Nearly Half of Portland Independent Police Review Cases This Summer Emerged From Protest Clashes

Before the George Floyd protests began, Portlanders would complain mostly about an officer's behavior, but now it's force.

An arrest made for standing in the street on Sept. 26, 2020. (Alex Wittwer)

Nearly half of the cases of alleged police misconduct under investigation by Portland's office of Independent Police Review stem from the nightly clashes between officers and protesters in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

During that time, IPR investigated 199 cases, and 97 of them emerged from protests of police brutality.

That's one of the significant findings in a data sheet released by IPR that offers a broad outline of all protest-related cases opened since the end of May.

The most common reason for protest-related complaints isn't surprising: use of force by Portland Police Bureau officers. Forty-nine of the 97 protest-related cases emerged from complaints about force.

IPR director Ross Caldwell tells WW that in normal times, the highest number of cases the office sees pertain to courtesy—the way an officer behaves toward civilians—and conduct, but not use of force.

From May 29 to Oct. 21, IPR received more than 4,000 calls or emails about officer behavior. Ninety-seven were complaints resulting in opened cases; 21 investigations were closed. One of the main reasons for this? The complainant was not available.

Numbers show the most cases were reported in June, when the protests against police brutality were just getting started. The second-highest number of complaints came in September, the same month the Proud Boys held a rally in North Portland.

Each investigation can take months or even years to be fully completed. Amid the jump in cases, and the possibility of a new police oversight system being created by Measure 26-217, it's unclear how long it will take IPR to get through them all.

"Our system is pretty complex in a lot of ways. This is an effort to explain briefly the different kinds of stuff coming in," Caldwell says. "It's hard because the way they get broken out, those can overlap a lot."

Since protests began in May, Independent Police Review has been flooded with complaints from citizens about the Portland Police Bureau and the way they've been policing protests.

"State law prohibits IPR from releasing specific details about misconduct cases," the report states, "but cases being investigated include many high-profile incidents that have been shared on social media and the news."

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