Last Thursday, April 17, the city auditor's office held a closed-door meeting with members of the cops' Citizen Review Committee (CRC) to discuss the group's future.
The CRC is part of the city's Independent Police Review (IPR) division, which was criticized in a consultant's report recently for conducting too much of its business behind closed doors ["The Blame Game," News, Jan 31]. Copwatch activist Dan Handelman heard about the meeting at a regular public meeting of the CRC last Tuesday, April 15.
"The auditor [Gary Blackmer] said he wanted to address issues that were discussed when city council accepted the consultant's report," says Handelman. "Once the auditor opened up this discussion, CRC Chair Mike Bigham quickly told him that dialogue would take place 'on Thursday.'"
Another Portland Copwatch member asked for clarification about what was going to happen on Thursday, April 17—and whether it should be an open meeting.
"Bigham responded by smiling at a fellow CRC member, shrugging, and calling Tuesday's meeting to a close without so much as a response," Handelman continues.
Blackmer met with four of the CRC's nine members, according to Bigham, who says the mayor's public safety policy director, Maria Rubio, was also present at the meeting. With only four CRC members present, however, a quorum was avoided, which would have triggered public meetings requirements under Oregon law.
"It really wasn't a secret meeting," says Bigham. "It was just very preliminary, which is why we didn't invite anyone else."
Former CRC chair and current member Hank Miggins says he is disappointed he wasn't contacted by Bigham to be a part of the meeting. "Just because I'm no longer the chair doesn't mean I don't want to know what is going on," he says.
Bigham says the group discussed several things including: the possibility of hiring a full-time outreach coordinator; methods of hearing appeals for so-called "service complaints," which are currently outside the appeals process; a way for the CRC to do more policy investigations and recommendations; and which investigations the IPR should be able to lead independently of the cops' own internal affairs division.
Bigham insists that the quartet will "get together with the CRC later to discuss these issues."
Meanwhile, Blackmer has not returned a call for comment on the meeting since last week, when an assistant refused to divulge the location or time of the meeting.