PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nearly two years after the first people hit the streets to protest policing practices in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Portland’s Independent Police Review (IRP) said that the 100+ days of protests “exposed vulnerability in Portland’s police oversight system.”
The IRP mostly relies on citizen complaints of interactions with police to open cases and conduct investigations into police conduct. During the protests, the report says the agency received many reports with a limited amount of information, which meant that some cases could not be brought to a resolution.
The agency also says it witnessed incidents it determined needed further review. However, due to the number of people and chaotic nature of most nights, were also limited in the information they could find in many cases.
“In mass protest events, where there are lots of law enforcement agencies, lots of people, lots of anonymity on both sides, on the law enforcement side and on the community side, it really doesn’t work very well,” said Ross Caldwell, the director of IRP.
IRP made six recommendations:
- Include and prioritize accountability in policy setting, related procedures, and training, especially those to be developed for body-worn cameras.
- Review and amend directives to be relevant criteria for determining policy violations stemming from large dynamic events; especially Directive 1010: Use of Force and 635.10: Crowd Management/Crowd Control.
- Ensure officers understand and use de-escalation techniques as required by directives, including the role of dispersal orders and whether protestors are passively or aggressively resisting them.
- Adapt record-keeping procedures and review processes for force incidents to ensure investigators can recreate events and officers’ omissions or superficial information do not undermine accountability.
- Expedite direct access to Bureau records and other law enforcement data once the Oregon State Police complete procedures to implement Senate Bill 204 for civilian oversight agencies.
- Reassess and adapt crowd management techniques in light of community members’ perception of them as misconduct and court orders and legislation restraining them.
The recommendations came with the caveat that officer-worn body cameras should be implemented, especially as the Department of Justice included them as one of the remedies for police accountability.
The lack of cameras has been a hindrance to investigations, Caldwell said.
“We’re really kind of working with our hands tied behind our back in that scenario,” IRP Director Ross Caldwell said, “What our investigators end up doing is they go to social media and try to find any video that might be relevant.”
The police union, Portland Police Association (PPA), says a court order prohibited officers from using the cameras during the protests in 2020. PPA President Sgt. Aaron Schmautz says the agency has been advocating for cameras since 2012.
“[We want] to make sure what we are doing doesn’t add more tension. Again, it’s a moving target. We’re doing the best we can. A lot of that requires civic participation and people coming to the government, coming to the police bureau, telling us how we can best serve them,” Schmautz said.
PPA is negotiating how body-worn cameras will be used by officers. Portland Police Bureau says they are close to narrowing down suppliers, with a plan for a pilot program to go into effect in September.
Schmautz pushed back against the final recommendation from the committee, saying a broad definition of community doesn’t accurately reflect the nuances between citizens’ views on the protests in 2020.
“There are a lot of people that were upset about how the police bureau managed those events in 2020 and there are a lot of people in this community that thought we should’ve done a lot more,” Schmautz said.