A task force has found that, despite the number of sensational cases reported by Portland media over the past few years, the use of force by Portland police is fairly rare.
After analyzing use of force data from August 2004 to December 2006, Portland's Force Task Force released a report on April 24 that said Portland Police use force in 1 percent of calls and in 5 percent of arrests.
The data analyzed 4,579 Use of Force reports that included incidents in which officers used physical control (83 percent), taser (19 percent), blunt impact strike (17 percent), pepper spray (7 percent) and non-lethal impact munitions (2 percent). In about 75 percent of the cases, only one type of force was used. The report did not include firearm use by officers.
In the city of Portland, police use force in one out of every 24 arrests and in one out of every 274 calls – numbers slightly higher than their peers self-reported in Minneapolis, San Diego, San Jose and Seattle. In analyzing the data, the report did not take into account any suspect information, including race, gender or age. The percent of force incidents involving injury to suspect occurred most often in the Central Precinct (29.8 percent of force reports in the precinct); North, Northeast and East precincts averaged 25 percent of reports; and East and Transit precincts averaged 24 percent.
While the report's authors – comprised of two members of the Citizen Review Commission, five members of the Portland Police Bureau, and two city-employed, Independent Police Review Commission members – gave the police generally positive marks, the task force did come back with 16 recommendations for change.