One of Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese's first tasks after taking over from his predecessor, Dan Staton, who resigned under pressure in August, is to get a handle on the operations of the county's two jails.
A 2015 audit of use of force in the county's conducted by Staton's staff raised serious questions about whether jail deputies were disproportionately using force against African American inmates.
Staton appeared to have limited interest in exploring that question. But he brought in a national expert for a second look.
That expert, Timothy Ryan, the former director of corrections for Miami-Dade County, spent three days in Portland in mid-November. OPB first reported on Ryan's findings.
With a few exceptions, Ryan found the county's two jails, which have a capacity of 1,310, to be generally well run. He made recommendations for increased training for corrections deputies and more thorough and detailed record-keeping about incidents in which deputies use force.
Ryan's view is that relative to other big jail systems, Multnomah County's jails see relatively few use-of-force incidents.
"This determination, unfortunately, is not based on any sort of national standards or statistical analysis as to my knowledge they do not exist," Ryan wrote. "However, given that there is less than 1 use of force event per day (statistically) and they can be as minimal as a guiding hand, it is subjectively believed that the MCSO is actually functioning in a very positive manner."
On the question of whether deputies discriminated against black inmates, however, Ryan said the information available was insufficient to allow him to form a conclusion.
"Given the information provided for the Reception Center [booking], I find the information indicates no disparate treatment. Relative to the housing areas, I find that the information is insufficient to draw any conclusions. Relative to this, I recommend that the Planning and Research Unit gather the additional information identified above like inmate classification, charges, institutional history, housing location, etc. I believe that a 'drill down' like this will be absolutely necessary before an accurate assessment can be determined."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Reese, a former chief of the Portland Police Bureau, requested the second look.