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August 27th, 2003 Nick Budnick | News Stories
 

Smoking Guns

     
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After a respected police consultant dropped a bombshell on the city of Portland Tuesday, the question now seems to be whether the blast will be contained.

The Police Assessment Resource Center of Los Angeles is a nonprofit cop watchdog-for-hire headed by lawyer Merrick Bobb. Last year, City Hall hired PARC to review more than three years of police shootings prior to June 2000, and the result was a 222-page report presented to the Portland City Council yesterday.

It makes Portland's investigations of such incidents sound like Cover-up Central. For instance, Bobb's group found that detectives had conducted preparatory "pre-interviews" to interrogations of officers involved in shootings. What's more, these informal chats lasted three to four times as long as the tape-recorded interviews themselves.

The council's discussion of the report yesterday extended past our deadline, but the questions it raises are evident in Chief Mark Kroeker's 28-page response, which is tacked onto the end of the main report (www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=27070&).

Kroeker says he agrees with 92 percent of the recommendations, but a scan of his response shows he has issues with the most important thrusts of the report: that the bureau's deadly-force policy be totally revamped; that officers be interviewed immediately to decrease the potential for cover-ups; and that shooting reviews be focused less on prosecution (almost impossible under current laws) and more on discipline and improving bureau training and policy.

Kroeker rightly says some changes will cost big money or require negotiations with the officers' union. As a result, whether this report leads to real, lasting change will be up to the City Council.

 
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