Are Portland police officers rude?
PORTLAND, Ore. - At least 97 people thought Portland police officers were rude and used foul language in 2011, as that behavior topped the list of complaints filed by the public against officers.
The City of Portland's Independent Police Review released its annual report Friday on complaints received from the community. According to the report, the IPR received 426 complaints last year about Portland officers, an increase of more than 10 percent from 2010. After rude behavior, the second most common complaint filed by 89 people was for an inadequate action or assistance from police.
"Obviously we're concerned about that, but again it's in the context of 450,000 contacts," said Lt. Robert King, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau. "There are times when a situation is dangerous or it's tense, and we have to be very direct. We have to give people explicit directions. But more and more I think today we try to take our time in every situation we're in. Review it, evaluate it, assess the situation."
According to King, police officers are permitted to use foul language as long as there is a purpose, such as gaining a person's attention. Officers are not allowed to insult a person.
"We expect our officers to be professional with the people they encounter in every situation," he said.
Sixty-three people complained of excessive force, representing a 50 percent jump from 2010 when the IPR received 42 force complaints. Nine police officers received multiple complaints about force.
"There are occasions where officers have to because of the kind of work that they do," King said. "Because they're making arrests they have to use force in certain circumstances or certain cases. When they do there's training that they're held to and policy that they're held to.
"We arrest on the order of about 30,000 people every year. ... We pay probably today more attention to our use of force and complaints about force than we ever have before. We take it very seriously because it's very impactful to the individual, to the community, to our legitimacy in the community."
Other common complaints referenced an unjustified arrest or citation (51 complaints) or inadequate communication (34 complaints)
Nearly three out of every four complaints were dismissed by the IPR. But of the cases investigated, 23 officers were disciplined for misconduct.
Two officers were fired in relation to complaints against them, while three additional officers resigned or retired while under investigation sparked by a complaint. Ten officers were suspended without pay. Five received a letter of reprimand. Six were sent to counseling.
Portland police officers' response to Occupy Portland's demonstrations, marches, and two downtown encampments led to 14 community complaints, but also 53 community commendations.