For the past year, community activists and civil rights attorneys have demanded a change in this policy. In light of two traffic stops that have quickly turned deadly in the past year, community members have said that requiring officers to file such reports is a necessary step towards more responsible weapon use by officers. But police union representatives have countered that assessment, saying that such reports may cause officers to pause, potentially putting them in harm's way.
Last week, Chief Derrick Foxworth settled that debate by pushing forward a policy change. Under the new rules, set to take effect on July 1, officers will be required to document each time he or she points a weapon at a person. However, they will not be required to report each time a weapon is drawn.
The concern about mandatory reports for drawn weapons started last year when an officer shot and killed an unarmed black woman at a routine traffic stop. About the same time, the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), a LA-based non-profit, released a series of recommendations for the Portland Police Bureau. After studying in-custody deaths and police shootings between 1997 and 2000, the PARC report provided 89 recommendations.
Chief Foxworth's policy change did not go as far as the PARC recommendation, which called for a written report each time an officer draws a weapon. Even so, Foxworth has raised the ire of the Portland Police Association (PPA), who adamantly oppose the policy. Robert King, PPA's president, has cited a recent largely unfavorable survey that claims only one in four officers supports the change. (Only 43 percent of officers actually responded to the survey.)
On this matter, the Portland Police Bureau stands in opposition to the standard operating protocol for many units throughout the state. For the past seven years, the Oregon State Police have required officers to notify a supervisor and subsequently file a report explaining why a gun was pointed. Likewise, police in the surrounding communities of Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Tigard are all required to submit reports detailing circumstances surrounding a pointed weapon.
The PPA has come under fire lately for their resistance to various cultural and procedural changes at the bureau. Most notably, PPA opposes a public inquiry into a recent shooting of an unarmed black man at a traffic stop in North Portland. There has not been a public inquiry into an officer shooting for 20 years.
It is also widely believed that PPA is responsible for forcing out previous Police Chief Mark Kroeker. The PPA was displeased with Kroeker's decision to suspend Officer Scott McCollister for five months after he shot Kendra James. (A grand jury found there was insufficient evidence to file charges against McCollister.)
Calling the policy change "a work in progress," a police spokesperson said that the change is not certain.