And yes, it is a macabre question. Portland may be America's "most patriotic" and "least manly" city, but some people are looking for another ranking: how good we are at handling in-custody deaths. We've had three so far this year, and with the review of the James Chasse case last week, officials got some time to look in the mirror.
At one point during testimony from OIR Group, who prepared an audit of the city's handling of the Chasse case, Mayor Sam Adams asked (by phone) how we're doing: "How would you compare the city of Portland," he asked, "to other cities... in your individual, professional opinions?" Adams said he wasn't asking about anything in the audit report, just for an off-the-cuff assessment.
"We looked at this one incident," replied OIR Chief Attorney Michael Gennaco. The group refused to speculate on how Portland's police bureau compares to others.
If the end goal is to minimize or eliminate in-custody deaths, why does it matter how we "compare" to other cities? "I want to know if we're working hard enough at it," says Adams.
OIR did hold out some praise for Portland in its report. In his response, Police Chief Mike Reese writes, "I am pleased... that the OIR Group has recognized the Portland Police Bureau as being, 'head and shoulders above most comparable agencies with regard to the way in which it investigates critical incidents.' We, like OIR, believe there will always be room for improvement."
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