Portland’s police accountability system usually starts when a community member or Bureau employee allege officer misconduct. Various agencies and officials have specific duties during the process. Under the City Auditor, the Independent Police Review receives and investigates community complaints, recommends whether a violation occurred, and monitors the accountability process. The power to determine if a violation occurred and decide officer discipline is held by the Police Bureau and Police Commissioner, a role usually filled by the Mayor. Officers can have their cases heard by an arbitrator after the case is completed if they disagree with the outcome.
Community members and Bureau employees filed 401 complaints of officer misconduct in 2020. Community member filed 335 complaints, 74 complaints fewer than 2019. Bureau members submitted 66 complaints, similar to the 69 Bureau complaints submitted in 2019.
Community members submitted complaints about 247 officers in 2020, down from 337 in 2019. Two-thirds of those officers were named in one complaint. Twenty-eight officers were named in three or more complaints, five fewer than the previous year. However, no officers received more than five complaints in 2019 while four were the subjects of six or more in 2020.
The 335 complaints filed by community members resulted in 707 allegations of misconduct. Allegations are categorized by type and the specific policy violated. There were 222 allegations related to use of force in 2020, almost double the 112 from 2019.
When IPR investigators receive a misconduct complaint, they conduct an initial intake investigation to collect evidence and reports related to the allegations to determine what should happen next. Investigators attempt to identify involved officers and understand what policies may have been violated. IPR uses this information to decide whether to refer the case to Internal Affairs, conduct its own investigation, or administratively close the case.
IPR administratively closed 47 percent of complaints in 2020, an increase from 2019 but below the five-year average of 52 percent.
There are eight reasons in City Code that outline when a complaint can be closed after an intake assessment. Most complaints in 2020 were closed because the allegations, even if proven true, would not violate Bureau policy.
After an investigation is complete, a Police Bureau supervisor reviews the investigation and decides if the officer violated a Bureau policy. The supervisor has four options:
- Sustain the allegation as a violation of Bureau policy or procedure;
- Not sustain the allegation because the evidence was insufficient to prove it;
- Exonerate the officer’s actions because they were lawful and within Bureau policy: or
- Find the allegation to be unfounded because it was false or without a credible basis as a possible violation.
IPR and Internal Affairs completed 91 investigations into community member complaints in 2020, 12 more than 2019. Those investigations involved 221 allegations, 5 percent of which were sustained (10).
IPR and Internal Affairs completed 42 investigations into Bureau member complaints filed in 2020, 24 fewer than in 2019. They contained 80 allegations, 44% of which were sustained (35).
Discipline for a sustained allegation falls within a range. The mildest discipline an officer can receive is command counseling or a letter of reprimand. More serious forms of discipline are demotion, suspension from work without pay, or termination of employment. Some officers also resign or retire while an investigation is pending.
Twenty officers were disciplined in 2020 and three resigned or retired before discipline was decided. Most officers received command counseling for allegations brought by community members and Bureau members.