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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fewer police shootings in '07 called a good trend

There were two police shootings in Portland in 2007, the fewest in a decade.

At the same time, police discipline is up, indicating that Portland officers are being held more accountable, according to an annual report by the city's Independent Police Review Division.

Division director Mary-Beth Baptista, who will release the 61-page report today, called the numbers a positive trend.

"This is a good indication we're on the right track," she said.

The report also shows that the number of citizen complaints to the police oversight agency has continued to drop since 2004, with 660 in 2007. Most of the complaints involved rudeness or excessive force, and were lodged against precinct officers. In 2007, IPR declined 58 percent of the complaints, finding those "unprovable or non-meritorious."

The oversight agency says it remains concerned that the Portland Police Bureau has sustained only one citizen allegation of excessive non-lethal force in the past six years.

The report provides a much rosier view of police oversight than an outside consultant's assessment in January. It concluded that the rate of complaints sustained against Portland police -- less than 1 percent from 2002 to 2006 -- was substantially lower than in other cities with similar oversight systems. The consultant's report also said complaints were down because residents don't know how the oversight system works and have lost confidence in it.

The Independent Police Review Division was set up in 2001 as the intake center for complaints against police.

The division can dismiss a complaint, refer it to the Police Bureau's internal affairs division, a police supervisor as a "service complaint," a mediator or investigate it itself. The nine-member Citizen Review Committee hears citizens' appeals of the police findings.

Last year, there were two officer-involved shootings, one fatal and one resulting in injuries. This is down from seven officer-involved shootings in 2006, and nine in 2005. [Mark Godsey]

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