City of Portland launches outside review of potential bias in its PD

Chief Chuck Lovell has said Portland PD would cooperate with the investigation


By Betsy Hammond
oregonlive.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland has signed a $150,000 contract with a California firm to investigate whether the city’s police agency shows racial or political bias or resistance to change.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who believes she and other Black people have been the targets of Portland police bias, announced the contract details Thursday. The study’s findings are due by December, they said.

Portland (Ore.) Police Chief Chuck Lovell
Portland (Ore.) Police Chief Chuck Lovell (MCT)

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The firm they hired, OIR Group, is the same one the city recently retained to perform a narrower investigation into the leak last month of police and dispatch records related to a mistaken report that Hardesty was the driver in a minor hit-and-run car collision.

The president of the Portland police union, Brian Hunzeker, resigned shortly after the leak occurred, citing an unspecified “mistake” he made related to it.

The Portland Police Association, which represents the city’s rank-and-file officers, did not responded to a request for comment Thursday.

Chief Chuck Lovell said the city’s police force would cooperate with the bias investigation, just as it has with other outside audits and reviews over the years.

“The Portland Police Bureau expects its members to reflect the values of the bureau and city and regularly adapts directives and training with community or other outside input,” Lovell said in a statement. “We will continue to serve the community openly and equitably.”

OIR Group, based in Los Angeles and headed by a former federal prosecutor, has reviewed police agencies in Iowa, California and elsewhere, including a 2018 review of the Clackamas County sheriff’s office.

Its probe into the release of records that erroneously identified Hardesty as a hit-and-run suspect will cost the city as much as $50,000, according to a copy of the contract.

Jim Middaugh, a spokesman for Wheeler, said the mayor would seek to dip into one of the city’s strategic reserve funds to pay for the pair of outside reviews, which could total $200,000.

The Portland police and city’s Bureau of Emergency Communications have also announced their own internal investigations of the leak, which critics believe was intended to damage Hardesty, a political opponent of the bureau.

The larger independent review of the Portland Police Bureau announced Thursday will examine three broad topics, Wheeler and Hardesty said in a news release.

Racial bias: Are the Police Bureau’s policies, culture or actions influenced by racial bias? If so, what is the extent of that bias, what are its root causes and what are the best practices to addresses them?

Political bias: Are the Police Bureau’s policies, culture or actions influenced by political bias? If so, what is the extent of that bias, what are its root causes and what should be done about them?

Resistance to change: Are the Police Bureau’s policies, culture or actions resistant to change sought by the community? If so, what is the extent of that resistance, what are its root causes and what are the best practices to address that resistance?

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