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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New Powers Sought for City's Police Watchdog Agency

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 1:17 PM

As we've reported in today's paper (on newsstands right now, about to be posted here in a little while), the city's Independent Police Review Division has officially proposed a set of code changes that would give it new investigative powers while also forcing the Portland Police Bureau to be more transparent when it comes to the discipline it metes out to its officers.

Here's the list the office released this afternoon:

• Authorize IPR to directly question Police Bureau employees and compel their testimony
• Implement a discipline guideline to allow for fair and consistent discipline
• Create 180-day timeline for administrative investigations
• Expand the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) to 11 members
• Authorize CRC members to serve on Police Review Boards (PRB) in use-of-force cases
• Provide a template for PRB public reports
• Require more detailed public reports for officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths

And here's a sneak peek from my article:

In some cases, the policy changes would reflect what’s become a tacit practice. Despite rules that say only police can directly interview other cops—technically, an IPR investigator must ask an internal affairs investigator in the same room to repeat questions to an officer—the bureau has been casually letting that slide.

In others, the changes would require some major shifts in how the bureau works. For the first time, the bureau would have to tell citizens when a police chief’s discipline veers from the recommendation of the bureau’s citizen-populated Police Review Board (PRB). The chief would also have to explain his decision to depart from the PRB to the police commissioner. And public reports detailing lessons learned after police shootings and in-custody deaths—and naming cops and victims—would need to be produced every year.

“This excessive secrecy and making things up ad hoc, it hurts the effort at holding people accountable,” says Constantin Severe, appointed as IPR’s director this summer after serving, for years, as the office’s top deputy. “It’s important that the public can access what we do, and the same thing goes for officers. How do you hold officers accountable if the rules just change?”

Be sure to read the whole thing when it posts. We've learned some interesting things about a case involving Captain Mark Kruger and retired Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks. And some of our very own reporting—we obtained a rare document this winter showing how often Police Review Board discipline recommendations differ from what the chief hands out—has helped inform the proposed changes.

One thing that's not in the article, though? A response from Police Chief Mike Reese. Some cops are reportedly troubled by some of the proposals. His spokesman finally got back to me this morning with word that Reese won't comment until testifying on the code changes in front of council next week.

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