PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Previously considered to be in good standing regarding its 2014 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to address its history of using excessive force against people with mental illness and to correct its flawed investigation methods and internal review processes, the Portland Police Bureau has “regressed” in recent years, a new report states.
Published in January by the independent auditor OIR Group, the report reviews seven officer-involved shootings (five fatal) and one non-fatal chokehold between 2018 and 2019.
The report states that, following these incidents, PPB consistently failed to meet its 180-day deadline set by the DOJ agreement for completing investigations and reviews related to officer-involved shootings.
The full report, which can be viewed here, details PPB’s actions in the deaths of Lane Martin, David Downs, Jeb Brock, Andre Gladen and Samuel Rice. It also outlines the non-fatal use of deadly force against Ryan Beisley, Jason Hansen and Jonathan Harris.
Noting procedural problems associated with these cases, OIR has provided the city with a list of 18 recommendations, which the Portland City Council is set to discuss at its April 19 business meeting.
“At the time of our last report, over two years ago, the city was thought to be in substantial compliance with the terms of the agreement, which required the Bureau to make changes to the way it addressed mental health concerns but also resulted in significant adjustments to the Bureau’s investigative protocols and internal review processes,” the OIR Group stated in its 2023 report. “Since then, however, the city has regressed in the USDOJ’s assessment, based on questions relating to the thousands of force deployments during the 2020 protests and gaps in its recordkeeping, review, and accountability measures.”
While the latest report does not include PPB’s documented use of force during the protests of 2020, OIR states that police reform has changed since the events of 2020 and that PPB now faces new hurdles as a result of those changes.
“This larger picture provides an important backdrop to this report,” OIR said. “But because of the lag between when officer-involved shootings happen and when we report on them, the incidents we review here all took place in 2018 and 2019, before most of the world knew the term ‘coronavirus’ and George Floyd’s murder had galvanized new demands for police reform.”
OIR’s 2023 Recommendations for PPB:
1. The Bureau’s holistic review of any critical incident should identify and address issues relating to officers’ language and overall professionalism.
2. PPB should work to gather statements from known witnesses to critical incidents, or should clearly document any unsuccessful efforts at doing so.
3. The Bureau should review its rules of engagement for supervisors and officers to address situations in which equipment limitations prevent officers from communicating with incident command, specifically to set guidelines governing how communication limitations impact officers’ authority to take independent action and use deadly force.
4. In an officer-involved shooting investigation, when there is reference to an earlier incident involving the same parties, reports and other information relating to that earlier event should be collected and included in the investigative file and discussed as part of the overall analysis.
5. The Bureau’s K-9 unit should review its procedures for how officers notify others of their status and location, as recommended by the Training Division.
6. The Bureau should revise its protocols to ensure that investigators endeavor to collect facts relating to all aspects of a deadly force event, including post incident challenges, even if the performance involves a law enforcement officer from an outside agency.
7. The Bureau should modify its protocols to require investigators to both photograph injuries and collect medical records in cases where individuals are injured but not killed in officer-involved shootings, or to document the reasons for their inability to do so.
8. In officer-involved shootings with significant numbers of missed rounds, the Bureau should consider remedial firearms training for involved officers.
9. The Bureau should change its protocols to ensure that tactical decision making that precedes a use of force is a formal area of review in each officer-involved shooting or in-custody death.
10. The Chief should formally accept or reject any systemic recommendations made by the Police Review Board, and for those recommendations accepted, should direct a plan to ensure they are fully implemented in a timely way.
11. The Training Division should articulate its specific findings with regard to Bureau members’ various critical decisions and performance in each phase of a critical incident.
12. During its investigation and review of any deadly force incident, the firing of multiple rounds should be overtly and independently analyzed as an issue for both the underlying investigation and the Training Division review.
13. Whenever a situation presents itself where one officer decides to use deadly force and other on-scene officers do not, the Bureau should fully inquire about this dichotomy during its investigation and review.
14. Where applicable, the Bureau should use the critical incident review process as infrastructure for the identification and development of potential innovative solutions to the circumstances that arise in individual cases and may have future pertinence.
15. The Training Division should incorporate an analysis of ECIT efforts into its assessment of critical incidents where it is relevant to the facts of the case.
16. The Bureau should consider returning to the requirement that Commanders produce memoranda that substantively address all areas of review in officer-involved shooting investigations or, at a minimum, should streamline the review process by not delaying Police Review Board meetings to allow for production of Commander’s Memoranda.
17. The Bureau should develop protocols to ensure that any recommendations made by the Training Division in its review of an officer-involved shooting or other critical incident be considered by both the Police Review Board and the Chief.
18. The City should assign an individual to review all prior recommendations made by OIR Group in their reviews of officer-involved shootings, uses of deadly force, and in-custody deaths, to assess those recommendations for current relevance, and to report on the Bureau’s response to each and progress toward implementation