How police auditor, boards of directors held Eugene employees accountable

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Each year Eugene City Council hears from various entities that oversee Eugene’s police service.

The Eugene Police Commission, the Police Auditor’s Office and the Civil Review Commission present their achievements, goals and other important information related to their work to hold EPD and its employees accountable.

This year, the three reports totaled 144 pages.

Here are some highlights from the three reports, which the leaders of each group presented in a working session on Monday.

Read the reports:All three reports are available here

Coming soon an auditor’s report on the EPD’s response to the protests

Protests and demonstrations erupted across the country in May 2020 in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of law enforcement officials.

Protests began in Eugene on May 29, 2020, with some turning violent in the first weekend. Eugene police used force against some protesters, including tear gas, pepper spray, PepperBalls, 40mm sponge bullets and batons.

All three reports touched on EPD’s response and conduct at local protests, with the auditor and CRB investigating EPD’s response and the police commission working to update policies.

According to the auditor’s report, dozens of community members contacted the officers driving that night.

Repercussions of the riots: Riot repercussions: Eugene’s first lawless act in a year of protest still under review

This led the auditor’s office to open what interim auditor Leia Pitcher said was the “largest investigation in the history of the auditor’s office.”

The Civilian Review Commission designated the investigations into the multiple complaints related to conduct during protests as an investigation of cases impacting the community.

This involved:

  • Incident reviews offering an overview of the events of May 29, 30 and 31
  • An incident review / catch-all for complaints about leader and command level decisions
  • Seven investigations into allegations of misconduct, mainly focused on the use of force
  • Two additional incident reviews in specific incidents
  • Six inquiries
  • A service complaint

After reviewing most of the more than 600 hours of body-worn and on-board camera video footage with the help of Internal Affairs and other city employees, the auditor’s office virtually completed the investigations in six months and presented to the Civil Review Board in December 2020.

The auditor accepted some of the allegations of misconduct, concluding that:

  • A supervisor who used a 40mm “round-sponge” launcher four times broke the policy three times. (The police chief found the actions to be in line with policy.)
  • The officers used excessive force against a member of the press and broke the policy.

Chief Chris Skinner agreed with the auditor that officers had violated policy in the incident involving a member of the press, but found the supervisor’s actions with the sponge cartridges to be in line with policy.

The auditor, supervisor and Skinner all found that the other actions described in the complaints about EPD’s actions during the protests were in line with the policy.

The board made several recommendations to Skinner on policies and practices, including:

  • Recommend that the SWAT team be equipped with body-worn cameras
  • Several changes to the policy governing the use of the 40mm sponge round launcher, including that it should not be used in crowd control situations
  • Changes to Training and Policy Governing the Use of PepperBall Launchers

In CRB’s 2020 report, the summary of facts and talking points for the community impact case is about 10 pages long.

A concise report on the process and results of the community impact case investigation is provided by the auditor’s office and the civilian review committee. Pitcher told advisers it is expected to be released in July.

About half of the misconduct allegations supported

People filed 33 complaints alleging police misconduct. Many of the complaints included more than one specific allegation. In total, people made 71 specific allegations against 34 EPD employees in the 33 complaints.

For subscribers: Analysis of complaints reveals that less than 15% of complaints about Eugene’s police result in a statement of offense and an allegation of misconduct

According to the auditor’s report, the most common allegations concerned unsatisfactory performance and the use of force.

Twenty-one of 33 misconduct complaints and 33 of 71 specific allegations were upheld. That’s 64% and 46%, respectively.

Disciplinary measures varied for the 21 employees convicted of offenses based on an allegation:

  • 1 has been coached
  • 15 received documented advice
  • 5 received an oral reprimand
  • 1 disciplinary decision is still pending.

An employee received both documented advice and oral reprimands following two separate incidents.

People also made three allegations of criminal conduct which had different results. One was fired when the person recanted. Another did not result in any criminal charges, but a finding that the employee had violated policy. During the final investigation, the employee resigned and criminal charges are still pending.

For subscribers: Two Eugene police officers quit less than a year after being accused of sexual assault

Auditor creating a new position for diversity, equity, inclusion

Outreach efforts by the auditor’s office have been successful in “building relationships with community members who would not otherwise seek us out,” the report says.

“Nationally, tensions between communities and their police are incredibly high, and civilian oversight performs a vital function in creating channels of communication, understanding and, ultimately, a cohesive and constructive relationship,” we read in the report.

As part of a commitment to be an ally for marginalized communities, the office is “in the early stages” of creating a new position.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer would be housed in the auditor’s office, but would have access to the EPD to analyze policies and practices from an equity perspective.

The hope is that the new position will bring “a critical but collaborative perspective” on issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion within the police service and “improve policing and community oversight to everyone in our community.

Police commission recommends changes to downtown law enforcement

There is a “patchwork of confusing enforcement jurisdictions” in downtown Eugene, Sean Shivers said.

There are eight special enforcement zones in effect in the city center, described in a June 16 memo:

  • Downtown Activity Zone, an area bounded by Sixth and 11th Avenues to the north and south and Lincoln and High Streets to the west and east where people can hold sidewalk sales and vending machines and where there are other allowances for events on public property with permits.
  • No smoking on downtown public property between 8th and 10th ave and Lincoln and Pearl streets which also includes the library and LTD station blocks. Some nearby areas have chosen to participate, and others inside have unsubscribed and allow smoking
  • Leash Mandate, which refers to the requirement that people have a license for their dogs before bringing them to downtown Eugene
  • Community Outreach Team Operational Zone, the core area where this EPD Special Team operates
  • Downtown
  • Downtown district
  • Report area
  • Operational area
Members of the community outreach and response team, including social workers from White Bird and Eugene Police, talk to the people of Broadway Plaza during a program to connect with people in the street during regular weekly downtown tours in 2016. [Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard] - registerguard.com

Shivers, who has chaired the police commission since 2018, said mixing eight areas with different rules made it difficult for the commission to achieve one of its goals due to their complexity.

The commissioners adopted a recommendation that the city combine special zones of application.

The memo says they should be “one consistent area”. Combining them as much as possible would “simplify the expectations of both our residents and our agents, reducing their workload and avoiding disagreements and confusion.”

In the memo, the commission also suggests that councilors consider expanding the ordinances that currently cover the city center, which would allow other high traffic areas to benefit from the ordinance design to increase livability and downtown security.

Contact municipal government watchdog Megan Banta at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ MeganBanta_1.

Learn more about reports

Read the three reports, which include accomplishments and upcoming goals not covered in this article, at scribd.com/document/513553043/Reports.

See the reporting overview at youtube.com/watch?v=7SutW8c-rNE.



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