Report: Police bureau shooting deaths drop in a decade
- Jim Redden
- Portland Tribune - News
Chief Sizer says a major effort has been made to cut incidents
Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer credits a 'Herculean effort' on the part of the bureau for a dramatic drop in officer-involved shootings during the past 12 years.
According to bureau statistics, the number of shooting incidents has dropped from around nine a year in the late 1990s to just two in each of the past two years.
'This has been a substantial change,' Sizer told reporters Tuesday morning at a press conference with Portland Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and City Auditor Gary Blackmer.
The press conference was called to discuss the third follow-up report of a 2003 evaluation on officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths by the Police Resource Assessment Center, a non-profit organization that reviews police policies and recommends changes. Blackmer had contracted with the organization in 2002 after five straight years of such shootings and deaths.
In 2003, PARC issued a report with dozens of recommended changes to bureau policies, including how the shootings and deaths are investigated. The follow-up report released Tuesday praised the bureau for adopting the vast majority of them.
It called the bureau 'an increasingly excellent police department,' a compliment welcomed by Sizer.
'I am very pleased to see many substantial changes undertaken by the Portland Police Bureau, and especially by line officers, in response to these recommendations,' said Blackmer.
Sizer noted that the PARC recommendation are only part of the bureau changes, however. She said the bureau had also become good at identifying and changing policies before they are identified as problems.
'The bureau has shown that it can make continual program,' said said.
The follow-up report agreed, noting, 'The PPB is indeed in a progressive mode, with increased capacity for self-critical identification of issues and formulation of solutions.'
Despite the progress, the follow-up report recommended a number of other policy changes for the bureau. The included limiting the amount of times that officers can use less-than-lethal Tasers and beanbag shotgun rounds against suspects during a confrontation. The report also recommended that the bureau's AR-15 assault rifles only be used in limited circumstances, such as when a suspect is shooting a weapon.
Sizer said she agreed with recommendation and had already incorporated them into the bureau's ongoing training programs.
Investigating into Grigsby shooting
Much of the report was based on reviews of 12 adjudicated officer-involved shootings from 2002 through 2005. It raised the most questions about the Dec. 2, 2004, fatal shooting of William T. Grigsby, 24. He died after being shot 13 times, hit 22 times with beanbags, Tasered four or five times and bitten by a police dog.
The incident began after Grigsby crashed a stolen pickup in Southeast Portland, ran from police, and shot and wounded a pursing officer. He bled to death before medics were allowed to approach him. Although an ambulance was on standby, it was not allowed to move in because he was still moving and would not obey police orders to get his hands away from his gun.
Although the report questioned why Grigsby did not receive medical treatment sooner, Sizer described the incident as 'rapidly moving one where an officer had been shot.'
The report did not include the Sept. 17, 2006, death of James Chasse, a mentally ill man who died after being chased, restrained and arrested by police. That case was not included in the report because it is still being reviewed by the bureau and is the subject of an unresolved civil wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chasse's family.
Asked about the bureau's investigation into the incident, Sizer said she would release the results soon but declined to discuss them.