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Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Complaints About Police Complaint Process

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM

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Portland Copwatch's Dan Handleman was all alone last week at city hall when he warned city council that a small change in the police oversight process would have a big impact on the way citizen complaints against police officers are handled. As detailed in the news section this week and last week, only about one percent of citizen complaints wind up with real disciplinary action again the officer. The new rule would tweak the complaint review process to allow an officer's supervisor to vote on whether a complaint against their subordinate was valid.

But yesterday for the proposed change's second reading at City Hall, Handelman had a crowd of supporters ragging on the rule change, including the ACLU and several members of the police bureau's citizen advisory committee.

In addition to the actual impact of the change, the citizen advisory committee was pissed off because no one told them about it—Commissioner Randy Leonard sat in on their June 10th meeting, but didn't mention the change that would come before council on June 16th. Most members, and Andrea Meyer of the ACLU, found out about it thanks to an email from Copwatch.

"I don't think this is going to do much of anything to engender trust of this process, when you have the supervisor who prepares this report voting on whether that report is legitimate," committee member TJ Browning told council yesterday. "Not saying one word about this change to us really disturbs me... It's frankly insulting."

More on the story below the cut.

Commissioner Leonard countered by saying he really, truly believed that allowing the supervisor to vote was a small administrative change with little impact. He had this to say about Copwatch and the ACLU: "The last police chief said I was too close with Dan [Handelman], just parroting what he said. I've known Andrea Meyer since our days in the legislature. But, having said that, you guys don't represent the community. We want this ordinance to work. I'm asking that you approve this change in order that we get off on the best foot possible."

But Commissioner Amanda Fritz wasn't having it. "Whether the commander is voting is not as nearly as important as the trust issue... I understand that the auditor and Commissioner Leonard viewed this as a housekeeping amendment, but we've heard that that's not how it's being viewed in the community."

Since the rule change was an "emergency" amendment (meaning it would take effect immediately), it took only one council vote to kill it. Commissioner Saltzman was up first on voting and took the bullet, voting no. The citizen review committee will now get a change to discuss the change in July.

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