July 15th, 2009 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: City Hall, Cops and Courts

City Hall to Audit Police Taser Use (Updated with Rosie Sizer and Police Union Comment)

taser

City Auditor Lavonne Griffin-Valade has taken on a controversial topic a few weeks into her term: investigating Taser use by the Portland Police Bureau.

Griffin-Valade tells WW she kicked off the audit Monday with a conference in Police Chief Rosie Sizer's office among Sizer, city audit staff, and Leslie Stevens, director of accountability and professional standards at the Police Bureau.

The audit will examine the bureau's policies and practices on Taser use and compare them with recognized best practices, Griffin-Valade says. The probe should be completed and a final report issued early next year.

Taser use is a touchy topic both for community activists and for police. A newly released report (PDF) on the Bureau's use of force shows that use of beanbag guns, batons and pepper spray are down, but Taser use remains about the same.

Griffin-Valade says she has so far met no resistance from the chief's office or the police union on her decision to conduct the audit.

"Typically our audits ... have good cooperation from the bureau," Griffin-Valade says. "We assume that's going to be the case this time."

Sizer and police union boss Scott Westerman have not yet replied to requests for comment.

Sizer had this to say by email:

"Yvonne Griffin-Valade and her team can expect our full cooperation (on) this topic that has excited public interest and strong opinions both in Portland and elsewhere."

Sgt. Scott Westerman, head of the police union, says he welcomes the audit but believes there are better uses of City Hall's time.

"Have at it," Westerman says. "It's not like we've got anything to hide."

Griffin-Valade says Taser use was already on the list of topics to consider at the Auditor's Office when she replaced former auditor Gary Blackmer in June. Griffin-Valade says the decision to take on the topic emerged from discussions with her audit staff — not a suggestion from outside her office.

"The rationale is that a program has been in place since 2005, and it's time for an audit," she says. "It's never been looked at, and it's a good thing to look at."
 
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