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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

City Releases Outside Report on Police Shootings

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 3:44 PM

The city auditor's office this afternoon released the first in what's expected to be a series of reports, by Los Angeles County's Office of Independent Review (OIR), looking at Portland police shootings dating all the way back to 2004.

The city gave OIR, a respected police watchdog that previously reviewed the beating death of James Chasse Jr., a three-year contract last spring.

The inaugural report focuses on seven shootings so far, all of them involving someone in a mental health crisis: James Jahar Perez — March 2004; Raymond Gwerder — November 2005; Jerry Goins — July 2006; Lesley Stewart — August 2007; Jason Spoor — May 2008; Aaron Campbell — January 2010; Jack Dale Collins — March 2010.

And one headline?

Many of these events raise questions about officers’ ability to communicate with each other at the scene of critical incidents, to consider alternative plans, and to respond quickly and effectively when a subject has been downed by police gunfire. The benefit of reviewing multiple incidents occurring over time is that it provides a snapshot of the Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) policies and training as they evolved in response to each incident. In some cases, this evolution is notable and commendable. Others lead us—and members of the public—to question why the Bureau had not learned more from its prior shooting incidents.

I'll have more to say about the 90-plus-page report in awhile, but go ahead and read the findings here.

Here's the rest of what sticks out after a quick scan: One finding is that while our police bureau is "superior" to most when it comes to learning from mistakes and enduring outside review—something I don't think we should lose sight of—"there is still room for improvement."

As such, the report contains a series of recommendations on improving cops' training and tactics, some of which we've heard in various other reports and reviews: giving all officers access to "critical incident" teaching, restricting use of Tasers, expanding the reach of the bureau's mobile crisis unit, and filtering decisions on discipline through the lens of the "crisis intervention training" all officers receive.

Other suggestions would tighten up post-shooting investigations: getting the city's two police unions to stop demanding 48 hours of delay before detectives can interview officers in a shooting, and maybe reconsidering the bureau's work with an outside law enforcement group, the East County Major Crimes Task Force, on internal shooting investigations.

Update 4:40 PM: Jason Renaud, an advocate with the Mental Health Association of Portland, just emailed his rather tart assessment of the OIR report: "Our people paid a high premium for a mix of public relations advice and common sense. There's no recommendation that would have stopped Jack Collins or Raymond Gwerder or Aaron Campbell from being killed."

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