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Saturday, August 8, 2009
Portland, Oregon Police Department Tasering Mentally Illl and Blacks at High Numbers says report
As reported the Portand Observer, a city auditor report on the use of force by police has drawn mixed reactions from city officials.
The report analyzes data from 2007 through 2008 to provide a snapshot of police use of force in Portland, revealing trends that have garnered praise as wells as alarm.
Complaints concerning the use of force by police are down substantially, from 118 in 2004 to 50 in 2008. The report also showed that Portland police use force in less than one percent of all calls for service and less than five percent of arrests.
However, the report also revealed more disturbing trends.
It revealed that 29 percent of people who are the receiving end of force from a police officer are African American. Thirty four percent of people who have a gun pointed at them by a police officer are also black, according to the report.
The report also concluded that while police are using force on fewer mentally ill suspects overall, their use of Tasers on this population has risen, with 26.4 percent more reports. It notes that people with mental illness tend to be armed more frequently, and more combative.
It also showed disparities in where police use force. Twenty nine percent of all use of force reports were generated in the police bureau's East Precinct, while only 10 percent came from North Precinct.
Forty one percent of all use of force reports were generated by just 15 percent of all officers who submitted more than five use of force reports.
Police Chief Rosie Sizer received a sanguine reception when presenting the report to Portland's Citizen Review Committee, a nine-member panel that helps improve police accountability. The committee was so pleased with the drop in police use of force that there was talking of breaking out champagne glasses, and barely touched on the more negative findings in the report.
"I think this whole effort has been extraordinarily good for the Police Bureau, and it's been extraordinarily good for our relationship with our community," said Sizer, who attributed the drop in use of force to the implementation of recommendations made by a task force in 2007 that called for better training for officers.
The only criticism came from Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch who pointed out that the bureau had no new recommendations to further improve the Police Bureau's use of force numbers. He also complained that the figures don't count the pointing of a Taser weapon toward a suspect as a police use of force.
Sizer also presented the report to City Council last week.
Mayor Sam Adams raised the issue of the African Americans being disproportionately on the receiving end of force by police, which Sizer said the bureau would continue to look into, which was reinforced by Michael Bingham, the chair of the Citizen Review Committee. More HERE