Changes could be coming to the Independent Police Review Division and Citizens Review Committee in 2009. The CRC recently appointed two new members and the IPR will be launching an ongoing community outreach campaign.
Citizen complaints to the city's Independent Police Review division decreased in the last quarter of 2008.
Mary-Beth Baptista, director of IPR, isn't celebrating or brooding about the news quite yet.
"We don't have enough info to say why complaints are down," she told The Skanner.
It could be that police are being more careful in the way they conduct themselves; it could be that IPR needs to do more public outreach. Baptista says it's very possible it could be both of these factors. The division is looking for a community outreach coordinator to make contact with affected communities and educate people about the role of the IPR.
"It shouldn't be viewed as soliciting complaints (against police)," said Baptista. "It's just as likely we'd still see complaints go down."
Once police become aware of the expectations of the community – especially in terms of their conduct, a major source of complaints – it is likely complaints could drop, she says.
The IPR will also now be including appeal forms when case outcomes are mailed out to complainants.
In addition to the upcoming outreach campaign, the CRC Bias-Based Policing Workgroup will be releasing a review of 60 disparate treatment cases. Baptista said the report will be made public very soon, but declined to give a specific date.
Last week, the CRC welcomed two new members to the board – Rochelle Silver and Barbara Anderson. Current members Michael Bigham and Llewellyn Robison were re-appointed to the board. Speaking in front of the city council, Portland Cop Watch Director Dan Handelman, said he hoped the new members would serve in a neutral and fair manner.
"Can they see both from the citizens' point of view and the police officers' point of view," Handelman asked. "Since we are called Copwatch, people think that we're biased, but we actually want to see neutral people appointed to this board."
Anderson was a "pro-choice" candidate at the 2008 GOP Convention, who has also served on the investigative board of the Oregon State Bar Association. Silver is a clinical psychologist who chaired the Oregon Board of Psychological Examiners and served on the Oregon Board of Private Investigators. Both, interestingly, are volunteers for Portland Public Schools SMART Program. Handelman said Bigham – despite being a career law enforcement officer – has shown the ability to remain fair and critical to police. He hopes the new members will show the same abilities.
Handelman said he would like to see Silver help develop an investigative unit, and he also continues to lobby for the expansion of the CRC from nine to 11 members, bringing in more experience and diversity of backgrounds to the committee.
"Maybe next time, they're will be even more members," he said. "Perhaps communities that have more interactions with police will have the most to say about this issue."