AFTER THE CONFUSING shooting of a Portland man last month by three tactical officers imported from Washington County, the city's Independent Police Review (IPR) division is promising its first comprehensive review of what rules, if any, govern out-of-town cops working in Portland.
IPR Director Mary-Beth Baptista announced the review during a police oversight Citizen Review Committee (CRC) meeting on Wednesday, April 4. Baptista's announcement came while members of the committee and other advocates, including Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman, were asking her about her role in the investigation.
Her answer? "Washington County has its [own oversight] process," she says. "It won't go through ours."
"There's a significant community concern here," she explained later. "It's time for IPR to look at the issue."
IPR's investigation comes nearly three months after the Mercury—amid questions over police actions during Occupy Portland protests—did its own review of the primary contracts that govern the Portland Police Bureau's relationship with outside agencies ["Hands Off, Portland!" News, Jan 12].
The Mercury's review, unchallenged by city attorneys and police officials, found that outside cops are bound by their home agencies' union contracts, policies, training, and oversight mechanisms—not Portland's. That means they might be held to lesser standards on using force and can't be compelled to work with Portland investigators.
At the time, Baptista—who didn't return calls seeking comment for this story—agreed that was "an issue." But she didn't mobilize her office until the aftermath of the March 15 shooting in North Portland's New Columbia.
Details surrounding the incident remain fuzzy. Portland police say three Washington County officers helping our city's gang team serve a warrant ended up shooting and wounding a man who emerged from a nearby home holding a gun.
Relatives of the man, 31-year-old Alberto Flores-Haro, dispute the police account and have told reporters that Flores-Haro thought he saw prowlers in his yard and went to confront them. Multnomah County is investigating the shooting, but the Portland Police Bureau's internal affairs division isn't, even though the overall operation was led by Portland cops.
CRC members and advocates wondered about that wrinkle. They also wondered about who would be liable if a civil suit was filed. The last detailed city examination of outside officers concerned the regional pool of officers tasked with patrolling TriMet lines.
"It calls out for additional clarification," CRC Chairman Jamie Troy said at the meeting.
Baptista said she's asked an analyst in her office, Derek Reinke, to tackle the job. She wants IPR to not only talk to senior police commanders but to also go further and look at the policies and training regimens of Portland's neighboring police forces.
As for a timeframe? There's none yet, Baptista said. She also offered a caveat to the CRC.
"I can't promise that what we discover will satisfy you."