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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Police Review Report: 60 Percent of Police Bias Complaints Dismissed

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 11:25 AM

The Independent Police Review (IPR) division is the part of the police department city auditor's office that handles the police department's perhaps most controversial issues: complaints from the public about police behavior.

Today the IPR presented what amounts to an independent review of the independent review, a study of how the division handled citizens' complaints about biased citations and arrests. Portlanders lodged a total of 104 complaints about biased policing in two years, from 2005 through 2007, and the report from the IPR, auditor's office and a Portland State professor looked at a third of those complaints to figure out how the complaint process was shaping up. The stats show that only five percent of police contacts police complaints are about bias and most of those complaints (75 percent) allege racial profiling, the rest allege discrimination based on age, gender or sexual orientation.

The results? Sixty percent of the bias complaints are dismissed outright. The rest are mediated, recorded as complaints or fully investigated. One of the examples of complaints include a man who was stopped for wearing blue clothing (he could be in a gang).

The full report (pdf) notes that a couple behaviors led to most of the complaints. So called "pre-text stops", where an officer uses some small traffic violation (like failing to signal 100 feet before a turn) to pull someone over "gave rise to several complaints from minority drivers," says the report. Also, officers stopping civilians for "mere conversation" also irritated many people who issued complaints.

Though the city council unanimously adopted the report, Commissioner Randy Leonard wanted to see more research not just on how the complaints were handled, but what led to the reports of biased policing in the first place. "If you have 90 people or 100 people who are complaining, how many people in the community are not complaining about the same treatment?" asked Leonard.

Copwatchs Dan Handleman and a suspiciously hooded figure
  • Copwatch's Dan Handleman and a suspiciously hooded figure

Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman testified to council that the report is a good step, but reveals some serious concerns. One of the major issues, noted Handleman: only one disparate treatment complaint in eight years was sustained. "The fact that the report is being presented one day after information was released showing that Keaton Otis, an African American man with mental illness, was apparently stopped for pretextual reasons, probably racially profiled, and shot 23 times over what began as minor traffic violations, should be a clarion all to take this report to heart," said Handelman.

David Cox, a member of the Albina Ministerial Alliance's police oversight group, also testified on the report, flipping his red hood over his face before he spoke. Chief Mike Reese said yesterday that part of the reason officers through Keaton Otis looked suspicious and decided to pull him over was that he was slouching and had his hood over his face. "I decided to wear my hoodie his morning in solidarity with Mr. Otis, who is deceased, along with the thousands of young people who wear this style," said Cox. "It is incredible to me that that becomes part of the profiling."

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