December 9, 1999
Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee
December 9, 1999
(Approved January 13, 2000)
Citizen Advisors Present: Charles Ford, Presiding; Robert Ueland; Ric Alexander; Gene Bales; Jose Martinez; Dapo Sobomehin; Denise Stone; Robert Wells; Kitsy Brown Mahoney; Shirlie Karl (non-voting)
Citizen Advisors Absent: Leora Mahoney; Les Frank (on leave of absence)
City Staff Present: Capt. Bret Smith, IAD; Sgt. Jerry Jones, IAD; Sgt. Vince Jarmer, IAD; Ms. Adrianne Brockman, Deputy City Attorney; Dr. Michael Hess, PIIAC Examiner
Media Present: Dan Handelman (Portland Copwatch)
Mr. Ford opened the meeting at approximately 5:30 p.m. The PIIAC Citizen Advisors and the City Staff introduced themselves. Mr. Ford welcomed two new PIIAC advisors, Ms. Karl and Ms. Brown Mahoney.
The minutes of the November 12 PIIAC meeting were approved.
Election for Chair and Vice-Chair for Calendar Year 2000: Mr. Ueland moved to nominate Mr. Ford to continue as Chair and to close the nominations. Motion was seconded and passed unanimously. Mr. Wells nominated Ms. Denise Stone as Vice-Chair. There were no other nominations for this position. The nomination was seconded and passed unanimously.
PIIAC #99-22 (IAD #99-108)
Advisor Stone presented this case, offering a summary of the case and her recommendations. Appellant was present.
The complaint arose from an April 27, 1999, incident at a parking garage in downtown Portland. The appellant was attempting to park his car, but the entrance lane was blocked by another car. The appellant and the owner of the other vehicle got into a verbal altercation that exacerbated to a physical confrontation in which the Appellant allegedly pushed the other person away and the other person allegedly responded by attempting to choke the Appellant. The police were called, and a Portland Police officer (Officer A) arrived at the scene several minutes later. The Appellant alleged that Officer A did not properly perform his duties, was not willing to interview unbiased witnesses at the scene, and took the side of the alleged assailant by classifying the incident as mutual combat rather than charging the other car owner of assault.
Advisor Stone noted some flaws in Central Precinct's interview of Officer A and a lack of clarity by the precinct commander in his disposition letter to the appellant. However, Advisor Stone did not feel that correction of these flaws would change the outcome of the inquiry. She therefore recommended that the advisors should conditionally reaffirm the decision of the precinct commander to close this inquiry and not proceed with a formal IAD complaint. The conditions of this recommendation were a debriefing by the IAD Captain to Central Precinct officers who conduct investigative interviews regarding acceptable interview standards and techniques and a debriefing with precinct officer who write letters of disposition to ensure a high standard of completeness and clarity.
The Appellant then presented a long and detailed account of the incident that led to his complaint against Officer A. The Appellant stated several times that he perceived himself as the victim of an assault and that Officer A did a pitiful job of responding to the call and was not even willing to interview unbiased bystanders despite the Appellant's insistent and exasperated pleas to do so.
Advisor Ueland asked the Appellant if he had filed a complaint against the alleged assailant with the District Attorney's Office. The Appellant stated that he did not do so because Officer A's report did not support his allegations. Captain Smith then pointed out that the Appellant did not request a copy of the police report until just this week, so he could not have known what Officer A wrote in his report.
Chairman Ford suggested that perhaps this complaint should be returned to IAD for further investigation. Advisor Ueland moved that the committee accept the recommendations with the conditions put forth by Advisor Stone. Captain Smith stated that he had already debriefed the Central Precinct Commander regarding this inquiry.
Advisor Ueland therefore changed his motion to reaffirm Commander Kauffman's decision to close the inquiry and not proceed with a formal IAD investigation. Advisor Martinez seconded the motion.
Media representative Dan Handelman asked the Chair for clarification of the finding that was to be voted on, since the finding was not clearly identified in Captain Kauffman's disposition letter. Captain Smith explained that since this was an inquiry only, a specific IAD finding was not indicated. The "finding" was "not to proceed with a full IAD investigation."
Advisor Ueland's motion carried [Y- 5, N-3].
PIIAC #99-15(IAD #98-013)
Appellant was present. Chairman Ford stated that he would abstain from voting on this case since he was acquainted with the Appellant. PIIAC Examiner Hess presented the case as follows:
This complaint arose over an incident that occurred at approximately 12:30 a.m. on December 24, 1997. The Appellant went to a convenience store on Powell and 82nd to buy a package of gum. When he exited the store, he went to a bank of pay phones in front of the store and apparently made a call. While on the phone, he engaged in a conversation with a young woman (Witness A), who was standing near the phones. At some time during the conversation, the Appellant gave Witness A twenty-five cents to use the phone to call for a ride.
Officer A was parked on the other side of the street eating a snack. He observed the Appellant holding the phone and engaging in a conversation with Witness A. When the Appellant drove away, Officer A asked his colleague (Officer B) to follow the Appellant's car while he (Officer A) questioned Witness A.
Witness A told Officer A that the Appellant had asked her if she was a "working girl" (street parlance for "prostitute") and she told him he was not. Witness A told Officer A that she was convinced that the Appellant was trying to engage her in prostitution, and she was willing to testify to this in court. Officer A then radioed Officer B, informing him that he had sufficient probable cause to stop the Appellant.
Officer B stopped the Appellant in the vicinity of 82nd and Stark. He asked the Appellant for his driver's license, registration, and insurance, and told him to wait there because Officer A wanted to talk to him.
When Officer A arrived at the scene of the stop, he questioned the Appellant about his interaction with Witness A. The Appellant's account of the conversation somewhat corresponded with what Witness A had told Officer A except in the potentially incriminatory details. Officer A made a decision to arrest the Appellant for Unlawful Prostitution Procurement Activity, a Portland city ordinance.
Officer A then ordered a tow for the Appellant's car and took the Appellant to East Precinct for processing. Officer B stayed at the scene until the tow truck arrived. After processing the necessary paperwork, Officer A gave the Appellant a Citation in Lieu of Custody and released him outside of East Precinct at approximately 2:30 a.m. The Appellant had to walk home from East Precinct to Northeast Portland. On the way home he had a frightening experience in which he was accosted by a carload of racists, who hurled racist epithets at him.
The Appellant's complaints were summarized as follows:
1. That he was arrested without sufficient cause, there having been no discussion about sex or offer of money to the young woman outside the convenience store.
2. That his car was unjustly towed.
3. That he was released at East Precinct at 2:30 a.m. and had to walk home to Northeast Portland.
4. That Officer A was a racist.
Based on his complete examination of the IAD file, Dr. Hess gave the following analysis of the complaints:
1. Officer A did have probable cause based on his observations, his experience as a police officer, and his interviews of Witness A and the Appellant. The burden of proof for an arrest (probable cause) is less rigorous than the burden of proof for a conviction (beyond reasonable doubt).
2. In performing an arrest an officer has the discretion to order the suspect's vehicle to be towed. The Appellant's vehicle was obstructing the flow of traffic on 82nd, and there was a computer in the vehicle that was at risk of being stolen if the car had been left at that location.
3. It is within General Orders and is acceptable practice for an officer to take an arrested person to the precinct to research the regulations and to complete paperwork and processing. Officer A was not clear whether Unlawful Prostitution Procurement Activity was a jailable offense, and he needed to research this. An arresting officer is not obligated or authorized to supply a ride a person released from custody. There are pay phones outside of the precinct building, and according to the police report, the Appellant had two dollars and could have called someone to pick him up.
4. There is no evidence of racial comments or of a racial motivation for the arrest.
Dr. Hess stated that the initial IAD investigation had not been complete and had been returned to IAD for further investigation. The re-investigation was much more thorough. The Appellant, Witness A, and Officer B were not interviewed during the initial investigation, but they were interviewed when the investigation was re-done. The questions raised by Ms. Botsko in her review of the initial investigation were addressed in the follow-up investigation. The major concern of the PIIAC examiner was the extreme lack of timeliness of the investigation, which ended up taking almost two years to complete.
Dr. Hess recommended that the PIIAC advisors uphold the revised IAD findings after the second investigation (i.e., Conduct: exonerated with debriefing; Disparate Treatment: unfounded; Procedure: exonerated).
The Appellant then gave his account of the incident. The Appellant stated that he had not made any sexual advances toward Witness A. He said that he did talk to her for some time, but that he refused to give her a ride because he saw the police car across the street. He said that he gave her twenty-five cents to make a phone call. The Appellant said that he did not understand why Officer A would give more credibility to Witness A than to him. He said that he had only two dollars in his pocket. He denied that Officer A had found a condom in his pocket, but stated that the condom was found in the trunk of the car and did not belong to him. He said that Officer A should not have ordered his car towed and that he should have been reimbursed for the towing and storage cost since he was not charged with a crime by the district attorney's office. He recounted the frightening episode while walking home late at night, stating that he could not have called anyone for a ride because it was so late and he did not have his address book with him.
Advisor Ueland asked the Appellant if anyone had explained to him that there is a procedure through which a person may attempt to obtain reimbursement for towing charges. The Appellant said that no one had ever told him about that.
Advisor Wells stated that in his mind the allegation of racism was the most serious of the allegations. He asked the Appellant what exactly gave him the impression that either of the officers was racist. The Appellant replied that he is alleging racism only on the part of Officer A. He said that he knew Officer A to be a racist because in past dealings with him, he had an arrogant attitude around African American persons. He said that what offended him most was when Officer A used the words "people like you."
Advisor Ueland made the point that the investigation revealed no evidence of racism with respect to Officer A, but that the re-investigation did lead to a change of the conduct finding from "unfounded" to "exonerated with debriefing."
At the request of Chairman Ford, Captain Smith explained that "debriefing" means that the officer's supervisor goes over all of the allegations with the officer and discusses each area of concern that the complainant may have had. The debriefing includes areas in which the officer could have done better and clarification of the relevant laws.
Advisor Ueland made a motion to uphold the revised IAD findings. Advisor Brown Mahoney seconded the motion. The motion passed [Y -7, N-1]. Chairman Ford abstained.
Advisor Ueland suggested that the problem of persons being left without transportation following a police action should be looked at as a monitoring issue. Advisor Sobomehin made an impassioned and eloquent plea for fairness on the part of the police and PIIAC. Advisor Martinez stated that it is important for police officers to be fully aware of the elements of a crime before arresting a citizen. Chairman Ford emphasized the need for the police bureau to readdress the issue of cultural training for officers. Advisor Wells asked Captain Smith to provide the PIIAC Advisory Committee with documentation of what cultural training is currently offered for officers. Advisor Ueland told the Appellant that the PIIAC Examiner could refer him to Risk Management to file a request for reimbursement of towing costs.
Dr. Hess advised the Appellant to submit a written request within 30 days if he desires to take his appeal before City Council.
Mr. Ford announced that the next meeting of the PIIAC advisory committee [January 13, 2000] would again be held in the Rose Room of the Portland City Hall.
A community member expressed her concern about the probable cause for arresting a person simply for speaking to or flirting with another person on the street. She also argued that the finding on the Disparate Treatment aspect of the latter case should have been "Unable to Determine" rather than "Exonerated." [Note: finding was actually "Unfounded"]
Another community member stated that there is an ongoing problem in communication between police and the community as evidenced by the large number of citizen complaints regarding communication issues. She also stated that PIIAC advisors should show more understanding when persons of minority backgrounds feel put down because of their race.
Mr. Handelman from Portland Copwatch announced that a new issue of the Copwatch newsletter is now available. He stated that sometimes laws get passed that are too broad and give officers the power to be "thought police," where a person can be just asking a question of somebody and be suspected of prostitution. He stated that Captain Smith "took the wind out of the sails" of PIIAC by already debriefing the Central Precinct Commander regarding the first case when that was going to be one of PIIAC's recommendations.
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Respectfully submitted by
Michael H. Hess, D.D.S.