Another CRC Failure

Time and time again, the City of Portland and its various committees such as the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) have failed to communicate with the PPA about changes to significant working conditions such as discipline that directly impact the PPA’s members. The CRC’s proposal to change its standard of review of discipline cases involving PPA members is another example of that failure. Apparently, the CRC is more than comfortable talking about police officers but couldn’t be bothered with talking to the very officers who are subjects of the CRC’s inquiries.

This lack of communication validates the belief held by the PPA and its members that the CRC is not an objective body, but rather a biased and politically motivated body that spreads false narratives seeking to punish Portland police officers through 20/20 hindsight and anti-police rhetoric. The Citizen Review Committee overlooked the fact that any change to their standard of review directly implicates discipline which requires the PPA’s agreement under the PECBA and Article 3 of the PPA’s collective bargaining agreement with the City.

As to the substance of CRC’s proposal, it is based on an implicit and incorrect notion that the community has little say in the current discipline process. In reality, the current discipline process involves the civilian-run Independent Police Review (IPR) division from the very outset as both an investigative and oversight body, with the Police Review Board and its citizen and IPR members having a say in recommending discipline. The Chief of Police and Police Commissioner, who have the ultimate say on discipline, are directly accountable to the public.

CRC’s current standard of review requires CRC members to determine whether the Police Bureau’s findings are “supported by the evidence,” which means “a reasonable person could make the finding in light of the evidence. CRC’s standard of review of PPB discipline cases is no different than an appellate court’s review of state agency orders. Surely, a legal standard used by courts should suffice for CRC.

The City must honor its bargaining obligations with the PPA. But more importantly, the City should carefully consider whether CRC’s proposal will have any true benefit to the Police Bureau’s already overcomplicated and punitive discipline process. We certainly don’t think so.

We must not forget that our police officers have to endure a lengthy discipline process, which includes multiple investigatory bodies, commander reviews, PRB reviews, and police chief and police commissioner reviews, all of which is subject to CRC and City Council review. When a police officer is cleared of misconduct, that officer deserves closure. When a police officer violates one of the hundreds of policies to which they are expected to adhere, that officer receives corrective action that is meant to remediate as opposed to punish. No part of this core due process is satisfied by adding another CRC review layer where yet another body can second guess an officer’s actions.