Background

In 2002, PARC was hired by the City of Portland to conduct a review of officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths that had occurred in the City of Portland between January 1, 1997 and June 30, 2000.    

Scope of Work

PARC was initially charged with conducting an in-depth assessment of officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths–and recommending changes in policy, tactics, training, and internal procedures that might address identified issues or shortcomings. An initial, 222-page report included detailed findings, and 89 recommendations, regarding the Portland Police Bureau’s training, tactics, policies, investigations, and review of these types of cases.

We accomplished more in 18 months with the PARC shootings report than police accountability in Portland ha[d] accomplished in 18 years. We identified and highlighted problems, proposed solutions, and we’re following up on them on a regular basis to make sure change is occurring and will remain.
— Richard Rosenthal, Fmr. Head of Portland Independent Police Review Committee

Following the release of the initial report in 2003, Portland elected to retain PARC over the course of more than 6 years (through 2009) to conduct several follow-up reports that reviewed newer officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, as well as to track implementation of the initial report’s recommendations. 

Approach

Rigorous Incident Review by Seasoned Experts.  PARC engaged a distinguished team of law enforcement experts to conduct detailed review of the whole of incident case files to determine what officers did well, what they could have done differently, and what issues the incident might raise for changes in policy and practice.

Best Practices. In drafting new policies, establishing new procedures, or designing new training, PARC evaluated PPB's policies and training in light of best practice–as established by assessments of law enforcement agencies nationwide, model policies from national organizations, legal and academic research, and consultation by experienced professionals and law enforcement experts.

Transparent Internal Review & Discipline.  Internal investigations of critical incidents must be rigorous, fair, objective, and timely. Reviews and assessments of those investigations must be critical, comprehensive, transparent, and willing to consider tough issues and questions–even if the officer ultimately is found to do everything consistent with Department policy and the law. Over several reports, PARC collaborated with the PPB to strengthen the integrity and transparency of their internal mechanisms for self-correction.

Mechanisms for Critical Self-Analysis.  Over PARC's engagement, the scope of work transitioned from identifying and addressing issues to assisting PPB in the creation of mechanisms for self-identifying and self-correcting emerging problems and challenges.

Ongoing Oversight & Collaboration. PARC worked closely with a number of key stakeholders, including the City Auditor, Citizen Review Committee, Mayor's Office, City Council, and Police Bureau.  The ongoing engagement provided an opportunity for meaningful, ongoing oversight.  PARC's analysis and recommendations continued to drive the reform agenda for years after its formal engagement with the City concluded.

Results

Decrease in Officer-Involved Shootings. After the adoption of most of PARC's original recommendations, officer-involved shootings in Portland dropped by 88% – without corresponding increases in officer injuries or crime.

Decrease in Use of Force.  Between 2007 and 2011, as PPB refined internal accountability mechanisms pursuant to PARC recommendations, use of force by PPB officers declined by 59%.

Decrease in Citizen Complaints. Complaints by citizens to the PPB about officer performance decreased by 51% following adoption of PARC's recommendations.

Culture Change. At the start of the project, PPB was resistant to the prospect of revisiting its policies and making revisions where necessary. With the help of multiple police chiefs, significant changes were made in use of force policy.

Increased Integrity of Internal Reviews & Investigations. The number of inadequately investigated or reviewed force incidents and civilian complaints declined following implementation of several of PARC's recommendations.

 

PROJECT OBJECTIVE

Review officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths and provide recommendations on training, tactics, policies, internal investigations, and administrative reviews of critical incidents.

KEY ISSUES ADDRESSED

Officer-Involved Shootings
Use of Force
Less-Lethal Force Instruments
Communications
Supervision
Internal Investigations
Data-Driven Management
Officer Training & Tactics
Administrative Review

KEY RESOURCES

2003 Report
2005 Follow-Up Report
2006 Follow-Up Report
2009 Follow-Up Report
+  Additional Resources

MEDIA

"Report: Police Bureau Shooting Deaths Drop in a Decade," Portland Tribune (Feb. 2009)
"History of the Portland Police Bureau," portlandoregon.gov"