8/24/2023 News Roundup Part 1


<<The consulting firm hired by the City of Portland in May 2022 to perform an independent review of how the city government handled the racial justice protests and ensuing riots that rocked Portland in 2020 delivered its official report to the Portland City Council on Aug. 23.

Attorney Nicholas Mitchell with Independent Monitor LLC presented the firm’s findings by highlighting several key takeaways from the report’s “review period,” which focused on the events that occurred between May and November of 2020.

“One of the most common expressions of emotion that we heard from Portlanders was a sense of surprise about what they perceive to be a militarized response by the Portland Police Bureau, and a sense of not being prepared for what crowd control might look like,” Mitchell said.

The firm also outlined recommendations for the city to avoid “repeating the errors of 2020.”>>

<<“During the review period, the Federal government sent more than 700 federal officers to Portland, which from our review of the available evidence, significantly escalated the level of street conflict,” Mitchell said.

The deployment resulted in highly publicized clashes between protesters and law enforcement that shifted toward federal buildings around the city.>>

<<“During much of July, there were notable clashes with federal law enforcement officers at the Hatfield Courthouse that included attempts by persons to penetrate it, set fires, and in some cases, assault federal officers,” the report reads. “Significant amounts of force were used by federal authorities, including large volumes of CS gas and other less-lethal munitions, including, in well-publicized cases, less-lethal munitions that caused grievous injury to persons who were not engaged in any violence.”>>

<<The Portland Police Bureau used physical force against protesters more than 6,000 times between May and November of 2022. An estimated 438 of these incidents involved “riot control” weapons like tear gas grenades, area-impact munitions or rubber-ball grenades and direct-impact munitions from FN303 and 40mm launchers.>>

<<PPB’s use of force sparked local controversy, the report reads, and by Sept. 10, Mayor Wheeler banned PPB use of tear gas unless authorized by mayoral approval under circumstances with “an immediate risk of death or serious physical injury which cannot otherwise be safely addressed without a greater application of force.”>>

<<Portland citizens interviewed by the consulting firm were frequently surprised by PPB’s “overly militarized” response to the 2020 protests, the report reads. While PPB leaders were frequently involved in policing conferences and traveling around the world to consult or train other departments on proper police standards, the report states that, at home, PPB was failing to discuss its strategies with its own citizens, ultimately leading to a loss of trust and public respect.

“With all this fanfare around the country, at home, there was little public discussion about [the rapid response team] or its strategies, tactics, or munitions,” the report states. “There were no crowd control citizen police academies, no efforts to collaborate with the public on use of force policies related to crowd control, and little in the way of public introduction to RRT, its members, equipment, or approaches.”

Instead, Portland has a “dizzying variety of committees with sometimes overlapping mandates regarding public safety.”

“When those sort of rules of engagement are not consistent on a night-to-night basis, it can cause officers and community members to begin to doubt the sort of logic and legitimacy of the department’s approach,” Mitchell said.

The report described the mandates as an “alphabet soup” of community engagement with no meaningful public involvement.

“What level of threats to life or safety should result in the forced dispersal of crowds with [tear gas]?” the report reads. “What kinds of munitions should be available to the RRT? Should it have access to rubber-ball grenades? What policies should guide officer decision-making for uses of force during public order incidents? What kinds of personal protective equipment should officers use and why? These questions were not systematically addressed or reviewed in partnership between PPB and these community entities.”

While the field officers responding to the protests were regularly overworked and given “little sleep,” they’re managing officers were seemingly uninvolved in the protest response. PPB administrators also failed to consistently establish its rules of engagement with officers before deployment, the report reads.

“In 2020, PPB canceled days off and many officers were working night after night, often on little sleep,” the report reads. “Our interviews with officers reflect that many of them felt stressed, unhappy, and, in some ways, not well cared for by their executive leaders. They noted that they did not see their leaders in the field very often, nor did PPB executives frequently participate in debriefs held in the field each night. This left PPB leaders without relevant information from the field, and officers feeling alone and unsupported by upper command.”

When interviewed, PPB administrators reportedly agreed with this assessment and said they were already working to correct their lack of leadership.

“In our interviews with PPB leaders, it is clear that they have recognized this issue on their own and already committed to being more visible during future public order deployments,” the report states.

“It’s more than a little disappointing that the review had to be done at all after PPB conducted two internal reviews giving themselves high marks for their work injuring, gassing, and traumatizing thousands of ordinary Portlanders trying to march in support of black lives,” said community member Marc Poris.

The outlined issues only represent a fraction of the 85-page report delivered to city council members on Wednesday afternoon, which also included numerous recommendations for how the city might correct these issues. Independent Monitor, LLC recommended that the City of Portland spend the next 180 days performing a “detailed self-assessment” of the governance outlined in the report.

To help rebuild public trust the report put forth twelve recommendations, including: Rebuild the city’s mutual aid network, PPB dramatically its reliance on riot control agents like tear gas, and clarifying public order or use of force directives.

The review also suggests the city create a new specialized Public Order Team, which is scrutinized by PPB executives and overseen by Portland’s new oversight agency. It also encourages PPB policy to require chiefs to be engaged with and visible to officers in the field during public order deployments.>>



 << Fully staffed, the Washington County Jail would have 140 corrections deputies to guard the inmates and provide courthouse security.

But it’s not fully staffed, not close. The Sheriff has 110 corrections deputies on the job. Focusing on corrections deputies who work only in the jail, there should be 118 — but there are only 88.

The jail has a maximum capacity of 572 inmates, but Sheriff Pat Garrett is only operating 448 beds (78% capacity.) Because of the staffing shortage, Garrett shut down another housing unit last week, the second one closed in a year.>>

<<“What we are booking are all felonies, all person A-misdemeanors, all sex crimes, all mandatory arrests — mostly around domestic violence — and then all warrants and driving under the influence if the officer or deputy cannot find a responsible person to sign for that intoxicated driver,” the sheriff said.>>



 <<A task force put together by Gov. Tina Kotek to think up a plan to combat downtown Portland’s ills met for the first time Tuesday morning.

The full 47-member task force will meet three times between now and October, and subcommittees of the task force that focus on specific issues like homelessness and falling property values will meet independently.

The first meeting of the task force took place at the Columbia Square office building in downtown Portland.

According to two members of the task force who spoke with WW on condition of anonymity, Tuesday’s meeting was primarily an overview of the challenges all of the members are keenly aware of in downtown Portland: open drug use, mental health crises and inadequate social services to help those living on the streets. Kotek and Mayor Ted Wheeler took turns speaking to members of the task force, all of whom wore name tags and sat on chairs in a large conference room at Columbia Square.

An economist presented a slideshow of downtown’s ailing economic health, including high office vacancy rates, plateaued foot traffic and falling property values. One of the task force members called the Tuesday meeting “appropriately boring.”

The task force is a stacked roster of downtown law firm presidents, leaders of companies with a wide central city office footprint, nonprofit executives, Mayor Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), state Reps. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley) and Rob Nosse (D-Portland), Metro President Lynn Peterson and small business owners, among others.

Members of the task force will soon receive subcommittee assignments.

The five subcommittees will address central city property values, livability, housing and homelessness, community safety, and taxes, respectively.>>

<<Mayor Wheeler brought with him a laundry list of requests. Some are specific to Gov. Kotek—like increasing funding for trash cleanup along highways, deploying 96 Oregon State Police troopers to Portland to enforce traffic laws, committing $21 million to the mayor’s sanctioned encampments, funding for building a sobering center that the city has been without for years now, deploying bond money to make it easier for developers to build affordable housing, and chipping in state money to repair tent-ringed Union Station.

Kotek has said previously that once the task force comes up with a plan, it will be presented at the Oregon Business Summit in December. The recommendations would also align with a spring legislative session—a likely time for the city to lobby for funding for particular projects.>>


 <<Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, is asking for the deployment of roughly 100 Oregon state troopers to deal with crimes that the municipal police say they are unable to handle due to their workload.

The idea is one of many that Wheeler put up on Tuesday at the first meeting of a task force that Oregon Governor Tina Kotek established with the goal of revitalizing Portland’s central business district.>>

<<The governor stated that her new task force’s meetings must be private so that its more than 40 members can have “frank, confidential conversations.”

The mayor’s office shared a list of bullet points, among them requests for significant new state investments in removing trash and graffiti, more funding for the city’s expansive outdoor shelters, solutions to the increasingly empty office buildings in downtown, more affordable housing, and spending money on an advertising campaign “to improve Portland’s reputation.”>>


 <<Yesterday Gov. Tina Kotek convened the first meeting of her task force designed to reinvigorate Portland’s downtown core and, as you might expect, the almost 50 person (!) team consisted of both the best and WORST people the city has to offer. In my opinion, this group is way too large to get anything of substance done, but it does give the city’s rich crybabies another forum in which to cry—which I wish were enough to shut them up, but it never is.>.

<<But get this! As a member of Gov. Kotek’s downtown revitalizing task force, Mayor Ted Wheeler came to the meeting with a laundry list of requests that he would like the state to do for him. (Not exactly the point of a brain-storming task force… but okay.) Among the usual asks—help with trash pickup and graffiti, money to convert empty downtown buildings into housing—he also wants the governor to assign 100 Oregon State Troopers to help police the city, which is a terrible idea since he can’t control the cops he already has, and there’s little chance the troopers would even agree to do it. BUT HERE’S THE THING THAT MADE ME LOSE MY GODDAMN MIND: Wheeler also asked the state to pay for an advertising campaign “to improve Portland’s reputation.” Soooooo… let me get this straight: He wants me—the taxpayer—to pay for an ad campaign to counter the negative campaign against Portland launched by his cynical, terrible rich pals in the business community and police union? Is he fucking kidding me?? >>


 <<Mayor Ted Wheeler is requesting that nearly 100 Oregon state troopers — a full fifth of the statewide total — be deployed in Portland to address crimes city police have said they are too overwhelmed to handle.

The suggestion is one of dozens Wheeler floated on Tuesday at the first meeting of a task force convened by Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, which has a focus on reviving Portland’s central city. The effort is part of a scramble by Kotek and top business leaders to develop an “action plan” for curbing the city’s woes around crime, livability issues and a downtown core that has grown emptier since the pandemic.>>

Meetings of Kotek’s new task force are closed to the public, which the governor said is important for its more than 40 members to have “frank, confidential conversations.” But Wheeler, a member of the group, was clear on Tuesday about what he hopes to see.

Amid bullet points shared by the mayor’s office are requests for major new state investments for cleaning up trash and graffiti, more money for the city’s large-scale outdoor shelters, clearing the way for downtown’s increasingly vacant office buildings to be converted to housing, and investing in an ad campaign “to improve Portland’s reputation.”

The proposals include more than $250 million in direct funding requests from the state and even more ideas that suggest non-specific state allocations. Many include expansions of efforts that are already underway, but which the mayor believes need more support to make effective.

For instance, Wheeler is asking the state to spend $12 million “to implement strategies that will keep encampments from returning to the same locations’’ on state-owned land, an investment he believes “will save the State money in the long run as they will no longer need to send crews to the same locations over and over.” The proposal does not detail what strategies Wheeler has in mind.

But Wheeler’s suggestion of dedicating 96 state troopers to Portland is more novel and would reshape the law enforcement landscape as the city grapples with surging addiction and related crimes.

“OSP should open a branch office in downtown Portland for better-coordinated presence and enforcement,” Wheeler’s proposal reads.

Under his vision, troopers could help Portland police deal with violent crime, property theft and hate crimes. The document also suggests troopers could help enforce traffic laws, a key issue as Portland has registered record traffic fatalities in recent years.

The suggestion might not be welcome by Oregon State Police, who perennially say they lack the workforce to sufficiently police state highways. The department’s patrol division has roughly 480 sworn officers and routinely has dozens of vacant budgeted positions.

According to an agency presentation from February, the department had an average of 86 vacant positions over the past two years.

Wheeler is also calling for increased federal law enforcement presence in the city, according to the document, which was first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive. Pete Cajigal, the acting U.S. Marshal for Oregon, told OPB on Tuesday that his office recently met with Wheeler about his “vision of law enforcement efforts within Portland.”>>

<<But the mayor’s proposals, if they move forward, are all but certain to face pushback. Juan Chavez, an attorney with the Oregon Justice Resource Center and frequent police critic, told OPB the idea of calling in more law enforcement was a “deeply unserious response.”

“Mayor Wheeler continues to oversimplify the complexity of the problems our community faces,” Chavez said in an email. “While this call for more law enforcement may placate a particular segment of the community who continue to push fear and punishment rhetoric, it ignores what almost all experts say are durable solutions: more upstream investments; coordinating and implementing holistic and diverse strategies; and, treating every individual in our community with dignity.”>>

<<The business-heavy 46-person roster includes representatives from many of Portland’s largest employers, civic groups, three members of the state’s congressional delegation, and an array of state and local officials. Kotek is chairing the body, alongside Dan McMillan, CEO of The Standard insurance company, which owns a skyscraper downtown.>>



 <<Police are requesting public assistance in the investigation of an Oregon Department of Corrections sergeant at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility accused of sexual misconduct with an inmate.

Oregon State Police arrested Sgt. Levi Gray after a grand jury indicted him for first-degree custodial sexual misconduct and first-degree official misconduct.>>

<<Authorities have yet to release further details; however, court documents for the indictment allege that “on or about May 23, 2023” Gray had vaginal and oral sex with an inmate.

In an email to KOIN 6 News, the Oregon Department of Corrections confirmed Gray was employed by the agency for the first time from January 2010 to the end of July 2011, and then reemployed in early May 2012 until he was put on administrative leave on May 24, 2023.>>


 <<A sergeant at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville was indicted on Aug. 16 for sexual misconduct by a Washington County jury, the Oregon State Police announced Wednesday.

According to court documents, Sergeant Levi Gray is accused engaging in various sexual activities with an inmate at the facility where he worked on or around May 23, 2023.

Gray was arraigned Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty. His bail was set for $10,000.

According to a spokesperson for the DOC, Gray was first hired by the department in Jan. 2010 and worked at the Mill Creek Correctional Facility and then later at the Oregon State Correctional Institution and Columbia River Correctional Institution. He resigned July 31, 2011.

Gray was rehired by the department May 4, 2012 and worked at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, where he worked until he was placed on administrative leave May 24, 2023. He makes $7,817 a month. >>



 <<Ian Howtopat died in jail by suicide. Melissa and her husband Donovan have since been grappling with how their 24-year-old son ended up dead and questioning whether the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office properly cares for inmates feeling the pangs of drug withdrawal.

They argue Ivan Howtopat should have been taken to the hospital, where he could be supervised while his body fought the effects of the powerful opioid.

“When he was arrested, my dad told the arresting officers that he needed help because he was severely addicted,” Melissa Howtopat said. “You can’t just throw him in there and forget about him.”>>

<<The family has hired a law firm but has not filed any official complaints in court. However, the attorneys said that jail staff did nothing to help Ivan Howtopat detox even though they were aware he was a fentanyl user.>>

<<According to records, jail staff couldn’t book Howtopat into the jail right away because he was “hard to wake” and “not cooperative.” A screening noted he had a dependency on fentanyl.

Fellow inmates later told investigators that Howtopat was reeling from withdrawal and expressing intense discomfort. At one point, Howtopat asked a fellow inmate to break his arm so he could go to a hospital.>>

<<Howtopat spent five days in jail by the time corrections deputies found him dead in his cell on May 20. Video footage shows about an hour elapsed between checks by deputies. A medical examiner said his injuries were consistent with someone hanging for nearly that long.

A 2019 investigation into Northwest jail deaths by OPB and the Northwest News Network found that around 40% of the deaths happen within the first week someone is incarcerated. The analysis of a decade of data also found nearly half of all jail deaths were the result of suicide.

To family members, jail staff should have flagged Howtopat immediately and ensured he received medical treatment. They question whether jail staff followed best practices.>>



 <<A damning report by the City Ombudsman revealed Portland Parks & Recreation ignored state law and city policies in towing and destroying vessels from city docks.

The investigation began in October 2022 after Ombudsman Jennifer Croft received a complaint about a towed boat. That led to a “comprehensive investigation into the boat seizure process” which found “a widespread pattern of noncompliance by Parks with state law and City Code on the towing of vessels from public docks.”

“State law is very clear that state law agencies need to store vessels for 30 days to allow boat owners to appeal to the tow and retrieve their vessel if they’d like to,” said deputy Ombudsman Elizabeth Martinez.

“Instead, we found that parks routinely destroyed vessels immediately upon towing them.”>>

<<In late 2021 an agreement between PPR and Multnomah County to tow boats from the city docks expired. Without a new agreement, “Parks began its own process of towing vessels from municipal docks for the first time,” the Ombudsman report said.

It was at this point PPR developed “their protocol for boat tows,” but did not follow the “clearly delineated” state laws on how to do this.>>

<<The Ombudsman report “initially found that premature seizure and destruction of vessels appeared to be Parks’ standard practice.” They listed multiple examples of how PPR’s “pattern of unlawful and unfair towing and disposal practices resulted in Portlanders losing shelter and property.”

<<Among the repeated mistakes PPR made was using calendar days — not business days — to let boat owners know their boat might be seized.

They also “erroneously treated vessels as seized after posting the pre-seizure notice to the vessel,” then destroyed the boat after 30 days even though, technically, the boat had never been seized.

State law requires the boat owners to be officially notified their boat was taken. “However, Parks was unable to provide copies of these post-seizure notices for each vessel it towed, making it unclear if Parks consistently followed state law in its post-seizure process.”

And, the Ombudsman report said, PPR hired a vendor “that regularly destroyed boats directly after towing them, rather than storing them for the required 30 days…”

The vendor, A-1 Marina, was hired without a contract and did not go through the “open, competitive procurement process” in direct violation of city code.

Portland Parks & Rec regularly took the personal belongings of the boat owners off the boats before they towed them — but did not inventory the items. Because of that, PPR “could not account for” the personal belongings of the boat owners.

They also did not use social services that were available to help the boat owners, some of whom were living on the boat. Nor were they able to provide photos or records of the personal belongings of each person.>>

<<The Ombudsman listed 7 specific recommendations for Portland Parks & Rec to implement:

    Immediately tell each owner whose boat was prematurely destroyed they can file a claim

    Develop a written procedure that follows all state laws

    Use outreach and documentation processes with those whose boats are being towed

    Follow city procurement rules when using contractors

    Determine if PPR can remove personal belongings from towed boats

    Keep accurate and well-maintained records

    Use police sparingly

In a response letter dated August 18, PPR Health, Safety and Emergency Manager Vicente S. Harrison said they are “committed to implementing the actions outlined above.”>>


 <<Portland Parks & Recreation routinely broke the law in the way it seized and destroyed boats along the city’s waterways last year, the City Ombudsman found in an investigation.

The city could now face claims from people whose boats were taken and demolished. The bureau has promised to make changes to address the panoply of issues investigators detailed.

“Our investigation found a widespread pattern of noncompliance by Parks with state law and City Code,” City Ombudsman Jennifer Croft wrote in the report, published Wednesday. “The investigation also revealed significant equity concerns, as Bureau practices resulted in confiscation of valuable property from some of the City’s most marginalized community members and, in some instances, left them without shelter.”

The bureau seized six boats from city docks in 2022, according to the report.

The ombudsman’s office, which is part of the City Auditor’s Office, found that, despite state law being clear, the parks bureau failed to follow numerous basic requirements, including giving boat owners 10 business days between providing a notice of impending seizure and seizing a boat and allowing 30 days to pass after seizure before destroying a boat.

Croft also criticized the agency for poor record-keeping, for not adequately involving social services to help people living on boats and for failing to ensure people got all of their belongings from boats that were seized and destroyed.

The parks bureau accepted the ombudsman’s seven recommendations, according to a letter the bureau’s health, safety and emergency manager, Vicente Harrison, wrote Aug. 18.

“We appreciate the diligent investigation outlined in your report,” Harrison wrote. “We recognize the value of the findings and have committed to addressing concerns, with some improvements already implemented.”

The bureau said it has contacted all boat owners whose boats were destroyed and told them they could file a claim with the city’s Risk Management division.>>


 <<Portland Parks & Recreation has been unlawfully destroying boats to keep public docks safe and clean, according to a report from the city ombudsman’s office.

Most public docks in Portland have strict rules, like closing and opening times and no overnight mooring. But boat owners often stay for days or even live dockside, ignoring the city’s compliance requests.

So the parks bureau issues seizure notices, warning offending owners that their boats will be towed away and destroyed.

State law requires seized boats to be stored for 30 days before being destroyed, so owners can appeal the notice or at least retrieve their stuff.

But Elizabeth Martinez, with the ombudsman’s office, said the investigation found the parks bureau seized vessels and destroyed them immediately.

“We believe that Parks mistakenly thought that the 30-day storage clock started when they provided the pre-seizure notice,” Martinez said. “That is not in line with state law.”

The report found that six boats had been destroyed in 2022. It also found equity concerns with the process, noting that bureau practices “resulted in confiscation of valuable property from some of the City’s most marginalized community members and, in some instances, left them without shelter.”

Owners can now file liability claims against the city. It’s not clear how much the boats were worth.

“The City’s handling of boat tows resulted in individuals unjustly losing their property and undermined their right to due process,” said City Ombudsman Jennifer Croft in a press release. “The City should do what it can to address the harm done to affected boat owners and ensure that the correct procedures are consistently followed in future.”

Vincente Harrison with Portland Parks & Recreation issued a letter in response to the investigation, saying the bureau will now abide by state seizure laws and continue dealing equitably with people living on boats.

“We appreciate the diligent investigation,” the letter reads. “The report highlights improvements that can be made in Portland Parks & Recreation’s vessel seizure procedure.”

The investigation was prompted by a boat owner who filed a complaint with the ombudsman’s office in October 2022.>>