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Newly released documents show fired cop carried beanbag shotgun for years without proper training

Posted by Jenny on 22nd November 2013

Dane Reister

Dane Reister

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Nov. 21, 2013

Portland Police Officer Dane Reister, fired last month for mistakenly loading lethal buckshot into a beanbag shotgun and critically wounding a man two years ago, was never certified to carry the gun — one of a handful of officers who carried beanbag guns on patrol for years without formal training.

The Police Bureau’s internal review found that Reister had never received the required two-day training for the 12-gauge beanbag shotgun. He and others believed they had gotten the certification after attending a less-lethal weapons training in 2002 for members of the Rapid Response Team, a specialized crowd-control unit. But the session didn’t include hands-on training for the beanbag shotgun, investigators learned.

Only after Reister had misused the beanbag shotgun and fired four lethal rounds from it, permanently wounding 20-year-old William Kyle Monroe in June 2011, did investigators discover that he and at least four other officers never should have been carrying the less-lethal shotguns at all, according to internal police documents released Thursday at the order of the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office. The order followed public records requests by The Oregonian and the Portland Mercury.

READDane Reister Termination Letter (PDF, 399KB)

READ — Training Division Review (PDF, 356KB)

READ — Investigative Report (PDF, 1.02MB)

READ — Findings Memo (PDF, 658KB)

Reister told detectives that he had been carrying the beanbag shotgun on patrol for nine years, fired it 12 to 15 times on the street and qualified at the shooting range with it 18 times between 2002 and January 2011. No Portland police firearms instructor or training supervisor apparently ever checked when he went to qualify whether he was supposed to be carrying that firearm, the records show.

In fact, based on the Police Bureau’s presumption that Reister had been certified to use the beanbag shotgun, he was allowed to serve as a grenadier – a chemical munitions specialist on the crowd control team. During training with that unit in 2006, Reister fired a loaded 37 mm riot-suppression launcher and struck an officer posing as a protester with a smoke projectile. Reister had forgotten he had loaded a live smoke round in the chamber and was disciplined with a reprimand letter.

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese cited the earlier error in the Oct. 2 letter he wrote to Reister firing him for shooting Monroe.

“You are being terminated from employment because, for the second time, you injured another person by discharging a weapon with rounds in it that were not supposed to be in the weapon,” Reese wrote.

The chief acknowledged that the bureau continues to look for ways to improve, but said Reister needed to take responsibility for his actions. “You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that you have loaded the correct ammunition in the weapons you use,” he wrote.

Portland Police Bureau Press Release

FlashAlert.net, Nov. 21, 2013

The Portland Police Bureau has posted investigative materials, the internal review, the Training Division review, and the termination letter associated with Officer Dane Reister who was terminated from the Portland Police Bureau on October 15, 2013.

These materials were released after an order to do so by the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office who considered an appeal by members of the Portland media.

Officer Dane Reister was terminated for violations of Directive 315.30 (Unsatisfactory Performance) and Directive 1050.00 (Less Lethal Weapons and Munitions).

The violations stem from the June 30, 2011, incident involving the shooting of lethal rounds rather than less lethal shotgun rounds, which critically injured William Monroe.

On October 15, Chief Mike Reese stated, “This has been a long and thorough investigation, which had complexities due to the pending criminal charges. The events of June 30th devastated the lives of those involved, but we hope that this action will bring some sense of closure.”

These documents can be found by visiting http://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/63910

Reese also concluded that Monroe didn’t pose an immediate threat when shot.

On June 30, 2011, Reister responded to a call of a man with a knife harassing children at Lair Park. He found Monroe along Southwest Naito Parkway. When Monroe ignored Reister’s commands to sit on the ground and instead ran off, Reister chased after him and fired the shotgun at him. His shots fractured Monroe’s pelvis and punctured his bladder, abdomen and colon. The fourth shot, fired from less than 15 feet away, left a softball-sized hole in his left leg and severed his sciatic nerve. Monroe, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, narrowly escaped bleeding to death, his lawyer has said.

The city of Portland this spring agreed to pay a record $2.3 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Monroe. Reister, 42, who joined the Police Bureau in 1996, has pleaded not guilty to third- and fourth-degree assault charges, becoming the first Portland officer ever to face a criminal indictment for force used on duty. The Portland Police Association has filed a grievance to challenge Reister’s firing.

READPPA Grievance for Dane Reister (PDF, 648KB)

“The fact that he didn’t even know he had the proper training, as well as other officers, is a serious concern,” said Reister’s lawyer, Janet Hoffman, on Thursday.

A review of the shooting by the bureau’s Training Division also revealed missing training records and lesson plans from the crowd control team despite a policy that calls on all units to provide the material to the division for review and approval.

“If this policy is not enforced Bureau wide, this will continue to plague the Bureau as we move forward with trying to decipher which officers received exactly what training and what was taught at the training,” Training Lts. Mike Krantz and Derek Rodrigues wrote.

Commander Robert Day displays a less-lethal beanbag shotgun (L), conspicuously marked in bright orange, and (R) a standard shotgun

Commander Robert Day displays a less-lethal beanbag shotgun (L), conspicuously marked in bright orange, and (R) a standard shotgun

Reister should have noticed right away that he had fired lethal rounds at Monroe, the lieutenants said. There’s a “substantial difference” in the sound made and in the physical recoil felt by a shooter firing double 00 buckshot versus beanbag rounds, they wrote.

After the shooting, Reister told investigators that he could not remember visually inspecting the rounds he had loaded into the shotgun.

He said he usually kept the yellow beanbag rounds in a clear evidence bag or jail property bag in the top right quadrant of his duty bag, while the red lethal rounds were in the manufacturer’s boxes in the bottom of his duty bag.  He said he used his binoculars as a divider.

Yet Reister remembered touching the rounds when loading the shotgun that day. “I remember feeling ‘em in my hand, the tactile, I remember that,” he said. “What I don’t get is how my … my eyes may have seen it, but my mind didn’t tell me that it was the wrong color.”

Reister told investigators that he did not recall feeling the gun’s recoil and said the shotgun sound was “very faint.”

Four months after the shooting, as Reister’s lawyer argued in court that her client’s mistake was partly due to the Police Bureau’s negligent policies, the police chief issued a new policy. It required that beanbag ammunition be stored only in a carrier attached to the side or stock of the orange-painted, 12-gauge beanbag shotguns.

The Training Division has identified the officers who attended the same 2002 Rapid Response Team training as Reister had — and notified them that if they had not completed a less-lethal certification course, they were not certified to carry the beanbag shotgun. Under bureau policy, officers could only qualify at a firing range on a certain weapon if their name was on a list of certified operators for the weapon. Yet the bureau’s Training Division did not regularly supply an official list of certified operators for range qualifications, the police internal inquiry found.

Reister said he fired at Monroe because he did not want him running into a neighborhood and possibly hurting someone. After the shooting, Reister and other officers who approached were shocked by the amount of blood pouring from Monroe. At first, Reister said he thought his beanbag rounds had “over penetrated” Monroe.

But he walked down the grassy hill and told investigators later: “I believe I was standing, and I see a spent 12 gauge lethal round. And my heart sinks. And it makes sense. And my feelings of uh, of uh, relief that it was over, that it had, that we had safely uh, uh stopped this guy before harming somebody went from relief to, oh my god, what just happened? A horrible mistake has been made.”


Cop in Ammo Mixup Was Fired Over Past Record of Accidents; Documents Reveal Lapses in Training Records

By Denis C. Theriault, The Portland Mercury, Nov. 21, 2013

Dane Reister

Dane Reister

Officer Dane Reister, fired last month for mistakenly shooting a [man diagnosed with bipolar disorder] with live shotgun rounds, had a history of slip-ups and accidents involving police property, according to a copy of his termination letter obtained by the Mercury—including a 2006 incident in which he’d injured a fellow cop with a smoke grenade he’d forgotten to unload.

Beyond that glaring mistake, Reister was counseled for failing to keep adequate control of police property and for getting into an accident he could have prevented. He also was suspended early in his career for misuse of overtime.

That record factored heavily in the decision to fire Reister, who, in 19 years as a cop, had served as a crisis intervention officer and a training instructor for young cops. Chief Mike Reese was scathingly blunt in explaining his thinking in the six-page termination letter he’d given to Reister on October 2. While Reese acknowledged that some changes could be made in bureau procedure on handling ammunition (and, indeed, have been made), the fault was all Reister’s.

Screen_shot_2013-11-21_at_12.58.38_PM.png

 

But Reese also made clear the horror of what happened to the man Reister shot in the summer of 2011, William Kyle Monroe, who survived but with permanent injuries, was equally important.

There is not an excuse sufficient enough to relieve you of responsibility for not knowing what rounds you loaded in a weapon before firing it, particularly when that weapon is fired at another person with serious—and potentially deadly—consequences.

Reese’s letter also confirmed he wasn’t going out of his way to punish Reister. He said the city’s Police Review Board, a panel made up of civilians, the city’s Independent Police Review Director, and several officers—unanimously agreed that Reister deserved to be fired.

The bureau initially declined to release the termination letter when asked by the Mercury and the Oregonian. The papers appealed to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, which referred the matter to its counterparts in Clackamas County in part because criminal charges against Reister, for negligent wounding, are still pending. The criminal case holdup involves, in part, the 2006 incident Reese cited in his letter.

The Clackamas County DA’s Office ruled last week that the police bureau had to turn over the letter. It also ruled favorably on three other document requests made, in this case, solely by the Mercury: the bureau’s training review of the shooting, the commander’s findings memo, and the internal investigation of the case.

Screen_shot_2013-11-21_at_1.20.07_PM.png

 

The city had tried to argue that releasing the documents would embarrass Reister, who was just a low-level cop and not a commanding officer. It also argued that enough about the shooting had already been made public. The Clackamas County DA’s office agreed with us, especially given the criminal case, that more information about the case—including a look at the bureau’s response—was clearly in the public’s interest.

Update 2:48 PM: So here’s a quick recap of what’s in those other documents. Reister worked an overtime shift in Old Town the night before, until 4 am, where he carried for reasons he wasn’t clear about, a loaded lethal shotgun—a departure from his usual choice of an AR-15 rifle. He doesn’t remember how he loaded lethal rounds into his less-lethal shotgun the next day. He also said he didn’t realize, despite briefly pausing between trigger pulls, he was firing lethal rounds—which kick and sound differently than beanbag rounds.

This is relevant, because the bureau’s investigation also found Reister was never actually certified to carry a less-lethal shotgun. He missed the two-day course for certified carriers and attended, instead, a class generally on less-lethal weapons as part of his training in 2002 before joining the bureau’s riot squad. Reister was among a handful of cops who fell into that loophole, thinking that class certified them. It did not. And it wasn’t clear beanbag guns were ever demonstrated in the class.

Lesson plans are missing—which the bureau’s training division has identified as a broader problem among the police bureau’s various specialty units. In essence, the training division currently can’t vouch that officers’ training records are as they seem.

The decision to use force, however, was blessed by bureau commanders. Central Precinct Commander Bob Day and witness cops all said this was a textbook case of when a beanbag gun should be used. Provided the right bullets had been loaded inside.

“My mind is just sp- sp- spinning and I walk down the hill to where I believe I was standing and I see a spent 12 gage lethal round. And my heart sinks. And it makes sense. And my feelings of uh, of uh, relief that it was over, that it had, that we had safely uh, uh, stopped this guy before harming somebody went from relief to, oh my god, what just happened? A horrible mistake has been made. And uh – I see that round and it happens to be that a sergeant is standing right there, Sergeant Marty Schell. And I look at the sergeant and I say immediately, I said Sergeant, I fired lethal rounds. That’s a lethal round, I fired lethal rounds. I wanted him to know right away so that he knew what the deal, what was going on so he -I wanted that guy to get medical help.”

Day looked into the confusion over Reister’s certification and said the allegation that he violated bureau policy on less-lethal munitions was unproven. He counted the ammunition mistake as a matter of basic competency and said that allegation was sustained. Reese agreed with the first, but not the second. When the bureau announced Reister’s dismissal last month, both directives—on competency and less-lethal procedures—were mentioned.

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City, police union reach tentative agreement on reforms

Posted by Jenny on 8th November 2013

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Nov. 6, 2013

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who serves as police commissioner, stood with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall and Police Chief Mike Reese, on the left, and city commissioners, on the right, to announce the city had reached a tentative agreement on police reforms with the police union.(Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who serves as police commissioner, stood with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall and Police Chief Mike Reese, on the left, and city commissioners, on the right, to announce the city had reached a tentative agreement on police reforms with the police union.(Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)

See FAQ below

Portland city officials stood with the police union president and the state’s top prosecutor Wednesday to announce that the city and police union had reached a tentative agreement on reforms to address last year’s scathing federal investigation.

The police union waived its right to challenge proposed changes to the Police Bureau’s use of force and Taser policies — although it’s unclear what final changes the city agreed to make.

But the union retained the right to challenge any reforms that would require officers to give on-scene interviews to detectives after an officer-involved shooting or allow investigators with the city’s Independent Review Division to directly question officers.

READTentative settlement agreement (PDF, 170KB)*

*This is the working version used throughout mediation. We have no knowledge yet of any new or updated document that may have been produced as a result of today’s agreement. –Eds.

READMHAP’s letter to all mental health advocates, 3/24/13

READMHAP’s response to earlier draft of settlement, 10/29/12

READAll items tagged ‘DOJ’

The agreement still must be approved by members of the rank-and-file Portland Police Association and the City Council. Some of the reforms also have been part of recent contract negotiations between the city and police union, which is also nearing a final contract deal.

“This is a day that some people might have wondered would ever occur,” said Mayor Charlie Hales, who serves as police commissioner. “We could have failed … but we are here.”

“I’m very proud we are going to move forward together on a settlement on these very critical issues,” Hales said.

Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said a federal judge will now schedule a fairness hearing to seek input on the package of reforms so they can be adopted in federal court.

The tentative agreement between the city and police union, Marshall said, removes the “one barrier to our final goal” of getting a federal judge to sign off on the police reform package.

“This is a fantastic day for the city of Portland,” Marshall said.

The issue arose after the U.S. Department of Justice found last year that Portland police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people suffering from or perceived to have a mental illness. The findings followed a nearly 15-month federal investigation.

Last November, the City Council approved an initial settlement agreement that called for widespread changes to police policies on use of force, Tasers, training, supervision and oversight. It also called for restructuring police crisis intervention training and quicker internal inquiries into alleged police misconduct.

The police union objected to the settlement, arguing that changes to the use of force policy, disciplinary procedures and working conditions needed to be the subject of mandatory bargaining.

Officer Daryl Turner, Portland Police Association president, said Wednesday that the union’s desire was to preserve and protect the bargaining rights of its members. As part of the tentative agreement, it withdrew its pending grievance against the settlement.

“The mediation process has worked,” Turner said.

After the brief news conference, Deputy City Attorney Dave Woboril said there won’t be substantial changes to the chief’s rewritten use of force and Taser policies.

Yet Turner signaled that the chief’s final draft will include more than just tweaks.

“The only changes in the force policy are the constitutional changes made since the last force policy was implemented,” Turner said. He declined to say what they include, saying they haven’t been presented to his union members yet. The union has scheduled meetings on Nov. 9, 14, 15 and 16 with its members to ratify a new contract.

City officials have said in the past that one of the main points in dispute came down to the standard for analyzing police use of force. The Police Bureau and city have disagreed with the union’s stance, which would preclude hindsight analysis of an officer’s use of force and restrict a review into whether the actions were reasonable from the officer’s perspective at the time of the incident.

It’s unclear how that has been resolved.

“Wow, we are pleased to be standing here today,” Police Chief Mike Reese said. “There is still work to be done.”

He said the agreement will provide a “road map to guide us forward.”

But Pastor T. Allen Bethel, chairman of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, said afterward: “We’re not totally satisfied.”

“We want to see IPR (the Independent Police Review Division) become truly independent and be represented by independent counsel, not tied to the city attorney’s office,” Bethel said.  He challenged the police chief’s recent statement to the City Council that the police oversight system in place now is working well.

“It is not working well, and it does need to be strengthened and truly independent,” Bethel said.

City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, who sent out a stinging memo to the council and mayor last week questioning their commitment to police accountability, stood with other city officials at the press conference, but wasn’t asked to speak.

Griffin-Valade said later that she still hopes to push forward the reforms her office has proposed to strengthen the review division, which she oversees.

Hales, who was criticized last week for not moving more quickly on the auditor’s proposals, said he has talked with Griffin-Valade about the memo.

“Those reforms are going to move forward,” he said. “As mayor I don’t condone show hearings. I conduct real hearings. We don’t make up our minds before the hearings. We’re going to craft our policy in the light of day and actually debate.”

The mayor said the union has agreed to the adoption of a matrix to guide the Police Bureau on what discipline to mete out for officer misconduct and changes to the use of force and Taser policies. But he said there’s been no agreement on an effort to seek voluntary statements from officers involved in a shooting in less than the 48-hour window now granted them and an Independent Police Review Division proposal to allow its investigators the right to compel officer testimony. Both would likely require mandatory bargaining, and were not included in the union’s next contract.

Wednesday’s announcement came a week before a federal judge had asked all sides to submit legal briefs for what had been shaping up to be a prospective trial next year on whether Portland police had used excessive force against people with mental illness.

The new agreement should forestall a protracted court proceeding and allow the reforms to proceed.


Settlement FAQ

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Nov. 6, 2013

Here are some answers to questions you may have on the pending U.S. Department of Justice settlement with the city of Portland on reforms to the Portland Police Bureau:

Why are the reforms necessary?

The U.S. Department of Justice last fall completed a nearly 15-month investigation that found Portland officers used excessive force on people with mental illness. It also found police engaged in unjustified use of Tasers against people with mental illness. Federal officials called for a package of reforms to police policies, training and oversight.

What happened next?

The city and federal officials proposed widespread changes that the City Council adopted on Nov. 14, 2012. They called for new policies on use of force, Tasers, training, supervision and oversight. They also demanded restructured police crisis intervention training and quicker internal affairs inquiries into alleged police misconduct.

Why did the Portland Police Association object?

When the settlement agreement went before U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon for review and approval, the police union argued that many of the reforms should be part of mandatory bargaining because they affected disciplinary procedures and officer working conditions.

When the union objected, what did the federal judge recommend?

The federal judge appointed a mediator to help the city and police union work out their differences.

Have any of the proposed reforms been implemented?

Yes. The Police Bureau started to do training on revised use of force and Taser policies, but those trainings were halted early this year when the union filed a grievance with the city, contesting them. They’ve remained on hold since then.

But these changes were put in place:

The bureau created a new Behavioral Health Unit, expanded to five the number of officers paired with mental health specialists and created an Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team of about 50 officers who receive extra training to go out on calls involving people suffering mental health crises.

The bureau also, at the Justice Department’s recommendation, now sends sergeants to the scene when officers use force so the sergeants can be involved in the initial investigation.

The bureau also has assigned an inspector to analyze all police use of force.

What happened Wednesday?

Mayor Charlie Hales and the Portland Police Association announced they had reached a tentative agreement to work out their differences, but they offered few details.

It’s unclear what concessions the city may have made as part of this year’s contract talks with the police union to achieve the deal. The union has scheduled meetings with its members on Nov. 9, 14, 15 and 16 to ratify the new contract.

The union waived its right to challenge the bulk of the federal settlement agreement, yet the union retained its right to challenge two main areas: provisions that would require officers involved in a shooting to be interviewed at the scene by detectives; and, any broadening of the city Independent Police Review Division’s powers to allow its investigators to directly question officers in its investigations.

What’s next?

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon will schedule a fairness hearing to seek public input on the settlement agreement and the reforms. U.S. Justice officials and the city are hoping the judge ultimately will sign the agreement as an order of the court.

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Reaction to City Auditor’s memo on police review is mixed

Posted by Jenny on 30th October 2013

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Oct. 29, 2013

Reaction was mixed Tuesday, a day after Portland’s city auditor sent a blistering memo to the mayor and city council members identifying “alarming lapses” in police accountability by top police command staff.

READCity Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade’s memo (PDF, 72KB)

READMHAP’s written testimony before City Council

Police Chief Mike Reese, whose two top appointees were identified in the memo as taking inappropriate action to either halt an internal affairs inquiry or duck an interview by an independent investigator, had little to say.

He refused to answer specific written questions about the issues raised.

“The City Council is currently weighing the proposed changes brought forth by the Auditor,” Reese said in an e-mailed response. “We will continue to have thoughtful discussions with the members of City Council in the coming weeks to answer any questions they have.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who serves as police commissioner and is out of town this week on a work-related trip to China, has read Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade‘s memo, his spokesman Dana Haynes said.

“He is aware of her memo. He has access to her memo,” Haynes said. “He has no comment on her memo.”

But City Council member Nick Fish said he understands the auditor’s frustration and wants to work to revive council action on the auditor’s package of reforms.

“We need to implement these changes to improve accountability and get this back on track,” Fish said.

In the Monday memo, Griffin-Valade said she felt that the mayor and council didn’t recognize the “urgency” and need to move forward with changes to strengthen Portland police oversight, as sought by the U.S. Department of Justice. While Reese testified before the council last week that the current oversight system “is working very well,” the auditor said that’s not the case at all, highlighting several lapses in accountability by two high-ranking police supervisors in the last six months.

“There’s been very recent activity within the high command of the Police Bureau that has caused our office concern,” said Constantin Severe, director of the Independent Police Review Division.

Under the auditor’s proposed reforms, the Independent Police Review Division’s civilian investigators would be able to question officers directly and compel their testimony. The division would be granted oversight of the bureau’s high-ranking civilian supervisors. The Police Bureau would have to inform the Independent Police Review Division whenever an internal affairs inquiry was halted, and the chief would have to explain in writing to the mayor every time he did not follow a Police Review Board’s recommended discipline for an officer.

The chief opposed each of these proposals, which were drafted specifically to address problems that occurred under his watch.

Fish said he believes there’s consensus on the council for most of the proposals, except two or three and would hope that any outstanding questions are cleared up over the next three weeks.

City Attorney James Van Dyke is expected to provide a legal opinion to commissioners by Friday whether allowing civilian investigators  to question officers directly and compel their testimony requires mandatory bargaining. Fish said he wants to make sure a proposed speedier 180-day timeline for completion of internal affairs inquiries is realistic.

“These reforms are important. I regret the auditor felt in any way that the council was being cavalier about these proposals,” Fish said. He added that he was somewhat confused about the proposals, due to lack of communication between the mayor and commissioners before last week’s hearing.

“What is clear is the auditor, the IPR director, the mayor and the police chief need to get in a room and work out their remaining differences,” Fish said. “Let’s fix the problem. Let’s go forward. I think we need to show some urgency.”

If no agreement can be reached, the council must act regardless, he said.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she was disappointed that the auditor has chosen to take her proposed police oversight reforms off the council agenda.

Fritz said she supported many of the proposed reforms, but doesn’t think they go far enough and suggested a stakeholder committee be created to examine them further.

Fritz said she, too, was “perturbed” by the chief’s characterization of a system that’s working well and his opposition to changes that would allow the Independent Police Review Division to conduct meaningful independent inquiries. The division is under the auditor’s office, not the Police Bureau.

“That’s why we have an IPR system and hopefully they can hold supervisors accountable,” Fritz said. “I believe there’s value in further discussion.”

But Severe described the proposed reforms as straightforward, meant to address the demands of the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal justice officials called for a package of reforms to police policies, training and oversight after an investigation last year found Portland police engaged in excessive force against people with mental illness.

“The things we’re asking for in the (city) code changes are pretty basic,” Severe said. “It’s like oversight 101.”

Severe said he opposed convening a a stakeholder’s committee on the proposed reforms, which have been discussed for several months and agreed to as part of a pending settlement with the Justice Department.

“For everybody to try to act like we’re in Casablanca and this is a surprise, is not fair, ” Severe said. “The way we’ve done oversight in Portland is based on personality, but you can’t have oversight based on gentleman’s agreements.”

Instead, convening a stakeholder’s group to address the broader question of what type of police oversight the community wants would make more sense, he said.

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Chief Mike Reese objects to proposed police review changes

Posted by Jenny on 28th October 2013

From OPB’s Think Out Loud, Oct. 28, 2013

LISTEN – Interview with Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese delivered strong remarks to the city council this week about proposed changes to the system of investigating complaints about police and officer-involved shootings. The director of the Independent Police Review (IPR) Division told Think Out Loud before the council meeting that these changes were needed in order to comply with the city’s 2012 settlement agreement with the federal Department of Justice (DOJ). The agreement came after incidents involving police use of force against people with mental illness and a lengthy DOJ investigation.

In his remarks to the council, Reese said the changes — especially the ones that would affect how the IPR conducted investigations — are not necessary and that the current system is “working well.”

Mayor Charlie Hales, who oversees the Police Bureau, has put the issue off until the city council’s December 4th meeting.

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City Council defers changes to IPR

Posted by Jenny on 24th October 2013

By Helen Silvis, The Skanner, Oct. 23, 2013

Police Chief Mike Reese

Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland City Council deferred a decision on a string of proposals from the auditor’s office to make changes to the Independent Police Review Division. The council will address the proposals Dec. 4 after more study.

Constantin Severe, IPR director, introduced the new proposals, which include: giving the IPR the power to compel officers to answer their questions;  expanding the citizens review committee from nine to 11 members;  allowing the IPR to open cases independently; and releasing more information to the public when officers use force.

“Our strategy is to implement the changes in the Department of Justice agreement that are most urgent,” Severe told city commissioners.

In 2012, a DOJ investigation concluded that the Portland Police Bureau operated with a “pattern or practice” that violated the civil rights of people with mental illness. The blistering report also raised concerns about police relationships with communities of color.

A long line of community organizations and citizens testified at Wednesday’s hearing, most urging council members to go further in strengthening the IPR and the citizens review committee.

READMHAP’s written testimony

“In no way do these recommendations address the depth and breadth of concern felt by citizens in our city,” said Michael Alexander testifying for the Urban League of Portland.

Police Chief Mike Reese introduced Capt. Dave Famous, who discussed graphs showing that both police use of force and police complaints have dropped considerably over the last 10 years.

Lt. Jeff Bell from the police bureau’s internal affairs committee said he opposed the recommendations to allow the IPR to initiate investigations and to compel officer testimony. The system currently allows the IPR to have their questions answered, he said. Changes to the current system would become an issue in negotiating the police contract. Bell and Chief Reese said several changes would be mandatory bargaining items.

“The bureau is not aware of any problems with the current system where the IPR participates in the investigation,” Reese said. “The current system is working very well. The IPR is able to participate in investigations and able to have their questions answered.”

Commissioner Nick Fish said he wanted to clarify if the change would become an issue in contract negotiation since lawyers advising the IPR and the Portland Police Bureau disagree.

Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner also raised the question of the rights of police under labor law and the police contract. He urged council members to reject the proposed changes, saying they would undermine the police line of accountability turning it over to civilians.

Jan Friedman, staff attorney with Disability Rights Oregon, said more transparency and accountability is needed to address the concerns raised in the Department of Justice report.

“If they don’t have access to police officers they are not able to do an independent investigation,” she said.

Kayse Jama, executive director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing, said the changes don’t go far enough.

“We must do more and we must do it now, to achieve justice for the community,” he said.

“The oversight workgroup made 44 recommendations. Only four have been included.”

Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch also said the changes don’t go far enough.

“The changes only add power to the IPR professional staff while delaying changes that would strengthen its Citizen Review Committee,” he said. “IPR similarly pushed through a package of changes in early 2010 with virtually no public input, which led to the formation of an Oversight Stakeholders group. That group put out a report with 41 recommendations, only four of which were incorporated into the ordinance previously and only one more of which is being proposed this time.”

JoAnn Hardesty, of Consult Hardesty and a member of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, said she spoke for herself and not the alliance. She reviewed the history for council members, and reminded them that the settlement with the Department of Justice was far from final, and had been created without public comment.

“The public did not have any opportunity to weigh in,” she said. “We have departments and bureaus operating as if a settlement agreement is in place.”

Portland still faces a federal court case. After the Department of Justice civil rights investigation found the Portland Police Bureau has a “pattern or practice” of excessive force against people with mental illness, the police union challenged items in the settlement agreement with the city.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ordered the police union, the city and the Justice Department to find a solution through mediation. The Albina Ministerial Alliance was also allowed to participate as community representatives.  So far, the parties have failed to reach an agreement in mediation.

Judge Simon also has said he plans to hold a fairness review next summer so the public can weigh in on the final agreement.

Hardesty said that hearing will be important in deciding the fate of the settlement.

“The community fairness hearing will finally give the community an opportunity to weigh in on the settlement,” she said. And she argued the fall in complaints against officers only proved her point.

“There is a good reason why the number of complaints is down,” she said. “It’s because the community has no confidence that IPR or IA (internal affairs)  has the power to investigate the police.”

Council members, Chief Reese, Severe and others voiced concerns about the 180-day limit on investigations. Reese said many factors could prevent the bureau from sticking to that timeline. He said it should be looked at as a target not a deadline.

Community advocates, on the other hand, worried that the 180-day timeline would allow officers to escape discipline if the timeline was exceeded.

City employee Jeri Williams was one of several people who shared their own frustration with a police accountability process, the DOJ called “Byzantine” and self-defeating.

Williams son, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, had an adverse experience with the police. With tears in her eyes Williams said her experience had left her with “no faith in the process.”

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MHAP, others will offer testimony on police review

Posted by Jenny on 24th October 2013

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Oct. 23, 2013

PPB shieldA number of proposed Portland City Code changes that would expand the powers of the Independent Police Review Division and require more information be made public on the police chief’s disciplinary decisions are to go before City Council this afternoon.

The League of Women Voters, Portland Copwatch and the Mental Health Association of Portland already have weighed in, releasing their written testimony.

Portland Copwatch will urge the council not to adopt the proposed changes. The police watchdog group argues that the changes only add power to the professional staff working for the city’s Independent Police Review Division, the intake center for complaints against Portland police, yet do not significantly strengthen the citizen panel that hears complainant’s appeals of police investigative findings.

“While many of the proposed ideas are good first steps, they do not go far enough to ensure thorough, independent and transparent oversight of the police,” wrote Dan Handelman, who runs the police watchdog group Portland Copwatch.

Jason Renaud, of the Mental Health Association of Portland, called the existing citizen complaint process “daunting,” especially for people suffering from mental illness.

“The paperwork, investigations, lengthy waits and public exposure are substantial barriers to participation,” Renaud in written testimony he’ll present to council.

Renaud suggests that the Independent Police Review Division hire peer mediators who share common life experiences with persons with mental illness. They would help guide a person through the complaint process, or offer an alternative –  a personal conversation with a specified officer, who will show up out of uniform and at a meeting site other than a police station.

“The opportunity to speak privately and face-to-face, is far more likely to result in meaningful and satisfying conflict resolution than a lengthy investigation and hearing,” Renaud wrote.

The co-presidents of the League of Women Voters said the league generally supports the proposed changes but asks that the council obtain more input from the community and the Citizen Review Committee. The league’s leaders said they’re concerned about what would happen to a complaint if an investigation is not completed by the proposed 180-day deadline.

“The League recommends that this process be slowed down so that the public’s voice can be heard,” the league co-presidents Margaret Noel and Kathleen Hersh wrote to council.

Under the proposed changes, investigators from Portland’s Independent Police Review Division could directly question and compel testimony from any officer or police bureau employee.

If a sworn officer or civilian member of the Police Bureau refused an interview, they could face discipline, up to discharge, by the chief or police commissioner. Employes would be told the date and time of the interview and would have the right to have a union representative present.

Portland Officer Daryl Turner, president of the rank-and-file union the Portland Police Association, said last week that he had not discussed the proposed changes with the IPR division director. He said such a change would be a subject of mandatory bargaining. He said he hoped to meet with the director to find out what the interviews would be used for.

“My job is to protect officers’ rights,” Turner said. “Right now, we will look at the proposal, meet with the city and in the end, hope there’s a collaborative effort to reach agreement.”

In another proposed code change, public reports on alleged police misconduct cases heard by the Portland Police Review Board, which recommends discipline to the chief, would be expanded to include the board’s recommended findings, the police chief’s proposed discipline and the final discipline.

If the chief imposes discipline different from the review board’s recommendation, the chief would have to provide a written explanation to the police commissioner.

The chief’s final discipline is not included in the public reports now.

The matter was raised when Police Chief Mike Reese last year disregarded the review board’s recommendation to fire then-Capt. Todd Wyatt and instead demoted Wyatt to lieutenant. The review board found Wyatt had inappropriately touched female employees under his command, wasn’t truthful about what had occurred and escalated an off-duty road rage encounter by flashing his gun and badge.

Mary-Beth Baptista, then director of the Independent Police Review Division, criticized the chief’s decision in the Wyatt case, saying it wasn’t what police accountability looked like.

Other proposed changes would alter the makeup of the Citizen Review Committee, now a nine-member volunteer group that hears appeals from people who have filed complaints against an officer and seek to challenge the bureau’s findings. The committee would grow to 11 members, and all would have to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The Independent Police Review Division also is recommending changes in Police Bureau command structure. The head of police internal affairs would report directly to the police chief, “given the sensitive nature of misconduct investigations.” That’s essentially occurring now but hasn’t been formalized. The chief also could delegate authority to start or complete a misconduct inquiry to the head of internal affairs.

The other proposed changes call for:

  • the creation of a police discipline matrix to guide managers and ensure fair and consistent discipline
  • all administrative investigations of alleged misconduct to be completed within 180 days.
  • Citizen Review Committee members to be appointed to serve on Police Review Boards in use of force cases.

The code changes will be presented to City Council at 2:10 p.m. this afternoon.

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Officer Dane Reister, whose ammo mixup seriously injured man, is fired

Posted by Jenny on 16th October 2013

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Oct. 16, 2013

Dane Reister

Dane Reister

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese has fired Officer Dane Reister, citing his unsatisfactory performance when he mistakenly fired lethal rounds from a beanbag shotgun, critically wounding a man in Southwest Portland on June 30, 2011.

READMHAP’s response to shooting

“This has been a long and thorough investigation, which had complexities due to the pending criminal charges,” Reese said in a statement Wednesday. “The events of June 30th devastated the lives of those involved, but we hope that this action will bring some sense of closure.”

The Police Bureau notified Reister of his termination on Tuesday.

“We’re very disappointed in the chief’s decision,” said Reister’s lawyer, Janet Hoffman. “However, we’re confident the union will pursue all grievance procedures.”

Reister, 42, joined the Police Bureau in February 1996. He’s been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. He also faces criminal charges, becoming the first Portland officer ever to face a criminal indictment for force used on duty.

He has pleaded not guilty to third- and fourth-degree assault charges. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office added a negligent wounding charge, which is now being challenged before Oregon’s Court of Appeals.

This past spring, the city of Portland agreed to pay a record $2.3 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by William Kyle Monroe, the man wounded by Reister. The suit had called for Reister’s firing, but the termination wasn’t part of the settlement agreement.

“This is an appropriate ending to a very sad story,” said Mayor Charlie Hales, who as police commissioner signed Reister’s termination letter. Hales’ office said the firing was the chief’s decision.

The Portland Police Association also is disappointed by the firing and questions whether the chief considered all the appropriate factors, said Officer Daryl Turner, union president.

“We’re looking at the discipline letter with our legal counsel, and we will make a decision on how we move forward next week,” Turner said.

Reister’s gunshots fractured Monroe’s pelvis and punctured his bladder, abdomen and colon. The fourth shot, fired from less than 15 feet away, left a softball-sized hole in his left leg and severed his sciatic nerve. He narrowly escaped bleeding to death because OHSU Hospital was near the shooting scene, his lawyer has said.

Monroe was 20 at the time and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

According to the settled federal lawsuit, Monroe, who was living with his father in Hillsboro, had intended to drive to Bremerton, Wash., to visit his mother the day before the shooting, but became disoriented and was suffering from paranoid mania.

He ended up in Lair Hill Park the next morning, where children from a day camp were playing. Monroe pulled discarded flowers out of a park garbage bin and tossed them near the children. Camp supervisors told Monroe to leave the park. Police received two 911 calls from camp officials. The camp director said in the second call that Monroe may have a pocket knife up his sleeve.

Reister responded to the call. He spotted Monroe on Southwest Naito Parkway, commanded him to stop and get down on his knees with his hands behind his head. Reister asked Monroe if he had any weapons, and Monroe emptied his pockets, discarding his miniature Swiss Army knife, the suit says. Monroe put his hands behind his head, but asked why he should get on his knees. Reister described Monroe as “highly agitated,” and grabbed his beanbag shotgun from his car, and two more officers arrived.

Monroe assured police he hadn’t done anything wrong as he backed away and then began running and yelled for help. Without warning, the suit says, Reister chased after Monroe and fired five times, emptying his gun. The fifth round jammed because of Reister’s “excessively rapid firing,” the suit says.

In court filings, Reister admitted misloading his less-lethal shotgun, which he had checked out that morning from Central Precinct’s armory. He said he carried the shotgun across the street to the dark basement of the parking garage on Southwest Second Avenue, found his duty bag there – which contained both lethal and non-lethal ammunition in it — and then walked to his car and mistakenly loaded the beanbag shotgun with lethal rounds.

The day after the shooting, Reese and then-Mayor Sam Adams called the shooting a “tragic mistake.”

Four months after the shooting, as Reister’s lawyer argued in court that her client’s mistake was partly due to the Police Bureau’s negligent and inadequate policies, the police chief issued a new policy. It required that beanbag ammunition be stored only in a carrier attached to the side or stock of the orange-painted, 12-gauge beanbag shotguns.

Five years earlier, Reister mistakenly fired a loaded riot-suppression launcher during training, injuring an officer posing as a protester with a smoke round.

Reister is the second officer that Reese has fired for their use of force. Last year, the chief fired Officer Ron Frashour, concluding that his fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell on Jan. 29, 2010, wasn’t justified because Campbell didn’t pose an immediate threat. An arbitrator, though, ordered Frashour back to work. Last fall, Mayor Adams reinstated Frashour, paid him nearly two years of back pay and placed him on paid leave while the city appeals the arbitrator’s ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

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Editorial: Performance evaluations for Portland cops ‘long overdue’

Posted by Jenny on 20th August 2013

By the Editorial Board of The Oregonian, August 18, 2013

"The bureau has gone without reviews for at least two decades, a practice that can in some officers foster unpredictable, it-seemed-like-the-right-thing-to-do behavior."

“The bureau has gone without reviews for at least two decades, a practice that can in some officers foster unpredictable, it-seemed-like-the-right-thing-to-do behavior.”

That performance evaluations could return to the Portland Police Bureau is not less than great news: for police officers, their supervisors, and all citizens who depend on competence and consistency from those charged with protecting civil order. Negotiations between the city and the Portland Police Association, the union representing police, showed a deal was near in a public session Thursday.

The union predictably wants any performance assessment of officers to play no role in officer discipline or promotions, a demand that is unrealistic if not mystifying.

But even if the union wins such an assurance, and it appears it will, evaluations can elevate and warrant performance by making known precisely what’s expected of officers — and where they succeed and fail. Those things alone would advance the work of the bureau by setting clear standards against which an officer’s on-the-job efforts can be measured, particularly in contested moments of crisis.

This is not a new subject. The bureau has gone without reviews for at least two decades, a practice that can in some officers foster unpredictable, it-seemed-like-the-right-thing-to-do behavior. Some efforts at improving accountability dragged along. As far back as 1993, city auditors had urged the bureau to install a computerized Employee Intervention System that would track every officer’s use of force and help flag problem officers — but it wasn’t until 2005 that such a system was designed and not until 2011 that it went online.

Individual performance reviews, meanwhile, have come last.

To his credit, Chief Mike Reese more than a year ago said he wanted to institute quarterly assessments of each officer in which only the fourth review would end up in the officer’s personnel file — this, apparently, to avoid the hammer effect of too much top-down oversight that, ironically, can undermine an officer’s capacity to exercise his or her own good judgment. Reese had argued the first three review sessions would allow the officer “to provide input regarding their performance and give an opportunity for correction, if needed.” That made sense then and still does.

But in last week’s negotiating session, The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein reported, it was clear both the police and union view performance evaluations as helping officers know what’s expected of them “and not have to wait to learn of their deficiencies at a disciplinary hearing.” That makes even greater sense now.

A concern expressed last week by two sergeants on the union’s executive board was that performance evaluations would increase supervisor workload and force sergeants to interact more with their direct reports. Really? That revealing interactions are lacking now is a problem for which performance evaluations could surely offer a free, corollary solution.

The police and union brass should shake hands and adopt long-overdue police performance evaluations. Doing so will deepen work already underway to make the Portland Police Bureau fully a culture of accountability.

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