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City Council to assume responsibility for Independent Police Review

Press Release
City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero notified Justice Department officials today that City Council will assume responsibility for Independent Police Review, effective July 1.

Portland voters approved a Charter amendment in November 2020 to create a community police oversight board to replace Independent Police Review (IPR), an investigative and policy analysis division in the Auditor’s Office since 2001. 

IPR and the Police Bureau’s Internal Affairs are in the City’s settlement agreement with the Justice Department to meet investigative timelines for officer misconduct allegations and other requirements. In negotiations over proposed amendments to the agreement, the Justice Department requested transition plans for IPR from City Council and the Auditor, who could not come to terms in the last year on how best to retain IPR employees until the new board is operational. Council submitted its final plan Jan. 28, which in the Auditor’s view would not keep IPR functioning. 

“I honor the will of the voters to replace IPR’s investigative duties with a community oversight board,” Hull Caballero said. “I was prepared to shepherd IPR for the 18 months Council said it needed to implement the board but cannot agree to a multi-year commitment by the Auditor’s Office under a plan I do not believe will work. Council’s unwillingness to effectively address the uncertainty over IPR’s future has been an unnecessary and burdensome distraction for my entire office, and more delay serves no one.”

Hull Caballero notified Justice Department officials their determination of the viability of the Auditor’s Office plan, which she submitted Jan. 11, was unnecessary as it no longer was an option. In a Jan. 26 budget submission, the Auditor included a provision to transfer IPR in the event Council would not support the terms of her transition plan. It is up to Council to designate an entity to receive IPR next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Hull Caballero said. 

The implementation phase for the new board ballooned from 18 months to what likely will be five years or more, a timeline estimated from behind-the-scenes negotiations and court documents. City Council promised voters the board would be created in 18 months to give the volunteer commission time to draft its configuration and scope. Council said volunteers would be seated in January 2021, but the commission held its first meeting almost a year later. The City Attorney advised during a Jan. 26 Council meeting that the 18-month clock would not start until U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issues an order adopting the settlement amendments, which likely won’t occur until the spring. At the same meeting, Council postponed voting on the amendments for two weeks, adding further delay. 

There are several decision points in the future that require the approval of Council, the Justice Department, and the courts, any one of which could interrupt or delay implementation of the board.

A copy of the Auditor's memo to the Justice Department is available online.