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Police Oversight

For over 25 years, the League has participated in community efforts to create and monitor a civilian oversight system for handling citizen complaints of police conduct.

For over 25 years, the League has participated in community efforts to create and monitor a civilian oversight system for handling citizen complaints of police conduct.  The 2001 National Institute of Justice report, Citizen Review of Police: Approaches and Implementation, explains that civilian oversight benefits communities by providing a window into the police bureau; increasing public understanding of police policies, procedures, and behavior; discouraging misconduct through retraining and discipline; and improving police procedures by recommending policy changes. Successful systems have a commitment to transparency and a belief in the right of the public to know the public’s business.

The Independent Police Review Division (IPR) and its Citizen Review Committee (CRC) began operations in January 2002 after a majority of a work group appointed by Mayor Vera Katz recommended changes to the existing system known as the Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee.  The recommendations included independent investigations of allegations of police misconduct, the authority to compel civilian and officer testimony, the ability to review closed cases of police shootings and deaths in custody, a requirement to hold public hearings on police bureau policy and procedures, and the responsibility to recommend policy changes to the police bureau.

City Council instead adopted a system recommended by the city auditor that employs an audit approach.  The IPR accepts citizen complaints, carries out initial information gathering, and forwards cases that may be eligible for a full investigation to the police bureau’s Internal Affairs Division.  Once the investigation is completed, command staff determines if misconduct occurred and imposes discipline, if necessary.  Citizens and police officers may appeal findings to the nine-member CRC.

The volunteer CRC, in addition to hearing appeals, holds regular public meetings at which policy issues are discussed.  It also has a number of workgroups that are open to the public and include, among others, case handling, IPR structure review, and biased-based policing.

In February 2008, University of Arizona Law Professor Eileen Luna-Firebaugh, an outside expert on police oversight systems, completed a performance review of the Independent Police Review Division.  The CRC’s structure review workgroup is studying her recommendations carefully and plans to develop CRC recommendations for improvements to the system that will be forwarded to City Council.

The League monitors the IPR and CRC and has advocated for staff support for the CRC, increased size of the CRC with longer terms, independent investigations under certain circumstances, case findings consistent with national practices, an avenue of appeal for complainants whose cases are declined or classified as service complaints, improved outreach to the public at-large, and listening sessions with CRC and individuals who experience frequent police contact.

LWV Reports

LWV Portland position statement on the Portland Police Bureau

LWV Testimony & Communications

October 2013 - Letter RE: Independent Police Review Division Ordinance (PDF 259KB)

July 2013 - OIR Group Second Report (PDF 302KB)

October 2012 - Comments on Draft Agreement between the Department of Justice and Portland  (PDF 244KB)

November 2011 - Comments on Proposed Policy Changes (PDF 199KB)

April 2011 - Joint Terrorism Task Force - Letter to City Council (PDF 85KB)
February 2011 - Joint Terrorism Task Force - Letter to City Council (PDF, 93KB)
November 2010 - Memo to Portland City Council highlighting certain recommendations of the Stakeholder Committee Report (PDF, 110KB)
July 2010 - Testimony to Portland City Council about the OIR report concerning the in-custody death of James Chasse, Jr. (PDF, 75KB)
June 2010 - Testimony to Portland City Council (PDF, 72 KB)
March 2010 - LWV comments on Auditor Griffin-Valade and Commissioner Leonard's proposed changes to the Independent Police Review Division code (PDF, 395 KB)
October 2008 – Testimony to Portland City Council (PDF, 90 KB)
IPR 2007 annual report
March 2008 – Testimony to Portland City Council (PDF, 90 KB)
Recommendations for changes to IPR
March 2008 – "In My Opinion" piece in The Oregonian (PDF, 12 KB)
Coauthored by Portland Copwatch and LWV Portland urging improvements to IPR
February 2008 – Memo to Portland City Council (PDF, 150 KB) 

Performance Review of IPR

February 2007 – Testimony to Charter Review Commission (PDF, 88 KB)
Request consideration of including an independent civilian review board in the city charter

Other Resources

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