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In September 2012, Consult Hardesty took up demands by the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, regarding the City of Portland’s contract with Dr. David M. Corey. Corey had for 13 years been responsible for delivering psychological evaluation services to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

Consult Hardesty testify at City Hall

4 Oct 2012 – Portland City Hall

Along with training, it is our assessment that psych eval services practically cry out for wider public influence, in reforming a bureau mired in racism, deceit and improper use of force.

The AMA Coalition had long called for racial diversity in the PPB. By providing pre-hire screening of applicants, Corey stood as gatekeeper on the path of recommended new hires. Consult Hardesty also sought a wider discussion by civilian authority over the complicity of psychological services delivery in maintaining a deficient police culture. We reinforced AMA Coalition requests to improve the contract for services as well as expand the pool of professionals to whom a contract would be offered. We called for an understanding of the value of psych eval services throughout an officer’s career, and in particular ‘return to duty’ evaluations following trauma.

After repeated City Hall testimony (here and here), Mayor Adams gave Roger David Hardesty opportunity to work in closer relationship with his Police Liason, Clay Neale. Consult Hardesty identified a nationwide pool of psychologists, educators and other consultants who could assist a Mayor’s Advisory Panel in getting to best practices. We built relationships with professionals with long-term experience in reforming bureau culture and learned how the City could drive cultural change in drafting job requirements, directed recruitment and internal promotion.

Adams did not seek re-election; Neale took a job with PPB. A police hiring freeze has since obviated the need for pre-screening police candidates. Before he left office, Adams did announce that a new contract would be developed and that community input would be sought as it was drafted. In answer to Hardesty’s query, Adams stated the final proposal would require a public hearing in City Council prior to adoption.

Consult Hardesty has begun collaboration on improvements to the procurement of psych eval services with Baruti Artharee, acting Police Liason on Mayor Hayles’ staff. Gone are the vestiges of any public panel of experts in psychology; the City has put the police bureau in the lead of developing a contract. The City will act as arbitrator between police proposals and advocacy by the AMA Coalition Steering Committee, drawn from part of the faith-based community.

Never has a City of Portland decision – to discipline officers for violating policies designed to prevent misuse of lethal force – been upheld. Last weekend the community held a memorial vigil for an unarmed mother of two who was killed by Officer Scott McCollister ten years ago. The relatively minor discipline handed out to McCollister was overruled by an arbitrator in 2006. “My finding is based on my conclusions that the failure to conduct an IAD [Internal Affairs] investigation led to a fatal gap in the information available to the Chief on which to base his decision,” declared arbitrator John C. Truesdale in his 44-page opinion. Faulty police self-investigation failed to lead to any basis for discipline.

Reported The Oregonian in 2012:

“The arbitrator’s ruling that dismissed former Chief Mark Kroeker’s 900-hour suspension of McCollister reads as a template for how arbitration has worn down Portland police discipline. The litany of reasons for overturning the suspension have popped up in multiple Portland arbitration decisions since.”

The arbitrator’s 2006 ruling did not bring about a dutiful investigation of the police’s role in Kendra James’ homicide. Nor did it lead to improvements in providing arbitrators with actionable evidence of police misconduct.

It is this disconnect, between lessons learned and remedial action one might expect of any organization, that forms the topic of this post.

Portland Police are not held accountable by civilian authority. Not in perpetual budget overruns, not by county District Attorneys seeking criminal indictments from grand juries, not even when a police review board votes almost unanimously for terminating an errant officer’s employment.

In 2007, rookie PPB Officer Lindsay Hunt blew the whistle on her supervisor, Field Training Officer Quency Ho. Among Hunt’s allegations were that Ho attempted to break into a home without probable cause, drew his firearm without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, refused to fill out a use-of-force report after attacking a citizen, and  ordered witnesses to destroy a knife left at the scene of a crime. All violations occurred within the first seven months of Hunt’s ‘training.’ Instead of beginning an internal affairs investigation, a precinct-level inquiry found Hunt’s claims baseless. Citizen victims were not interviewed. In 2010 Hunt filed a Federal lawsuit alleging retaliation for reporting misconduct: that, by refusing to abide by the PPB code of silence, she was no longer safe, that she would not get ‘back up’ from fellow officers. More below.

The City’s response to Hunt’s suit? They hired forensic psychologist Dr. Eugene Klecan. After little more than two hours of interviews with Hunt, Klecan testified Hunt suffers from a paranoid personality disorder she’d had since childhood. Dr. Corey, whose psychological evaluations had not found this ‘lifelong condition,’ was not called to testify.

The City’s discovery, that an alleged psychological disorder had escaped detection in pre-hire screening, did not occasion meaningful inquiry into the PPB psych eval processes. 

The City of Portland engages in willful refusal to improve policing. No civilian authority asked how the City could hold that it was both getting valuable pre-employment screening, and also find undetected disorders could surface so quickly. Although, in 2011, Portland’s Citizen Review Committee, a nine-member group established to help improve police accountability, acknowledged Hunt was treated unfairly; no policy changes were proposed, let alone implemented, so that dutiful officers in a bullying culture could provide leadership in reform.

Portland misses opportunities to integrate lessons learned.

A 1998 white paper, Personnel Performance Evaluations in the Community Policing Context says, “Research has demonstrated that well-designed performance evaluations can be used as a catalyst to shape behavioral responses and facilitate organizational change.”

PPB Chief Reese and Mayor Adams heralded a recent investigation into police use of force as a ‘learning opportunity’ in a press conference at the outset. Subsequent to Findings of unconstitutional policies and practices, we hear but scant reference to an organization embracing change. PPB announced last week a new Behavioral Health Unit, designed to better police those perceived to be in mental health crisis, as a unilateral response to DoJ Findings.

PPB did not pre-screen officers for their psychological fitness to serve in the BHU. Indeed, the pioneer into the group was Officer Bret Burton, whose former employer settled for nearly a million dollars with the heirs of James Chasse; an unarmed, emotionally-challenged man, killed by PPB in conjunction with then-Deputy Burton and the Multhomah County Jail.

From page 388 of the white paper:

“The supervisor should have a major impact on determining how well an officer has performed, but not to the extent of ignoring input from citizens, investigators or officers themselves.”

Consult Hardesty advocates for a comprehensive approach when considering how best to utilize psychological evaluations in policing. We seek to tie together several threads of police accountability. By partnering with the community, civilian authority can build into its policies and practices feedback mechanisms designed to improve performance. While improving a contract for psych eval services, an integrated approach might lead to wider appreciation for officer evaluations in general. Should the City begin in earnest to evaluate officers, they will see whistle-blowers as in possession of behavioral information worthy of consideration.

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Hunt ultimately resigned within her first year as a Portland cop. Ho was decertified as a field training officer and received a written reprimand in 2008. In 2011 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta erred when he allowed a Klecan’s report into Hunt’s trial, but it did not reverse the 2008 decision that PPB had not retaliated against Hunt.

In 2009 City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade found problems in the city’s whistle-blowing system, including a lack of guidance on where to report problems, a lack of anonymity, and poor reporting training for employees. Instead of promoting changes to police policy to protect reports of misconduct from within PPB and spark independent investigation that would lead to actionable intelligence, Griffin-Valade established a 24/7 anonymous hotline that city employees and regular citizens alike can use to report fraud and abuse. As of 2011, the hotline had not led to any uptick in reports, let alone investigations or reduction in misconduct.

There is a new term in police culture that describes lessons learned: ‘Pulling a Lindsay,’ refers to attempts to hold superiors accountable to police policy and constitutional protections.

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