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Friday, August 1, 2014

Police Union President Touts Concession on Investigation Interviews

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 2:29 PM

A pointed complaint by the president of the Portland Police Association—accusing the city's Independent Police Review office of violating labor agreements and city code when casually contacting cops about investigations—has apparently had its intended effect.

Daryl Turner, in an email yesterday to his nearly 1,000 members, said he sat down with the director of IPR, Constantin Severe, and claimed an essential concession: No matter the situation at hand, Turner writes, IPR investigators will direct all communication through the police bureau's internal affairs division and "will no longer have any informal, direct communications with PPA members without the PPA's and the member's prior consent."

The Mercury first reported Turner's complaint earlier this month and also reported that the complaint was germaine enough that Turner and Severe had agreed to meet. The IPR, which is overseen by the city auditor's office, is separate from the police bureau.

When asked initially about Turner's charge that IPR investigators were contacting cops during investigations, Severe had told that Mercury that wasn't the case—and that the only time that happened was when someone arrested was having a hard time getting back property that had been convicted as evidence.

But after being told the Mercury had seen emails in which an IPR investigator contacted a cop and that cop's supervisor in a traffic case, Severe walked back his previous denial. He said he hadn't thought of one other circumstance: investigations that might lead to a non-disciplinary finding against officers. He also allowed that information obtained in those lower-level contacts might possibly fuel a more serious investigation, although he says it hasn't happened yet.

Turner was among the loudest opponents of a push last fall and winter to formally expand IPR's power, under city code, to conduct independent misconduct investigations, beyond just serving as an intake point for citizen complaints. Turner views an expansion of IPR's powers—something called for in a federal settlement agreement with the police answering accusations our officers have used excessive force against peopl with mental illness—as a civilian encroachment in what he believes should be a police discipline process.

IPR doesn't issue discipline recommendations or mete out actual discipline, but it does review discipline decisions by police officials and can send them to the bureau's Police Review Board if it chooses. But a strong IPR has decided benefits, even for cops. Most infamously, IPR received a tip from a police official that the bureau had planned to squelch a retaliation claim filed against Captain Mark Kruger without doing a real investigation. IPR decided to investigate on it own and because of that investigation, both the Police Review Board and the city's human resources bureau agreed Kruger had violated policy.

A message left with IPR's deputy director seeking comment on Turner's email has not been returned. Turner declined to comment beyond what he wrote in the email. Here's his full statement:

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