09-18-2018  10:04 am      •     
Portland police protest
Lisa Loving Special To The Skanner
Published: 05 July 2018

An Oregon Department of Justice webpage meant to document law enforcement use-of-force incidents around the state contains significant factual errors -- and a spokesperson for the department told The Skanner that the department has no responsibility to keep accurate information on its database.

According to the page, titled simply “Published Reports,” Aaron Campbell pulled a gun on Portland Police officers before being shot by Officer Ronald Frashour in 2010.

In fact Campbell was unarmed when he was killed, after police were called for a welfare check on his apartment. The case resulted in a $1.2 million settlement against the City of Portland.

The database also says that Keaton Otis “reached into the car for a gun” when in fact he was shot by multiple officers without ever removing his seat belt. He was never outside his vehicle.

DOJ spokesperson Kristina Edmunson said this week that the database is built on a self-uploading system and that DOJ staff does not fact-check the information.

 

Law Enforcement Use of Force Map - Oregon 2018

View map on a mobile device or view larger. The above map is every use of force state-wide in Oregon reported in the media from January 2010 through December 2017.

 

“Each local law enforcement agency is responsible under statute for sending information on an officer involved shooting to Oregon DOJ. There’s a fillable form on our website. Once an agency submits the form, we do a very cursory review of the information, but we do not review it for accuracy. We then publish all of the reports we receive to our website (cut and paste).”

Asked whether there was a plan to correct it, Edmunson wrote only, “We do a very cursory review, but we do not confirm what people have submitted.”

It remains unclear how the factual errors will be fixed or if there is even a process; Edmunson failed to answer a list of questions on the database and would not consent to an interview.

The first time The Skanner reported on SB 111 (2007), Department of Justice officials said they literally did not realize the law existed.

Two years ago, when The Skanner re-visited the law, officials admitted they did not have the money to evaluate the use of force incidents and instead of sending them to the DOJ, they were being forwarded to the uniform death statistics office.

Watchdog group Portland Copwatch first alerted the public to the current errors in a letter to the DOJ in May and published online.

The Skanner, in cooperation with Portland Copwatch, has for the third time created a Law Enforcement Use of Force Map using data on the incidents collected independently of the Department of Justice, from 2010-2017.

Meanwhile, the City of Portland’s Independent Police Review division has also published a database without errors, check it out here.

Copwatch’s detailed list of errors on the site include:

  • Two Taser-related deaths in Douglas County in 2013*-2 indicate the suspects' deaths were caused by "excited delirium," which is not a medically accepted term. (Side note: Both reports misspell the verb "tase" as "taze.")
  • Eight incidents are listed on the wrong dates, including four in Portland: Nicholas Davis is listed as being killed in January 2017 (when the entry was made) rather than June 2014, Michael Johnson is listed as being killed in November 2016 rather than 2015, Steven Liffel is listed on 10/6/16 rather than 12/5/16, and Billy Simms is listed on July 27, 2012--one day before he was actually shot.
  • One duplicate entry gets the suspect's name completely wrong, somehow listing John Bocock (10/12/11) as "Kenneth DeFrees." It is not clear whether this and the four other duplicate entries are there because it is impossible to delete items once they are posted.
  • At least two incidents contain no narratives at all: The 2008 Portland shooting of Jason Spoor says "unknown reason for shooting due to date," and the 2016 Sherwood shooting of James Tylka simply states "homicide suspect."
  • While some high-profile cases such as the Umpqua Community College shooter (who reportedly committed suicide) are included, others -- such as the deaths of Christopher Kalonji and Lavoy Finicum in January 2016 are not.
  • At least two Portland incidents are not listed: The death in custody of Darris Johnson in July 2011, and the death of Craig Boehler in November 2010; the police say Boehler died of smoke inhalation rather than their bullets.
  • The narrative for the Portland Police shooting of Kelly Swoboda lists the "crime reason" as "warrant service," even though they were looking for a suspicious person and did not have a warrant.
  • While several suspects are listed as being "Black or African American," none (including Santiago Cisneros, shot in Portland in 2013) are listed as Latino.

For more information on Portland Copwatch call 503-236-3065 or email copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org.

UPDATE: Read the Oregon DOJ response and other updates since the publication of this report.

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