The most recent batch of Police Review Board reports just went up on the Portland Police Bureau's website (I've learned to go looking for 'em early every January and July, since they're never announced), and three big cases from 2010 and 2011 ought to catch your eye.
In the shootings of Darryel Dwayne Ferguson, Marcus Lagozzino, and Tom Higginbotham, the discipline panel overwhelmingly found that every single officer involved the shootings acted "within policy." In fact, the board wanted to give a commendation to one of the cops in the Lagozzino shooting, and says the bureau should teach it as an example of "exemplary" policing.
Ferguson and Higginbotham were both killed; Lagozzino, who was Tasered, bean-bagged, and then shot after rushing at a team of cops with a machete, survived and is under the supervision of the county's mental health court.
The only note of discord came in the Ferguson case, with three of the board's seven members urging a "debriefing" for Jonathan Kizzar and Kelly Jenson, who never announced themselves as cops when they knocked on Ferguson's apartment door in the dead of night. Ferguson, under the influence at the time of his shooting, opened the door and pointed a painted BB gun at the officers—who quickly shot him dead. Kizzar and Jenson were the only surviving witnesses to the shooting. Three members also wanted the bureau's training division to hold a wider discussion about how and when to announce, but were outvoted.
The board also found fault with the Bureau of Emergency Communications for not being more clear when dispatching the call about Ferguson and also told the bureau it should start calling in medical help sooner when someone goes down. Some of Ferguson's wounds (but not all) might have been survivable if he'd been helped, the state medical examiner has testified.
In the Higginbotham shooting, the board was far more succinct in its unanimous findings.
That shooting, which took place early in 2011 in an abandoned car wash in Southeast, was notable however because of what one of the officers involved, Larry Wingfield, told grand jurors, as I reported at the time:
But Wingfield said he also had a regret: that he and Lile had gotten so close to Higginbotham in the first place. Normally police are trained to keep at least 21 to 30 feet away from someone with a blade. In the cramped confines of the abandoned Lucky Car Wash on 82nd, they were never any more than 13 feet away, and probably more like six to eight feet as [Jason] Lile and Wingfield waited to use force, barking orders at Higginbotham to drop his knife.
Complicating matters? Higginbotham was drunk—his blood alcohol level at .26 percent. Lile's Taser couldn't find easy purchase. And detritus—remnants from other homeless campers having come and gone—littered the floor, blocking an easy retreat.
"And that—you know, that was, honestly, a mistake," says Wingfield. "If I look back on anything I would do differently, I wouldn't let him get this close. He was an older man. He was a veteran. You know, we just didn't want to shoot him. I put my partner at risk. I put myself at risk to try to save this guy."
Like in most cases, the review board said it heard from Lile and Wingfield's commanding officers and others before making its decision. But in this case, it also heard from one of the officers, too. The reports don't use names, so it's unclear whether that was Lile or Wingfield—and if it was Wingfield, whether he or others decided he was being too hard on himself when testifying more than a year ago.
"That's really discouraging," says Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman, remembering that Wingfield testified he'd made a mistake by allowing himself and Lile to get so close to Higginbotham.
The other cases covered in the reports are also interesting, but not quite as identifiable.
• One dealt with a dispute between cops during a tactical raid on a home where a warrant was being served. A lapse by one cop was blamed on fatigue, sparking a discussion about how the bureau handles issues around the subject and keeps its officers fresh.
• An officer was suspended for 20 hours after admitting to having issues with prescription drugs off duty.
• Another officer was rapped as quick to use violence and not being a good team player in response to a complaint he failed to fill out a domestic violence report in timely fashion.
• Two officers were given minor discipline because of recent car crashes.
• And, after a hearing that came months before Occupy protests made this a very public issue, a cop working an anti-police-brutality protest was accused of using his bike to improperly smack protesters. Three of five panelists hearing this case said the charge was unproven (the other two wanted to exonerate the cop). But because this wasn't the only such complaint received after that protest, the board recommended a "comprehensive debriefing" on the issue. Not sure if that ever happened.
Here's how the decision was written up: