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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of the Ombudsman

A division of the Portland City Auditor's Office

phone: 503-823-0144

email: ombudsman@portlandoregon.gov

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 310, Portland, OR 97204

Portland Police Bureau

Year

Problem

Resolution

2018

When a stolen vehicle is recovered, in most cases it is towed to a private lot in accordance with Police policy. To retrieve the vehicle, the owner must pay towing plus daily storage fees. The Ombudsman received complaints about this policy, saying that it was unfair to charge crime victims to recover their property. Police statistics also indicated that thieves target vehicles in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Thus, the policy disproportionately affected people who could least afford it. 

After a media story, the Mayor's Office directed the Police Bureau to re-evaluate its policy. The Ombudsman submitted a formal comment letter in favor of revising the policy, describing the disproportionate impact of the City's policy on low income residents and offering alternative approaches that three cities used to reduce the financial impact on crime victims. The bureau subsequently drafted a policy to allow stolen car victims to have their vehicles left where they were found rather than having them towed. 

2018

A Portlander was one of a dozen men arrested during an undercover sting operation in which a police officer posed as a prostitute. Police listed the names of the men in a press release that described the sting as an "Undercover Sex Trafficking Mission." The man successfully completed diversion and avoided conviction. However, his name remained on the online press release. He complained that his small business was losing customers because the press release was the first item that appeared when people searched his name on the Internet.

The Ombudsman reviewed the matter and found that Police had recently adopted a policy that allowed people to get their names removed from press releases if they successfully expunged their arrests through the court system. The business owner successfully expunged his arrest and was able to request removal of his name from the press release.

2018

Police issued a press release about a gang arrest that included the block where arrest occurred. There was concern that the home was easy to identify because the door had been kicked in. The girlfriend of the gang member arrested still lived there with a minor child and might be the subject of gang retaliation.

Police agreed that retaliation was a possible and changed the press release to obscure the location of the house where the arrest occurred.

2016

The Ombudsman’s Office received a number of complaints about the Portland Police Bureau’s response to public records requests. Some cases involved the Police Bureau taking as long as four months to respond to routine records requests. The delayed response resulted in a hardship for crime victims who urgently needed their reports to resolve medical bills and outstanding identity theft charges.  Several requesters said it was unfair to charge crime victims for their police reports. One elderly woman on a fixed income could not afford the Police Bureau’s fee. In one case, the Police Bureau improperly withheld records from a victim of an alleged sexual assault. 

The Ombudsman worked with the Police Bureau to quickly provide records for urgent matters, establish a financial hardship fee waiver policy, and reverse course and disclose records improperly withheld.