Add Portland's police department to Enron and the heap of corporations who've lost or shredded possibly incriminating records. Last Friday's Portland Tribune revealed that the police department has "lost" records relating to 34 cases of police shootings and in-custody deaths between 1997 and 2000. Moreover, even though Oregon law requires homicide records to be kept permanently and that records for other types of cases are to be kept a minimum of five years, the state's attorney general has yet to call for any sort of investigation.
Late last year, the in-custody police shooting cases in question were under study by the LA-based Police Assessment Resource Center, an independent auditing group. The auditor discovered the missing records and, according to the Tribune, quickly emailed Independent Police Review Division (IRC) director Richard Rosenthal. In turn, Rosenthal revealed nothing to the Citizens Review Committee (CRC)--the very group created to keep police accountable. Unluckily for Rosenthal, printouts of these email exchanges somehow wound up stapled to CRC May meeting agendas and mailed to committee members.
Frantic, Rosenthal contacted CRC members, demanding they not read the printouts and attempted to retrieve the evidence--sometimes even showing up at night, unannounced at committee members' homes.
The CRC's nine volunteer members have long been frustrated with Rosenthal and their own committee's apparent impotence. The CRC was created to ensure police accountability and advise the IPR. But it has clearly been the other way around, as the CRC has not been allowed to review police shootings or deaths in custody cases and have increasingly found themselves bound in the city's sticky web of red tape.
Even though the missing police records squarely violate state law, no one seems to be terribly concerned. When contacted by the Mercury, Oregon's Department of Justice--which is responsible for all legal proceedings where the state is a party or has an interest--shrugged off any responsibility for initiating an investigation. Kevin Neely, spokesperson for Attorney General Hardy Myers, flippantly remarked, "I don't think our office is involved with this."