After high-profile incidents, PPB training starts strong – then falls off sharply, March 3, 2015

PPB car behind crime scene tapeA newly released city audit shows the Portland Police Bureau has made great strides in some areas in regards to its use of force procedures, but it criticizes the bureau in the area of training.

The report, the first from the city auditor’s office since the U.S. Department of Justice criticized the bureau’s use of force, says the department is very quick to make training changes after shootings or deaths, but after that flurry of activity is over, the training tapers off.

The audit points to the 2006 case of [James Chasse, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia]. He was beaten by police and later died in the back of a police cruiser. The incident prompted several executive orders about how to handle transports.

But several years later the audit says, “The Bureau reported that there has not been a Roll Call video on this subject since 2008” and “Training staff were unable to find lesson plans or recall any In-Service presentations.”

In 2011, Officer Dane Reister mistakenly loaded his beanbag gun with live rounds and seriously injured a man. That too prompted training changes.

But according to the audit, “There have been no training documents, lesson plans or reminders distributed since 2012.”

“Over the past few years, with the Department of Justice investigation and then settlement, training has been a huge issue for us,” bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said.

Why was training tapering off? Simpson pointed to two reasons: policy constantly evolving and the sheer number of officers to train.

“This agency trains more officers every year than any agency in the state. We’re the largest training agency, the largest agency, obviously,” Simpson said. “And we can be more responsive to changes that need to happen. There’s really no end to how this works for us. Every year something new comes along, and a new procedure, and a new topic that we have to figure out how to train 1,000 people in.”

In all, the auditor made 12 recommendations.

The police chief responded to the audit, saying he agreed with the findings and is already taking steps to address the issues.