An independent consultant has shrugged off criticism by City Auditor Gary Blackmer over her evaluation of the city's Independent Police Review (IPR).
Eileen Luna-Firebaugh submitted her first interim report to the mayor's office on October 20—prompting Blackmer to tell the Portland Tribune, "There are a lot of areas that she just missed." Blackmer also criticized Luna-Firebaugh for listening to groups like Portland Copwatch and the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center (NWCRC), which advocate for better police accountability.
"It's always difficult to have a performance evaluator come in and look at your agencies," Luna-Firebaugh told the Mercury last week, at a Southeast Portland community meeting co-hosted by Copwatch to discuss individuals' experiences of the review process. "If someone feels a little uneasy, that to me is human nature."
Luna-Firebaugh's interim report found that only about one in four former complainants were satisfied with the oversight process, and only about four percent of complaints that were actually investigated were sustained. The IPR dismissed about 57 percent of its cases without investigation in 2006, says the NWCRC.
Of the 17 people in attendance at last week's community listening session at St. Francis Church, nobody gave a positive account of their experience with the IPR to Luna-Firebaugh.
Luna-Firebaugh will present her final report to city council on January 15, and she may suggest making this "independent" review even more independent.
"People's ability to trust the system is critical to people wanting to use the system," she says. "Having looked at more than six police review boards across the country, the idea that everybody should automatically hate [the review] system isn't true. That has not been my experience."