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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Independent Police Review Director Answers Union President's Claims of Rule-Breaking: Not True

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Yesterday, for the second time in as many months, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner sent his rank-and-file members a missive impugning the work and reputation of the city's civilian-led Independent Police Review.

That memo, which was not shared publicly, accused IPR staffers of flouting city rules approved earlier this year that enshrine IPR's right to launch its own investigations into cops and police issues—without waiting for citizen complaints or for the bureau's internal affairs division to take the lead.

Turner wagged his finger and told his members that cops were being contacted directly by IPR employees, in violation of protocols that still have that kind of contact running through their supervisors, union reps, and internal affairs. IPR Director Constantin Severe didn't immediately comment on what comes off a pretty damning accusation, but he sent a statement last night that leaves things far more clear.

Yes, IPR staffers will sometimes directly contact cops. But, Severe says, not to do investigative interviews. It's because officers are sometimes slow to return personal property that's been confiscated as evidence (we wrote about one such case earlier this year). And people often contact IPR to help break through the stony wall of silence—something he says that precedes his six years of employment with the city.

"Often miscommunication is at the root of the issue," Severe wrote. "It is a very time-intensive process that requires an inordinate amount of staff time but has proven to an effective way of resolving an issue without a complaint being generated."

Severe also states plainly: "IPR has never interviewed a PPB officer without their PPA rep being present. There are a number of protocols, in city code and the PPA collective bargaining agreement that must be followed in order for IPR to conduct an officer interview."

Furthermore, Severe mentions that neither Turner nor the PPA bothered to personally convey any concerns before writing another blistering memo that only PPA members were meant to see. Severe also argues that PPA members—maybe they've been cleared of misconduct in investigations or maybe they've been able to win some relief in a bad workplace situation—have benefited from IPR's work.

Turner, in fact, was the union rep for former Sergeant Kristy Galvan—whose substantiated retaliation complaint against Captain Mark Kruger would have been dismissed by bureau brass if IPR hadn't stepped in. An investigative report obtained by the Mercury quotes Turner defending Galvan in her quest for justice and calling Kruger's actions retaliatory.

Turner, reached on his phone this morning, declined to comment even before hearing what IPR had to say in response to his allegations.

Severe's full statement is after the jump.

IPR has never interviewed a PPB officer without their PPA rep being present. There are a number of protocols, in city code and the PPA collective bargaining agreement that must be followed in order for IPR to conduct an officer interview.

The one area where IPR will contact an officer or a direct supervisor (usually through a brief email inquiry) are in cases when a community member contacts IPR requesting property be returned that was taken as evidence in a criminal prosecution by a PPB officer. Often after a case has been dismissed at arraignment or at the end of prosecution, for a community member to get their property back they need a release from the arresting officer. For a variety of reasons, some community members do not hear back from officers when they make an initial request for a release of their property. Usually after contacting the DA's Office and PPB property and evidence division they contact our office. Generally the community member is not interested in filing a complaint but would like their property returned.

For several years IPR has acted as a liaison in facilitating the return of property to community members. Not every community member gets their property returned, as a case may be ongoing and therefore unreleasable, but we have had some measure of success. Often miscommunication is at the root of the issue. It is a very time-intensive process that requires an inordinate amount of staff time but has proven to an effective way of resolving an issue without a complaint being generated.

I am surprised by Mr. Turner's latest missive to his members, as PPA members have benefited from IPR's efforts as have members of the public. It is a process that allows all parties to come out ahead. I have received no prior communication from the PPA that this was an issue. This is a practice that predates my employment with the city in 2008.

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