The Portland Auditor’s Police Review Division released an 82-page report making thirteen recommendations for reforms of Portland Police Bureau practices based on a review of seven closed case police shootings ranging from 2004 to 2010. They were not the only police shootings in that time period, but were selected because of the victims’ emotional or mental distress levels. Though the first “common theme” the report found in the seven incidents was a delay in interviewing the police officer involved (up to seven days in one instance), eliminating that delay was not one of the recommendations. That delay is mandated by the police union contract. From the report:
In addition, the trend in more recent fatal shootings is for officers, upon advice of counsel, to decline to provide voluntary statements to detectives. As a result, any advantage of affording officers a couple days delay so that a voluntary statement can be obtained no longer exists.
And, as noted above, even in the cases in which officers agree to voluntary interviews, those voluntary interviews similarly do not occur on the date of the incident. The “48-hour rule” dictated by the current Bureau labor contracts continues to impede the Bureau from obtaining even a compelled timely version of what occurred from the involved officers.
As for the thirteen actual recommendations, the police chief Michael Reese responded promptly that he agrees with the vast majority of the recommendations and that some are already in place, though sometimes it’s unclear how. From the chief’s response:
6. PPB should consider developing protocols for how Cadets are to be interviewed in future critical incidents.
Agree. This is our current protocol. The Portland Police Bureau Detective Division conducts interviews of all witnesses to a critical incident, such as an officer involved shooting. These interviews are initiated during the early stages of an investigation and oftentimes may continue in the days and weeks following the incident. As cadets are not sworn police officers, they are interviewed in the same manner as any other witness to a critical incident and do not have any special restrictions or limitations because of their status as a cadet.
As reiterated by the police chief, the report commended the Portland Police Bureau for being “superior to most comparable law enforcement agencies in the way in which it reviews critical incidents” and for “the Bureau’s history of opening itself to outside review and acceptance of recommendations from independent sources [which] likewise sets it apart from many agencies.”
This is the sixth such review of officer shootings or deaths in custody since the division was established in 2001. OPB News reports a seventh review of six additional cases from the same time period as these seven is expected in a year and a half.