GANG SQUAD/GUN SQUAD
<<In 2018, the City Auditor’s Office issued a pair of reports on Portland Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team. The team has since been disbanded, replaced first by the short-lived Gun Violence Reduction Team and then the Enhanced Community Safety and Focused Intervention Teams, which still exist.
That shouldn’t free the bureau from addressing the auditor’s concerns, however, the office noted in its latest report, published March 21.
It found that the city was still not doing a good job safeguarding the civil liberties of people the bureau believes are associated with gangs.
Although the city eliminated its Most Active Gang Member list, it still informally tracks gang affiliations—and continues to have no documented procedures for when it can use or disseminate those affiliations.
The city recently commissioned a study, based on interviews with PPB officers, which claimed the bureau had identified 30 different groups at risk for violence, with over 1,000 members.
The audit also noticed a disturbing drop in its dedicated gun-violence teams’ clearance rates. The latest iteration, the Community Safety Team, cleared only 20% of shooting investigations begun in 2021. Last year, it set a goal of clearing 45% of nonfatal shootings.
In response to the auditor’s latest report, Mayor Ted Wheeler argued that the “significant distinctions” between the bureau’s currently specialty teams and the Gang Enforcement Team render the audit’s prior recommendations irrelevant.
He also noted that the auditor’s directive to create an official policy “in effect directs PPB to create a tracking system for individual gang affiliation, even if that information exists only in officers’ memories or witness statements made to police.”
Auditor Simone Rede defended the recommendations in a statement. “Though its units have changed, the Police Bureau’s commitment to accountable and transparent policing should not. Policies are fundamental to responsible management of information the bureau collects about community members,” she wrote.>>
<<The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) still doesn’t track enough data to evaluate whether its gun violence intervention tactics are effective at measurably reducing gun violence, a report from the city auditor found.
The report, released Tuesday, is a follow-up to a larger audit published in 2018 that evaluated the PPB’s Gang Enforcement Team—a group that aimed to target gang members by pulling them over for minor traffic violations in order to search their car. The audit found the Gang Enforcement Team disproportionally initiated traffic stops with Black drivers, citing the unsubstantiated claim that “most gang shootings in Portland [are] committed by African American gangs.” The audit also cited concerns with the team’s documentation of people they believed to be gang affiliated, noting that the bureau lacked policies that would protect those people’s civil liberties.
After the team openly admitted to racial profiling, the Gang Enforcement Team was renamed the Gun Violence Reduction Team in 2019, with a focus on reducing gun violence generally. Following the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, City Council voted to dissolve the specialized team.
However, after gun violence spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, the police bureau resurrected its gun violence reduction efforts in the form of two new teams that split the workload of the former Gang Enforcement Team. The Enhanced Community Safety Team (ECST) investigates gun violence, and the Focused Intervention Team (FIT) aims to address gun violence through patrols and traffic stops.
Because the two gun violence-focused teams share a similar mission and duties as the original Gang Enforcement Team, City Auditor Simone Rede reevaluated whether the recommendations the bureau received in 2018 are being applied to the new teams. According to the report, while the Portland police have improved their reporting on racial demographics for traffic stops and monitoring stop data, the bureau must do more to establish criteria and goals that can be used to measure the effectiveness of the traffic stops and create policies that protect civil liberties of people the police believe are affiliated with routine gun violence.
The FIT’s patrol efforts have a high-level goal of improving relationships with community members most impacted by gun violence and using targeted patrol missions to seize illegally-possessed weapons during traffic stops. While the team has a guiding mission, the auditor says the police bureau doesn’t have measurable goals or criteria to track the effectiveness of the FIT’s work.
“While the Bureau has a high-level mission statement for the Intervention Team, it has not set goals to measure the effectiveness of patrol stops made by the Intervention Team,” the auditor’s report reads.
“This makes it difficult for the Bureau to articulate whether the new unit’s traffic stops are successful at meeting its mission to reduce violent crime and ease tension in the community.”
The report also points to a continued concern with the lack of demographic data and reporting on FIT traffic stops that are recorded as “mere conversations”—interactions that don’t result in the driver being detained or charged. The report recommends that those conversations are recorded more diligently to have a complete picture of the team’s patrols and how “mere conversations” are utilized by the police.
In a letter responding to the report, Mayor Ted Wheeler—who also serves as police commissioner—disagreed with the recommendation to increase reporting on the conversations. Wheeler argued that “mere conversations” account for any interaction an officer has with a member of the public, like someone engaging in small talk or asking an officer for directions.
Wheeler argued that not only would it be a major lift to record and maintain all of the additional data, but it could also have a “chilling effect on community engagement if police officers are required to collect demographic information.”
Wheeler also disagreed with the entire premise of the follow-up report, stating that the FIT and ECST are fundamentally different from the previous Gang Enforcement Team and thus should not be held to the same expectations outlined in the 2018 audit. According to Wheeler, because the FIT uses real-time community feedback to inform its work, the team would be better evaluated with a new audit. That real-time input is provided by the FIT Community Oversight Group, a volunteer committee that gives feedback on the team’s efforts and makes recommendations for other gun violence reduction tactics.
One of the oversight group’s recommendations included Portland employing gun detection technology company ShotSpotter—a service that uses microphones to record possible gunshots and alert the police.
ShotSpotter is currently under investigation by the city for possibly violating lobbying laws due to how closely company representatives worked with the Portland police and community oversight group members ahead of the group’s recommendation to utilize the technology. The city is currently still considering a gun detection technology pilot program, possibly in collaboration with ShotSpotter, despite significant negative public feedback on the plan.
The FIT oversight group also recently raised the idea of developing a Violent Impact Players list—a point system that ranks people who are most likely to engage in gun violence. According to the city auditor, developing policies for protecting people’s civil liberties and weighing them against legal requirements would become even more important if the FIT moves forward with that recommendation.
PPB did not provide a comment on the report independent of Wheeler’s response.
“Though its units have changed, the Police Bureau’s commitment to accountable and transparent policing should not,” Rede said in a press release Tuesday. “Policies are fundamental to responsible management of information the Bureau collects about community members. Setting goals would help City leaders and community members assess whether the Bureau’s tactics are reducing violent crime.”>>
<<Deputies from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office shot and killed a man from Sweet Home on Tuesday, according to Oregon State Police.
The two deputies responded to a disturbance call around 2 p.m. at a home in east Linn County, near the community of Cascadia.
When they arrived, they confronted 30-year-old Noah David Colgrove, who they say was armed.
State police say both deputies shot Colgrove, then provided emergency medical aid. He died at the scene.
The sheriff’s office hasn’t said what prompted the officers to fire their weapons.
Neither deputy was injured. Their names have not been released.
OSP and the Linn County major crimes team are investigating. The deputies were put on administrative leave.>>
<< Authorities say a man was shot and killed during a confrontation with Linn County deputies as they responded to a reported disturbance on Tuesday afternoon.
The deputies responded to the report near Cascadia around 2 p.m., and when the deputies arrived, confronted 30-year-old Noah David Colgrove of Sweet Home, according to Oregon State Police. Colgrove was armed at the time of the confrontation, according to authorities; however, OSP did not specify the type of weapon.
According to the Oregon State Police Major Crimes Section and the Linn County Major Crimes Team, two deputies shot Colgrove during the confrontation. Authorities say that deputies provided emergency medical aid, but Colgrove was declared deceased at the scene.
Officials have yet to share what actions lead to the shooting involving the deputies but said that the deputies, who were not immediately named, were uninjured during the incident.>>
<<In a bit of badly needed good news, the Portland Police Bureau reported last month that shootings and homicides were down year over year in January. There were 95 shootings that month, compared with 127 in January last year. Homicides declined from 9 to 6.
“First time I’ve seen a negative number yet,” an ecstatic Mike Myers told county leaders in a meeting late last month.
Myers, the city’s community safety director, credited hot-spot policing and new anti-violence programs, noting there hasn’t been a murder in the Old Town Entertainment District since the city began closing streets and increasing the police presence there in September.
The drop is also welcome news for Mayor Ted Wheeler, who in the midst of record-breaking homicides announced a series of initiatives called Safer Summer PDX to address the violence. The timeline of the program was never clear.
One of the initiative’s leaders, Shareef Khatib, completed his six-month, $105,000 contract in November. And many of the outreach contracts Khatib signed with local community leaders haven’t yet been renewed, sparking some grumbling.
“The work is scaled down mightily,” one of the contractors, Lionel Irving, told KATU-TV on March 13. “We had 11 guys on the streets, you know. Right now, we got three.”>>
<<It’s encouraging news about a problem plaguing the City of Roses. New crime data from the Portland Police Bureau shows the number of deadly shootings has dropped by 56% compared to this time last year.
Overall shootings have also dropped by 34% in Portland too.
Community-based organizations that have spent a lot of time over the last year to try and prevent gun violence said this data shows what their doing is working. Lionel Irving, CEO of Love is Stronger G.V., said the community should take this as a small win because there is still a lot of work to do.
“It makes me optimistic that we’re headed in the right way but it also makes me cautious that I don’t think we got the problem solved,” Irving said.
He credits much of his organization’s success over the last few months to the millions of dollars given out to non-profits through Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s Safe Summer PDX program.>>
<<Irving said with the money Love is Stronger G.V. received through Safe Summer PDX last year, he was able to employ more people to go on the street and help diffuse 400 situations that would have ended in gunfire.
He wants the city to fund this program on a yearly basis before summer starts so his team can continue with early intervention.
“That’s my message to the Mayor,” Irving said. “Continue to allow guys like me to do the work, continue to support us, and continue to put us in a position to be successful so we can tell the stories about the work we do. So other community members can see that there are guys in between people and guns.”>>
<<Police found the man they were looking for. Shortly after 3 p.m. on Tuesday, officers watched him enter a home in Woodburn, and then they surrounded the place.
They haven’t seen him since.
Their quarry, Jesus Camarena, 26, is wanted for assaulting an officer, unlawful use of both a weapon and a vehicle, domestic violence and a parole violation, police said.
The officers outside the Woodburn residence Tuesday afternoon called on everyone inside to come out, Woodburn police said in a statement.
Camarena did not come out.
The Marion County SWAT team soon arrived on the scene. Police closed off the street – the 1000 block of Williams Avenue in Woodburn – and instructed nearby residents to shelter in place.
At about 5:42 p.m., with a search warrant in hand, the SWAT team entered the house, police said. They didn’t find Camarena.>>
<<The Portland Police Bureau is asking for approval from the City Council to divert $80,000 from its existing budget to purchase a drone system, which will be used to take aerial photographs of crime and crash scenes.>>
<<The bureau currently has one drone, a DJI Phantom, which it purchased several years ago to replace the antiquated system. It has yet to be deployed, however. And now, the bureau says, it wants to eventually purchase 12 more.>>
<<“With unmanned aerial systems, agencies can safely map potential crime scenes, surveil active crimes in progress, and investigate traffic accident scenes within a third of the time of ground-level investigations,” the agenda item says.
It notes that the program will not be used for “mass surveillance,” harassment or “crowd management.”>>
<<The Portland Police Bureau formally presented a request to the Portland City Council on March 22 to spend $80,000 of the bureau’s budget on drone equipment, which it says will allow for more efficient crime scene investigations.
PPB Sgt. James Defrain, who heads PPB’s bomb squad, told city commissioners that the use of drones can improve civilian and officer safety, de-escalate potential standoff situations, reduce the number of officers needed to investigate crime scenes and cut down traffic closure times on Portland’s interstate highways, which Defrain said are slowed by PPB’s current crash investigation methods.>>
<<The proposed purchase would be for “short-range” drone equipment, which PPB is referring to as “small unmanned aerial systems,” that would aid in its investigations. PPB previously purchased DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone equipment in 2020 to document traffic collision scenes. However, PPB has yet to deploy any drones in the field.>>
<<There are signs Portland’s elected officials and its police union are willing to compromise on body-worn camera policy, WW has learned.
Rollout of the cameras has been delayed for years by a tug of war between the union, which wants officers to be allowed to view the footage before writing their reports, and activists, who believe misuse of the technology would undermine efforts to hold officers accountable.
The result: Portland remains the last major city in the nation not to strap cameras on its cops.
Although such cameras have produced shocking footage of police abuses across the country, research studies have been equivocal about their benefits. The city’s most vocal skeptic of body cameras, former City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, once called the devices “an expensive, false solution.”
At the time, Hardesty sat on the Portland City Council. She later changed her stance on cameras—agreeing they were needed, so long as the Portland Police Bureau didn’t control the footage. But she was voted out last year amid widespread voter frustration about public safety, including a spike in homicides. Voters replaced her with City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez, who has shown far more sympathy for the cops.
“I sense that there is a historic opportunity to end this stalemate,” he tells WW. “The union has indicated a willingness to compromise. I am willing to do so and have encouraged my colleagues on council to do so as well.”
The Portland Police Association declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations.
Publicly, the two sides are far apart. The union wants officers to be allowed to “pre-review” footage prior to writing reports. The city and the U.S. Department of Justice say that’s a bad idea after officers use force.
The dispute is complicated by the involvement of the Justice Department, which sued the city a decade ago over its use of excessive force against people with mental illness, winning a settlement agreement that grants judicial oversight of the bureau’s policies. Last year, the DOJ proposed a body-worn camera policy with limitations on pre-review similar to the city’s official stance on the matter.
Former U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams laid out the reasoning for such a policy back in 2016, when he told The Oregonian he was concerned that pre-review could “result in officers, whether intentionally or otherwise, modifying their descriptions of the force event to match what they saw on the recording rather than what they recall.”
Because the city is operating under a settlement agreement with the DOJ, it’s not clear what would happen if it reached a deal with the PPA that U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ultimately rejects. In a February hearing, Simon was skeptical that officers needed pre-review, calling “an officer’s unrefreshed subjective recollection…a useful piece of data.”
The city and the PPA presented their final offers during contract negotiations in February, and an arbitrator will hold hearings sometime this summer. If the arbitrator sides with the PPA, some fear it could trigger a yearslong court battle. In February, the union’s attorney said it would continue trying to find “a mutually agreeable program rather than having to roll the dice, if you will, in contested litigation.”
With Hardesty gone, Carmen Rubio is now the city’s most progressive commissioner. She was the only member of Portland’s City Council to respond directly when asked by WW under what circumstances she thought pre-review should be allowed.
“Any incident that involves an injury should not be allowed for pre-review,” she said in a statement to WW. “I remain interested and open to the results of those discussions in bargaining.”
Rubio’s answer—drawing injuries as the line in the sand, rather than the broader concept of force—differs from the city’s official position, and offers a hint of what a potential compromise could look like.
It bears a resemblance to San Francisco’s policy, which requires an additional statement by officers prior to reviewing footage of an officer-involved shooting or an in-custody death. That policy is similar to those of other progressive cities.
The City by the Bay managed to push that policy through in 2020 following two and half years of negotiation with its police union.
Advocates say rushing into a compromise is not an acceptable solution, particularly in a city like Portland that is already being scrutinized for its police force’s failings. “The DOJ has been clear: Body-worn cameras only have as much value as the policy behind them,” says Eben Hoffer, legislative lead at the Mental Health Alliance.
But other Portlanders say they’ve waited long enough. Activists’ and the DOJ’s “position would put Portland out of step with most similar cities and has, predictably, set up program implementation for failure or, at best, years of delays,” wrote Nathan Castle, a member of the citizen committee responsible for monitoring the city’s progress toward implementing the DOJ’s recommendations.
The city has until this summer to broker a compromise with the union before the issue is sent to the purgatory of arbitration. If it fails, and the PPA and DOJ decide to take the issue to court, a process that has dragged on for more than a decade could extend for several more years.>>
<<Incidents of antisemitic hate were up sharply in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest as a whole in 2022, according to new data from the ADL Pacific Northwest, a regional chapter of a national anti-hate group.>>
<<The ADL recorded 40 incidents of antisemitic hate in Oregon in its 2022 audit, the most ever, and 65 incidents in Washington, also a record. Reported incidents were up 36% nationally, according to the ADL.>>
<<There have already been at least three incidents of antisemitic flyering in Oregon in 2023 — all in Lane County. But there has also been pretty immediate push-back.
Flyers urging people to “love your neighbors” were distributed in lane County this winter in an effort to counter antisemitic flyers that had been left in people’s driveways in weeks prior.>>
<<Within a week of all three incidents, volunteers conducted counter-flyering and door-knocking campaigns. Those efforts were led by the Community Alliance of Lane County, a local chapter of Standing Up For Racial Justice and two Eugene-based neighborhood associations. The goal was to spread more inclusive messages of peace and to let people in the community know how to report future such incidents, said Stephen Piggott, who studies right-wing extremism as a program analyst with the Western States Center, a civil rights group.
“Having something so timely is also super powerful,” Piggott said. “This is exactly what these bigoted groups despise.”
People who spread messages of hate are hoping for media attention that will amplify their rhetoric, he said. Ultimately, they seek to instill fear in people who belong to whatever group is their current target.
But in Lane County this year, “their attempt to sew fear and intimidation has been met by a much stronger message, which is a message of community unity,” Piggott said.>>