Portland, Under U.S. Pressure, Boosts Sergeant Role In Police Force Cases


Prompted by federal investigators Portland, Police Chief Mike Reese is changing how first-line supervisors investigate officers’ use of force, The Oregonian reports. A directive effective Jan. 15 requires sergeants to respond immediately to any scene where an officer uses force that results in injury or when a person complains an officer used inappropriate force that caused injury. Supervisors are getting two hours of training this week and next to learn how to secure or photograph evidence, obtain statements from officers and witnesses, and document it all in a use of force after-action report that would be forwarded to an assistant chief.

The directive marks a significant departure from past practice. Until now, officers have filled out use of force reports that sergeants signed, and supervisors wrote after-action reports largely based on officers’ reports of what occurred. It is the first major change made by the police bureau since the U.S. Justice Department started an investigation in June to determine if there was a pattern of excessive force use by Portland police. Police spokesman Lt. Robert King said the change gives sergeants a more active role in managing police use of force. “They’ll respond more quickly and gather more information at the time of an occurrence, and obviously have a clearer picture of what happened,” King said. “We see this is what other cities across the country are doing.” Federal investigators found that Seattle Police Department’s lack of meaningful on-scene review of police use of force by sergeants and other supervisors “tacitly allowed a pattern or practice of excessive use of force.”

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