that he had threatened her. The 9-1-1 calltaker noted in the file that the appellant could be heard shouting in the background. Because officers took a report that the appellant threatened the wife, they had to make a mandatory arrest. Although the appellant claimed that he was roughly treated during the rest, he brought this up in a minor way, almost as an afterthought, and was primarily interested in proving that officers and his wife had lied in the police reports and in court.
Capt. Bennington said that a control maneuver had been used against the appellant, but he had not been injured.
Wells said that these allegations are not in PIIAC’s purview. He moved to affirm the declination; Mahoney seconded. The motion carried unanimously. [Y-8].
Elections: Bob Ueland made a motion to retain the current slate [Ford chair, Heck vice-chair]; Wells seconded. The motion carried unanimously [Y-8]. Ford said that he wanted to delegate more responsibility to Heck, such as chairing meetings. etc.
Bales said that one good question to have on the PIIAC appeal request form is what the appellant hopes to accomplish. That might help clarify their appeals, and help determine whether it is even something PIIAC should be taking.
Ford announced that the African-American Advisory Council had recently held a public meeting about police-community relations. Botsko said that while she was not able to attend, she did speak with Rep. Bowman about what PIIAC currently is and is not set up to review. The Council will consider this information when drawing up their recommendations.
Handelman would like the PIIAC city code to reflect that any PPB internal investigation is reviewable. He believes the cost of independent civilian review would pay for itself with the reduction in tort claims. He said that the Council Informal that met to discuss possible changes occurred nearly a year ago, in February.
He was disturbed that the second case heard, about the potential bicycle accident, did not go forward.
The meeting adjourned.