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ANALYSIS: Compliance Officer's Report on Force-- Race, Houselessness In, Shootings Out

In early July, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL)*-1
released a report on the Portland Police Bureau's progress regarding
changes to Use of Force training, policy and implementation (posted at
 https://www.portlandcocl.com/reports/2018/7/2/compliance-and-outcome-assessment-use-of-force-draft
). Remarkably, through a series of tables and charts, the COCL comes to
the scientific conclusion that community members have known by
observation for years: African Americans, Latinos, youth and houseless
persons have more force used against them than other Portlanders.
TO
Rosenbaum-COCL, Dennis < dennisrosenbaum3@gmail.com>, Community Oversight Advisory Board--Mandi Hood < Mandi.Hood@portlandoregon.gov>

Cc Portland City Council Commissioner Dan Saltzman < dan@portlandoregon.gov>, Commissioner Amanda Fritz < amanda@portlandoregon.gov>, Commissioner Nick Fish < nick@portlandoregon.gov>, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly < chloe@portlandoregon.gov>, Mayor Ted Wheeler < mayorwheeler@portlandoregon.gov>, Brian Buehler < brian.buehler@usdoj.gov>, Jonas Geissler < Jonas.Geissler@usdoj.gov>, Seth Wayne < seth.wayne@usdoj.gov>, Jaclyn Menditch < jaclyn.menditch@usdoj.gov>, Jared Hager < Jared.Hager@usdoj.gov>, Laura Cowall < Laura.Cowall@usdoj.gov>, Janice Adeloye < Janice.Adeloye@usdoj.gov>, News Media < newsmedia@portlandcopwatch.org>, IPR < ipr@portlandoregon.gov>, Auditor Mary Hull Caballero < mary.hullcaballero@portlandoregon.gov>

Date 2018-07-27 15:07


COMPLIANCE OFFICER'S REPORT ON FORCE: PPB TARGETING PEOPLE OF COLOR,
HOUSELESS
Unfortunate Errors, Omission of Shootings, and Other Drawbacks Detract
from Important Analysis
by Portland Copwatch, July 27, 2018

In early July, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL)*-1
released a report on the Portland Police Bureau's progress regarding
changes to Use of Force training, policy and implementation (posted at
 https://www.portlandcocl.com/reports/2018/7/2/compliance-and-outcome-assessment-use-of-force-draft
). Remarkably, through a series of tables and charts, the COCL comes to
the scientific conclusion that community members have known by
observation for years: African Americans, Latinos, youth and houseless
persons have more force used against them than other Portlanders.

This is the second COCL report to examine only one part of the US
Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement since the reporting
began in 2015. Like the April report on Mental Health issues, the new
report found the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) was in "Substantial
Compliance" with all 12 paragraphs relating to Use of Force.*-2 This
means ten of the 12 paragraphs moved up from "Partial Compliance" in the
November 2017 COCL report. That report led Portland Copwatch (PCW) both
then and in April to speculate there is a rush to finish with the
Agreement leading to many paragraphs being "greenlighted." While officer
Use of Force is arguably the issue of most concern to the community at
large, with the new COCL reporting system Force is only being examined
once per year rather than two to four times as was done previously. The
COCL notes there is overlap among the various sections of the report,
but then, for example, defers weighing in on whether officers are being
held accountable for out of policy Force incidents until their report on
the Accountability section in Q4 2018.

Worse, the utmost Use of Force which drives much community consternation
is the Use of Deadly Force (known in PPB parlance as "Level I"). There
have been _sixteen_ officer involved shootings since the COCL started
reporting, and _twenty-two_ since the DOJ Agreement was signed in late
2012.*-3 The vast majority of these incidents involved people in mental
health crisis, the main focus of the Agreement. Looking at less than
deadly uses of force and controlling for reported resistance and other
factors, the new report states people in mental health crisis are not
more likely to be subjected to force. The COCL states there are not
enough cases of "Level I" Use of Force to justify analysis (p. 61).
Considering the in-depth look they give to the intersection of force,
race, mental health, and other factors, and the fact John Elifritz was
shot while in a mental health crisis by eight armed officers during the
review period (October 2017-July 2018), this is an inexcusable omission.
It also ignores their own data (on p. 63) which show people in mental
health crisis are subjected to level II force twice as much as people
who are not (17% vs. 8%).

The COCL says force incidents related to felonies and misdemeanors
account for the "majority" of cases. However, adding up the numbers on
p. 53, one can see such crimes only account for 58% of force use,
meaning people are ticketed or not charged with any crime 42% of the
time-- so as many as three out of every seven uses of force were not
related to serious crimes.

As with the April report, this report utilizes a new rating of
"Substantial-Conditional," which is given to eight of the 12
paragraphs*-4. PCW warned that using green highlight color on all
paragraphs breaks from past analysis (where "Substantial-Conditional"
would have been called "Partial" and colored yellow). Portland Copwatch
noted it creates a psychological mindframe for the Bureau to think they
are done, and anger in community members who are not seeing any change.
Yet the COCL used this new system for a second time.

One incredibly large drawback of the report is that it compares data
from various timeframes, a glitch which the social scientists could
overcome but choose not to. For example, no data are used from prior to
2015, even though in theory to see whether changes made under the
Settlement Agreement are having an effect one would need to go back at
least to 2012. The COCL claims their failure has to do with a database
change made in 2015 (p. 39). Quite a few data sets are limited to July
or August 2017 through March 2018, when the police began tracking a
number of kinds of force which previously were not listed. For example,
"Vehicle Ramming," "Control Against Resistance," and "Baton
(non-strike)" are now required to be reported by officers as low level
uses of force. The COCL cautions readers that the spike in Force Reports
since mid-2017 is "likely" a result of the changes in policy. One
wonders, then, why the COCL team (and the Bureau, for that matter) could
not remove the data on those new categories of Force from their
statistics to show trends going back further than nine months. It makes
sense to also include the new data moving forward, but since the
expanded categories added roughly 700 new incidents just in Q1 2018,
tracking both old and new data would be best.*-5

There are also numerous errors in the report, not the least of which is
a table on page 51 wherein every single row supposedly showing "subject
characteristics by resistance" adds up to a number greater than 100%,
between 102 and 108%.*-6 (We believe it was Mel Brooks who said you
can't have more than 100% of anything.) This does not bolster confidence
in the Compliance Officer's reporting. The office's half a million
dollar a year contract used to include the responsibility to manage and
host meetings of the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB), but the
COAB was dissolved 17 months before this report was written. The
revisions to the Agreement in April divorced the COCL from
responsibility for the new community panel, the Portland Committee for
Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP).*-7 Thus, one wonders why the COCL
could not be bothered to dive into the above-mentioned matters or
proofread their own report.

To be fair, PCW has stated all along that the COCL's reports include
important information, which still holds true here-- including the data
on who gets subjected to force more often. They also reveal the Bureau
has begun tracking cases in which officers did _not_ use force, in order
to better see how well de-escalation and other alternatives to force are
leading to non-violent outcomes (p. 31). That said, the COCL continues
to lecture the Bureau for conflating tactics meant to avoid force with
lowering the amount of force used when discussing de-escalation. PCW
agrees, but has repeatedly suggested that calling the former
de-escalation and the latter "mitigation of force" would go a long way
to ending the confusion. To the Bureau's credit, they put out a memo in
April with specific examples of what is and is not considered
de-escalation.*-8 The COCL also calls out a few cases wherein Bureau
supervisors did not find officers out of policy for using Tasers because
the weapon failed to deliver a 50,000 volt shock when deployed (in one
case, it only hit the person's clothing). Often seeming unconcerned
about the consequences of police violence, the Compliance Officer here
uncharacteristically suggests a Taser discharge should be considered
force whether or not there is an "application," and if need be the
Bureau should change its policy ("Directive") to ensure such incidents
are reviewed as Use of Force.

But still, remnants of the very first COCL report, in which they raised
questions about the validity of community activists, resurface here. In
asking the Bureau to stop printing raw numbers of Force data in their
quarterly and annual reports, the COCL brushes off the fact that these
data were requested by community input (p. 29). There is no effort to
compromise and suggest both rates (percentages) and raw numbers be used.
As part of the its full analysis, PCW examines areas of the COCL's
report which illustrate the importance of including both kinds of
numbers.

Other major concerns include the COCL assuming a factual basis when
officers report a person as being "resistant." There are at least eight
areas where the "level of resistance" is presented as being accurate
based on officer reports, and only two where the COCL describes
"perceived" compliance (on pp. 56 and 64-65). Resistance is broken down
to include people being "disobedient or antagonistic" even though the
report says explicitly the officers are being taught that so-called
"contempt of cop" is not a reason to use force (p. 9).

Also, while the analysis using multiple factors showing which community
members are most likely to be subjected to police Use of Force is
important, none of those factors are the relative representation of
those people in the population. For example, they note African Americans
are 41% more likely than whites to have higher levels of force used on
them (p. 64), there is no analysis that Portland's black population is
just 6% compared to 71% white. Latinos (called "Hispanics" in the
report) are three times more likely than whites to be subjected to high
level force-- but only make up 10% of the population.*-9 In the Outcomes
section, it also shows that in terms of how often force is used during
arrests, Latinos are subjected to force in 2.2-4.7% of the time, African
Americans 2.9-5.6% of the time, and whites just 1.8-3.2% of the time (p.
48). Latinos are subjected to more than twice as much "Level II" force
as African Americans or whites-- 21% vs. 9-10% (p. 63). Houseless
persons are reportedly 3% of Portland's population but, according to the
Bureau's 2017 Force Data Summary Report, received 44% of all force doled
out by the cops (and African Americans received 28% of force). The
Oregonian recently reported "transients" make up 52% of PPB arrests. The
COCL shows houseless persons are 34% more likely to receive serious
force than those who are housed (p. 60). A table on p. 56 shows the
percentage of officers' first use of force on houseless people is higher
than if the person is housed-- 21% vs. 15 % of the time.

A final overall observation: The COCL examines how certain precincts use
force and how people in certain ethnic groups are subjected to force.
However, they do not specifically break out the Gang Enforcement Team to
see whether they are using force at about the same disproportionate rate
against African Americans as they conduct traffic stops, which is 59% in
a city which is 6% black.*-10

See PCW's full analysis at
 http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/COCL_quarterly0718_pcw.html .

Footnotes (introduction/summary):

*1- We previously noted that the US DOJ Agreement has been modified to
remove the COCL's work with the community, so the position should
technically be called the "CO."

*2- The COCL also includes a compliance rating for Settlement Agreement
Section III's opening paragraph, making 13 total.

*3- Another incident in which an officer hit a bicyclist with a police
car was also considered deadly force. An April 2018 incident in which an
officer chased a person backward onto the freeway, leading to a deadly
head-on collision, raises serious questions as well.

*4- The un-numbered opening paragraph of Section III also is rated
"Substantial-Conditional" making nine of 13.

*5- In the Outcomes section, it is stated there were 2617 applications
of force from Q2 2015 to Q2 2017, which PCW calculates is 53% of the
force used in 3 years over the first 9 quarters, with 2216 after the
change redefining force from Q3 2017 to Q1 2018, or 47% in just three
quarters (p. 41).

*6- See  http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/cocl_data0718.pdf , which uses
data from p. 51.

*7- Illustrative of their disinterest in the community board, PCCEP is
not even in the COCL's glossary of abbreviations.

*8- Unfortunately, this was a follow-up to a January memo intending to
explain de-escalation, which was self-contradictory and a confusing
mess. The two memos are included as Appendices 1 and 2 in the report.

*9- Population data taken from Independent Police Review's online
dashboard, May 2018.

*10- Per the Auditor's report on the Gang Enforcement Team from March
2018.

homepage: homepage: http://www.portlandcopwatch.org