Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

The City of Portland, Oregon

Independent Police Review

Independent Police Review is a police oversight agency, and is independent and autonomous from the Portland Police Bureau.

phone: 503-823-0146

fax: 503-823-4571

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

2nd and 3rd Quarter 1998 Monitoring Report


Monitoring Subcommittee Members & Staff
Robert Ueland, Chair
Robert Wells
Lisa Botsko, PIIAC Staff
Approved by PIIAC Citizen Advisors
November 12, 1998
Submitted to City Council
December 9, 1998

The PIIAC Citizen Advisors Monitoring Subcommittee is responsible for surveying cases handled by the Portland Police Bureau's Internal Affairs Division (PPB/IAD) involving citizens and Police employees' complaints about alleged police misconduct. The Subcommittee analyzes complaints, IAD's investigations and Risk Management data to "highlight trends of police performance, suggesting necessary Police Bureau policy and procedural changes. Patterns of behavior, unclear procedures, policy issues and training needs may be identified for review."


The Chief=s responses to our Fourth Quarter 1997 and First Quarter 1998 reports are attached to this report. Most notably, the Bureau has translated the Internal Affairs Division complaint form and explanatory brochure into several languages, including Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian. They are in the printing process and will be distributed through normal channels. We predict that the one-time cost is worth the Bureau=s making the complaint system more accessible to non-English speaking complainants.
We requested that the Bureau research the legal and policy questions surrounding a complaint in which a suspect=s pager, cellular phone and bulletproof vest were seized as evidence of suspected drug activity, even though no weapons, drugs or paraphernalia were found on his person. (He was searched incident to a jaywalk arrest.) PPB received a response from the District Attorney=s office but have not yet received a response from the City Attorney=s Office. (The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing a case involving issues of search and seizure incident to minor violations, and we will monitor the outcome.)
The communications training, based on the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program, was to have been incorporated into this year=s in-service training, but was removed along with other training segments when Operation 80, the Bureau=s recruiting program, was implemented.


I. Revised PPB General Orders
PPB implemented six General Orders revising the Complaint Investigation and Disciplinary process. We have reviewed similar written policies in other U.S. law enforcement agencies and note that PPB=s are among the strongest and most comprehensive. Some notable changes include a broader criteria by which officers are identified for Command Review (now called Behavior Review) under the Early Warning System. Previously, Command Review was triggered only by an officer=s complaint history. Experts in the field of police conduct and complaint investigation issues agree that an Early Warning System (EWS) is a key component in fostering a high level of police accountability.
With the new EWS General Order, supervisory review will also be triggered by such factors as motor vehicle accidents, failure to appear in court, and tort claims. This latter component is especially important, since citizens who file tort claim notices alleging police misconduct do not always pursue a complaint through the Internal Affairs process. Previously the Bureau had not incorporated review of tort claim or lawsuit information into their police accountability practices. This is a welcome change, one that can be considered progressive, since research shows that almost all other large police forces do not adequately track or use tort information.
Bifurcation is now in place, which allows PPB to better address peripheral issues developed as a result of a complaint investigation. Typically these issues do not directly affect the finding on the main allegations. For example, a Use of Force complaint investigation may reveal that an officer=s use of force was appropriate, but that the officer did not properly document the action. Bifurcation allows the peripheral issue to be handled without the entire complaint reflecting a ASustained@ finding.
A new finding category has also been added. Not Sustained with Debriefing addresses those situations in which an officer has not violated a Bureau policy -- and therefore the complaint is not sustained -- but the incident may represent an opportunity for a supervisor to discuss alternatives in a non-punitive manner. In the past, no such mechanism existed and a supervisor might or might not discuss a particular incident with an officer. This finding represents a more formalized method of providing for an incident debriefing.
II. Human Rights Watch Report
Human Rights Watch, based in Washington, D.C. and New York City, released a lengthy report, AShielded From Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States of America.@ This report, available on the internet and in book form, was a culmination of a two-year study in which Portland was one of fourteen cities reviewed. The good news is that the report states that Portland=s civilian oversight agency Afunctions better than most reviewed by Human Rights Watch@ and the Adepartment@ (PPB) has made some progress in the past few years. However, the report goes on to claim that human rights abuses continue in Portland and accountability is sometimes lacking, but refers only to specific incidents, all more than five years old, to support this particular thesis.
III. Research Brief: AAchieving Police Accountability
Dr. Samuel Walker, a national expert on civilian review who testified before City Council in 1996, named Portland as one of three cities that has Aproactive citizen review@ in his recently published research paper. He cites the importance of ongoing policy review as a component of citizen oversight, and the existence of an Early Warning System as progressive, but necessary, police practice.
IV. Cases Appealed / Monitored
During the second and third quarters 1998, PIIAC advisors accepted 4 new appeals. For the first time in years, advisors have not met monthly due to a decline in appeals. We do not believe we have enough information to analyze this trend.
PIIAC #98-04: (Held over from first quarter). The appellant claimed that an officer in the Bureau=s Domestic Violence unit unduly influenced his wife to apply for a restraining order, and the he was falsely arrested for assault. Advisors affirmed the IAD investigation and PPB finding, noting that officers documented specific injuries and testimony that mandated an arrest. Advisors also agreed with PPB=s conclusion that the DVRU officer acted correctly. 
PIIAC #98-05: The appellant, a street preacher, complained that officers arrested him for disorderly conduct while he was preaching. He alleged officers had no evidence of prohibited conduct and therefore the arrest was false. He also stated that officers were discourteous because they would not allow him to remove his raingear during transport. IAD had declined the case following preliminary review, which showed a complaint phoned in by a citizen, officer reports, and a notice that the District Attorney=s office had filed a complaint in the matter. Advisors voted to affirm the IAD declination, noting that this was an issue for the courts to decide. An appeal to City Council is pending. 
PIIAC #98-06: After reviewing the preliminary PIIAC audit report that noted significant investigative deficiencies, IAD voluntarily reopened this case for additional investigation prior to the advisory hearing. The appellant alleged that officers used excessive force and abusive language, and damaged his property. We were recently notified that this additional work has been completed and is available for our review.
 PIIAC #98-07: The appellant and her teenage daughter are Washington residents. The daughter was stopped in the I-5 Terwilliger curves for speeding, and her vehicle towed for failure to provide proof of insurance. The complaint is that the officer had the girl walk alone, at night, to a local store. The mother felt this was negligent. In his interview, the officer stated that the girl was not in any danger taking the particular route she did. Advisors affirmed PPB=s exoneration of the officer because no General Order requires any specific duty to individuals whose vehicles are towed. Advisors did note concerns about this case, and address the policy issue later in this report.
We monitored an additional 27 closed IAD investigations. We monitor all closed cases that fall into the following categories: use of force, disparate treatment, complaints with sustained findings, and cases that went to PPB=s Review Level Committee. Cases with less significant allegations are not routinely audited unless they are appealed.
Cases reviewed for monitoring reflected the following types of allegations:
Property 3
Use of Force 19
Conduct 10
Disparate Treatment 1
Communication 10
Performance 0
Procedure 12
The findings reflected the following:
Unfounded 6
Exonerated 14
Insufficient Evidence 8
Sustained 6
Suspended 2
Declined 2
Sustained complaints had been initiated both internally (Bureau members) and externally (from citizens). Allegations that were Sustained included improper handling of property (theft/loss), officer inappropriately drawing and pointing firearm, failure to document handcuffing, conducting personal business while on duty without supervisory permission, violation of state law (off-duty), untruthfulness in an IAD investigation.
V. Timeliness and IAD Statistics
IAD statistics covering January 1 through September 30, 1998 reflect that 257 new complaints were received in IAD. Of those, 106 (41%) have been closed out, 58 (approximately 43%) declined. 151 of the 1998 complaints remain open. In 1997, 275 complaints were received, 150 of which remain open.
Time lags continue to be problematical in all phases of the investigative process. Of the cases we audited, we noted time spans of 1 2 week - 25 months, with an average of approximately 11.5 months. [We note that this statistic reflects our monitoring of mostly IAD cases which are more complex than those assigned to precinct-level investigators. Our statistics do not reflect overall Bureau averages.]
Of the cases that were closed most quickly, most were declined or suspended. IAD estimates that the average length of time for IAD investigations is closer to 12 - 14 months. Because IAD works more complex cases, and those with more significant allegations than precinct-level investigations, the importance of reducing lengthy investigative time frames is especially critical. The effectiveness and credibility of the Bureau=s complaint investigation process is significantly at risk if it does not do more to identify the causes of the timeliness problems and implement solutions.
Officers report not being informed about complaints lodged against them for months, then frequently more months go by after their interview before they are informed of the findings. Complainants have contacted the Mayor=s office to report significant delays in return phone calls from IAD or with case investigation, and they are understandably frustrated. In our monitoring of closed cases we observe as much as ten months= delay between initial complaint intake and the beginning of officer interviews. No matter how skilled investigators are, excessive delays are a handicap that adversely affect investigative quality. Officer performance or conduct problems may very well go undetected in a timely fashion. The Bureau exposes itself to potential liability from Apattern and practice@ claims.
Because PIIAC audits focus on closed IAD cases, assessing the reasons for current timeliness problems can be difficult. We can easily observe where delays have occurred, but not necessarily why. IAD investigators do not routinely include explanations for case delays in the investigative files, despite the Chief=s assurance that such a PIIAC recommendation would be implemented.
Although the Monitoring Subcommittee has traditionally reviewed closed IAD investigations, PIIAC City Code language does not preclude monitoring the progress of open investigations. PIIAC may wish to incorporate open cases in their audit routine, similar to external auditing practice in San Jose and Los Angeles. Comprehensive investigator work product reviews are labor-intensive and we doubt whether the Bureau currently has the supervisory resources to undertake these. PIIAC does not.
The following components must be in place if investigations are to be timely:
1. Accountability must consistently be emphasized from the top on down.
If PPB administrators do not insist on timely investigations and adjudication and provide IAD with the needed support, Bureau members receive mixed messages about accountability. Twelve to fourteen months to investigate a use-of-force complaint should be deemed unacceptable. Timely complaint investigation and adjudication should be one of the criteria tied to performance reviews of management; IAD should monitor which precincts and divisions are consistently tardy with investigations and/or adjudication.
2. PPB/IAD must improve IAD recruitment and staffing.
IAD should be fully staffed with as little down time as possible. IAD is selective about the sergeants recruited to work in that division and require that the investigators have been sergeants for a prescribed length of time. What this means, though, is that IAD investigators are often quickly promoted, sometimes within just a few months of moving into IAD. Often the resulting vacancies are not filled for months.
At one point this past summer IAD was reduced to two investigators even with a newly restored fifth investigator position. Those two investigators found themselves mired in complaint intakes to the point they could not work on actual investigations. IAD seems to always be short-staffed. Although they are once again authorized at five positions (and have been in the past), they rarely have all five positions filled. Currently, one investigator has been detailed away from IAD with no one taking his place. We are told IAD is looking at staffing options and we endorse this heartily. PPB should explore options such as advance recruiting (maintaining a list of prospective applicants), having intakes done by one or more employees who do not work on investigations, providing additional funding for the mediation center to increase the number of complaints that can be mediated, etc.
3. IAD should continue to examine ways to improve timeliness, and secure any needed resources for optimal case management.
Timeliness goals have not been met for years, although Capt. Bennington is optimistic that the new General Order=s stated goal of ten weeks will help. He reports that he has seen some recent improvement in precinct turnaround times; precinct investigators do not have the heavy caseloads as in IAD. IAD is also hoping to select a case management computer software vendor by January 1999. Such software would certainly be useful -- not only for case management but for tracking complaint trends and patterns -- but in the meantime IAD should explore additional ways to improve case management. As part of the equation, IAD needs to identify and reduce any problems or practices that unnecessarily delay cases.
We reviewed several cases in which long periods of time elapsed between the time all interviews were completed, and when the general summary was written up -- the final activity before the complaint can be sent for adjudication. In one case, an entire year elapsed between the time all interviews were completed and the time the general summary was prepared. The file contained no information explaining the delay.
Several common investigative protocols may assist IAD investigators with case management. We recommend they do the following:
Have timeliness goals for all phases of the investigative process. An overall, formalized timeliness goal is beneficial, but it is also important to have a target goal for each phase of the investigation. For example, how soon should investigators get back to citizens following first contact? What is a reasonable goal between case intake and first interviews? IAD should have a way to average the lengths of time occurring in each phase of the investigative process, so it can better identify if and when cases may be unnecessarily delayed.
Cap the number of cases assigned to each investigator at any given time, and retain unassigned cases to a Apending file@ to assign as investigators are able to accept more work. For quite a long time, IAD investigators have carried typical case loads of more than twenty cases. More recently we understand the case load has increased to more than thirty. Balancing such a caseload -- even if not all investigated simultaneously -- can still be overwhelming both psychologically and logistically. With a manageable caseload and an eye toward having a good balance of incoming and outgoing cases, investigators may in fact experience overall improved timeliness. Those cases that require less work or are nearly complete may be closed out more quickly; investigators may determine more quickly which cases lack sufficient merit or complainant cooperation to proceed with full investigation. (For example, through the years we have observed cases ultimately suspended because a complainant refused to provide witness information, medical records, etc. It is better to know sooner than later if that is the case, so that IAD investigators can move on.)
To feel in control of one=s own case load (i.e., requesting new case assignments as one feels able to take them on), is important for morale. Such an arrangement might also provide more flexibility for unexpected priority cases.
We recommend that IAD investigators maintain a log of cases-in-progress with notations as to what work remains on each, and review these weekly. This need not be a cumbersome record-keeping, and is in fact a standard investigative protocol. Currently IAD investigators review case progress monthly, but this probably is not enough. The extra time taken for such record-keeping and planning pays for itself, and becomes quite easy when it becomes habit. The commander should also meet regularly with investigators to do an open case review, and assist with setting priorities, determining investigative strategy and case flow.
We also recommend that investigators have a specific deadline for completing a general summary as soon as all interviews and evidence-gathering is complete. It makes no sense to allow a nearly-completed investigation to languish. Postponing the general summary writeup only makes the task more difficult.
4. IAD investigators must be fully trained in how to conduct investigations and manage cases.
PPB and IAD must ensure that investigators receive solid and consistent training in both investigative technique and case management, both in- and out-of-house. Investigators may or may not have acquired these skills in previous assignments. Capt. Bennington explained that the investigators individually have attended selected courses in addition to the annual PPB two-day IAD course. He assists investigators one-on-one, looking at strengths and weaknesses of a case. He is also looking for good training courses. We strongly encourage these ongoing efforts.
VI Investigative Quality
In the audits conducted the past two quarters, we observed an increasing inconsistency in investigative quality. Investigative quality and thoroughness tends to be strongest in cases involving officer integrity issues, and we have audited some excellent casework and interviews. In one case, the investigator very skillfully developed information not only about the incident in question, but also about an officer=s untruthfulness in an IAD interview.
However, quality has weakened with respect to citizen complaint investigations.
In listening to interview tapes, we have noted the following weaknesses:
  • unnecessary leading questions, mostly in officer interviews;
  • unstructured interviews with a somewhat casual tone, in which officers are allowed virtually uninterrupted narratives with very little close examination or follow-up questioning;
  • failure to request interviewees qualify their statements in objective, concrete terms;
  • abbreviated officer interviews, sometimes less than ten minutes with officers accused of significant excessive or unauthorized use of force;
  • inaccurate or incomplete written summaries of interviews;
  • failure to routinely inquire about any potential witnesses;
  • uneven focus on complainant actions, sometimes to the neglect of officer actions;
  • seeming lack of sufficient interview preparation.
These weaknesses in an interview can lead to an impression that the investigator may have drawn premature conclusions about the complaint. The investigator may appear to be overly amenable to whatever an officer says, or is even subconsciously assisting an officer frame testimony.
We also monitored some cases in which evidence was not obtained that would have enhanced the investigation. For example, we have previously requested that booking photographs and Multnomah County Health Dept. Corrections Entry Progress Form 111 routinely be obtained in cases where excessive force is alleged, but we noted several case files with these missing. One appeal also lacked crucial photographs or sketches of the location in question -- a significant aspect of the complaint.
We note at least two cases in which the investigator expanded the AInvestigator Observations@ portion of a report to compare and contrast testimony, or highlight weaknesses in complainant testimony. We renew our strong caution against this practice, because a well investigated and reported case should be clear to a reader without this type of investigator assistance. Appearing to judge the merits of a complaint should be strictly avoided by investigators.
We have made recommendations in previous monitoring reports about all of the concerns mentioned in this section. IAD made significant improvements after their 1995 restructuring, especially in the area of investigative quality -- they cannot afford to let quality decline, even in the face of timeliness or caseload constraints.
VII. Disposition Letters
IAD Capt. Bennington prepares disposition letters in a timely fashion, and in an empathetic and friendly tone. However, the complainant is essentially told the complaint finding and the definition of that finding. We recommend that the letters provide more of the rationale for the finding. Complainants who believe they were in the right deserve an explanation for the finding.
I Adjudication
Several cases audited, particularly involving excessive force allegations, reflected exonerations of officer actions that did not appear to be sufficiently supported by evidence. One case was appealed to PIIAC, then voluntarily withdrawn by IAD after an audit report identified investigative deficiencies. Other cases reviewed had similar deficiencies and would most likely have been returned for additional investigation or deliberation had they been appealed to PIIAC.
Excessive force complaints are not always simple to evaluate, because investigations frequently develop contradictory testimony with no corroborating evidence or witnesses. But we have observed that some PPB commanders are more apt than others to select a finding of AInsufficient Evidence@ in these circumstances, which we believe is a more appropriate finding when no compelling reason exists to weigh one version of testimony over another. It is our position that a complainant=s allegations cannot be dismissed solely because that person was arrested or cited, or because of factors like mental illness, alcohol/drug influence, odd behavior, affiliations or the existence of criminal history.
In one case, the complainant alleged that he had been deliberately injured in a punitive manner. The injury was, in fact, substantiated -- both by officer testimony and through medical records. The officer=s version of events differed from the complainant=s. The commanding officer, in his written rationale for exoneration, said it was Ahis opinion@ that the officer=s version of events was accurate. We note, however, the absence of significant corroborating testimony. The commander further opined that the nature and location of the complainant=s injuries Awere consistent@ with the officer=s account. What the commander did not explain is upon what medical expertise he based his conclusion, or what precluded the injuries from being medically consistent with the complainant=s allegations. This written rationale would appear very weak should it ever be subjected to cross-examination in a court of law. We also wonder whether the IAD investigator or commander was even aware that the subject officer had been alleged to have caused the exact same injury to a previous complainant in a similar manner. In that second case, numerous citizen witnesses corroborated the complaint; however, their testimony seems to have been discounted in favor of officer testimony, as the finding was also AExonerated.@ While we do not expect investigators to inquire into other complaints or allegations in an interview, or for adjudicators to decide the merits of a complaint based upon the existence of a similar complaint, any possible background information should be reviewed before an interview. The investigator must maintain an open mind regarding the merits of a complaint.
II. Trend: Service Complaints
The Bureau can improve how it handles citizen complaints that do not fall under IAD=s purview. These complaints may be described as Aservice complaints.@
According to the new General Order pertaining to complaint handling, AComplaints received from the citizens regarding the quality of service they received from Bureau members may be resolved by a supervisor or manager of the member=s RU as long as the complaint does not allege misconduct and the complaint can be resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. Complaints so resolved must be documented on a precinct/division Complaint Log . . . The documentation must include the action taken to resolve the complaint. RU managers will review the Complaint Log on a regular basis. Complaint logs should be reviewed for complaints, trends, supervisor resolutions, etc. Complaint logs will be retained at the RU according to the records schedule.@
The new General Order does not address how unresolved complaints should be handled, nor does it specify how complaint-log review and analysis should occur.
Service complaints can be difficult to categorize, since on some occasions they may in fact constitute Afailure to act@ under misconduct guidelines. However, they more frequently involve differences of opinion as to what extent the Bureau should respond to a particular incident or concern. In one instance that we know of, the complainant spoke to an aide in the Chief=s Office, who referred him to Internal Affairs to file a complaint. Unfortunately the service complaint was not an Internal Affairs (misconduct) matter, and the complainant ultimately received a declination letter from IAD. This does not make sense, and is bound to frustrate citizens.
We recommend that the Bureau examine ways that it can better resolve service complaints, respond to constituent contacts, and track the effectiveness of the new, related General Order. A police ombudsman may be one avenue. Such an ombudsman might be housed in the Bureau, but would have to maintain a professional and neutral distance. The ombudsman=s function would be to respond to citizen concerns, liaison as necessary to resolve service complaints, or if resolution is impossible -- obtain sufficient information to relay to the citizen. We also recommend that citizens with service complaints be provided written responses in a timely fashion. We are aware of several such complaints in which a citizen has been dealt with only by telephone, and sometimes by several different people. It can be difficult to coordinate responses when no written account exists of how the matter was handled.
III. Policy Concern: Individuals whose cars are towed
In a PIIAC appeal that was reviewed this past quarter, a mother was upset because her teenage daughter was left on her own after her vehicle was towed for failure to provide proof of insurance. The mother=s concerns involved the lateness of the hour (it had grown dark), the busy highway where the traffic stop occurred (I-5 Terwilliger curves), and of course the girl=s age. Citizen advisors were also concerned about the fact that the girl was out-of-state, in possibly unfamiliar territory. Although the officer interviewed said that the route she had to take to get to a public place was safe from traffic, well-lighted, etc., advisors note the absence of any PPB policy addressing officer responsibility to people whose vehicles are towed. (The General Order on towing does address the officer=s responsibility with respect to the vehicle and inventory.) We have heard anecdotal accounts from people with similar concerns. While we would hope that officers would exercise sound judgment in ensuring the safety of anyone left without transportation, there is no internal mechanism to address situations where lapses of judgment may occur and someone is left in a very vulnerable situation. We do not expect officers to transport people home, although we would hope that in appropriate situations officers may consider driving the motorist to the nearest telephone, or assisting in arranging other transportation. By Aappropriate situations,@ we mean motorists who are young, elderly, disabled, with young children, or any situation where their safety may be especially at risk. Therefore we recommend that PPB modify the Towing General Order to address officer responsibilities in such situations, with reasonable and manageable criteria.
IV. Policy Concern: Flexible Work Hours
In the Fourth Quarter 1994 Monitoring Report, PIIAC advisors reported on a conduct complaint that revealed a divisional failure to adhere to the Bureau=s timekeeping policy with respect to overtime or comp time. We recommended the Bureau and Bureau managers review their timekeeping practices to ensure compliance with the General Order. The Chief, in his written response, assured us this would be done and added that Aunit managers and supervisors are expected to monitor the accuracy and thoroughness of daily assignment/time records.@
In a citizen complaint monitored this past quarter, it was determined that the officers had in fact been conducting personal business while on duty, albeit a Aslow time.@ In this case, the complaint was appropriately sustained. One officer commented in his interview that officers in his unit generally operate with such flexibility because of the amount of overtime worked. The investigator did not obtain additional information about this practice.
We therefore renew our recommendation that PPB ensure compliance with the prevailing General Order regarding recording on and off-duty time.

1. Property: Allegation that money, property, evidence and other valued items have been taken and not properly accounted for, receipted, or placed in the Property Room. 
2. Use of Force: Allegation of excessive or inappropriate physical or deadly physical force (Refer to G.O. 314.00).
 3. Conduct: Allegations of misconduct other than those more specifically defined by another category, which tend to bring reproach or discredit upon the Bureau or City of Portland. 
4. Disparate Treatment: Allegations of treatment to an individual that is different from the treatment of another because of  
(a) Race. 
(b) Other: sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, economic status, political or religious beliefs, appearance, handicap, etc.  
5. Communication: Allegations relating to attitude, rude conduct, or verbally abusive conduct other than those addressed in the disparate treatment category. 
6. Performance: Allegations of work performance which fails to meet or conform with Bureau standards or requirements of an administrative nature such as lateness, misuse of sick time, etc.
 7. Procedure: Allegations of conduct which violates a General Order, Special Order, or order of a superior officer and which are not more specifically addressed in sections (1) - (6).

1. Unfounded: Claim is false. Based on the facts of the investigation, there is no basis to the allegation. 
2. Exonerated: Actions of the officer were within the guidelines of Bureau policy and procedure. 
3. Insufficient Evidence: There was not enough evidence to prove or disprove the allegation(s). 
4. Sustained: Officer found to be in violation of Bureau policy or procedure. 
5. Declined: Police Bureau declines to conduct full investigation. 
6. Suspended: Investigation is suspended, usually because complainant fails to provide key information.