c. Better Investigations
The City Auditor's report concludes that "there is no evidence that civilian investigation of complaints leads to more thorough fact-finding."9
However, a recent study, released too late for inclusion in the City Auditor's report, provides such evidence. The New York Civil Liberties Union's January 1993 report, "Civilian Review of Policing," concludes that civilians "appear to conduct more aggressive investigations."10 The NYCLU studied the number of cases dismissed due to insufficient evidence in several American cities. The report indicated that the more independent police review processes left fewer cases unresolved due to insufficient evidence. The report concludes that this data "suggests the police department exercises an 'institutional' inhibition upon aggressive investigation of police misconduct by its employees."11
This new report indicates that creating a strong civilian review board with civilian investigators in Portland would mean better resolution of complaints and more effective investigations.
d. Community Policing and Accountability
Recommendation 4.0 of the Community Policing Transition Plan specifically calls for creating accountability within the Portland Police Bureau and accountability to citizens.12
Missing from the list of proposals to create such accountability is the one thing that would do the most to ensure it: a plan for an individual citizen to bring forth a complaint of officer misconduct. If the trust relationship which Community Policing seeks to establish between police and civilians is to materialize, the community must be able to hold officers and their superiors accountable for their actions and be part of the evaluation of their policies.
Chief Tom Potter, in a June 4, 1992 letter to the Citizens Crime Commission, emphasized that accountability means creating proper conduct at all levels within the Bureau, and that such reform cannot occur without active public involvement. So far, this has meant citizens give input during the planning and implementation stages of new programs and initiatives. But to create a better working relationship, civilian participation cannot end there.
In order for true accountability to exist, civilians must be involved when the police fail to carry out policies as they were designed, when policies are violated, and when officers break the law. Gabriel Chikes, Special Assistant to the executive director of Washington D.C.'s Civilian Complaint Review Board said, "People are beginning to understand those who advocate for creating a civilian review board don't necessarily render an indictment of the police. Advocates don't have to make the argument for civilian review because the police can't do it--that is, investigate themselves."13 For civilian participation to be meaningful in establishing accountability, it must extend into the enforcement of policies and the investigation of misconduct complaints.
e. Public Trust
There is a critical link between a community's trust in its police force and the ability of that
Residents of the Laurelhurst neighborhood described such a breakdown in trust at a
meeting of the
9. City Auditor, op cit., p. iv
10. New York Civil Liberties
Union, "Civilian Review of
Policing", p. 14.
11. Ibid, p. 14.
12. Portland Police Bureau
Community Policing Transition
Plan, pp. 63-68.
13. NYCLU, op cit., p. 24.
14. PIIAC Citizen Advisors Meeting,
April 8, 1993.