Police Board's Powers Limited by Law

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), July 22, 2008 | Go to article overview

Police Board's Powers Limited by Law


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Norton Cabell and Kate Wilkinson For The Register-Guard

In view of concerns regarding actions at the May 30 anti-pesticide rally at Kesey plaza, the Eugene Police Civilian Review Board believes this is an opportune time to describe the role of the police oversight system in cases of alleged police misconduct.

Police officers are public employees whose conduct is governed by rules and regulations in the Police Operations Manual. A copy is available at the Eugene Public Library.

Once a member of the public files a complaint against a police officer, which usually occurs through the police auditor's office, a process is initiated in which the auditor is involved in the intake and evaluation of this complaint as it is referred to the internal affairs office of the police department. A police sergeant is placed in charge of investigating the complaint; the sergeant usually has 60 days to complete the investigation. This period can be extended due to extenuating circumstances.

The auditor monitors and usually is involved in the investigation. A file is created for the allegation, which includes transcripts and taped interviews of all parties involved. These generally include interviews with the complainant, the officer or officers involved, and other witnesses.

Once the investigation is complete, a police sergeant, a lieutenant, a captain, the auditor and then the police chief review it. Each studies the file and makes a recommendation (called an adjudication) as to whether or not the complaint has merit.

The police chief has the final say on the matter. If the chief determines that the complaint is well founded, it will be sustained and the chief will decide on appropriate disciplinary action.

Such disciplinary action is kept confidential because of state laws and negotiated agreements between police employees and the city.

It should be noted that if the district attorney decides to launch a criminal investigation of a case, as is the case with the May 30 incident, that investigation takes precedence over any internal investigation. The latter can proceed only after the criminal investigation is completed.

The Civilian Review Board is limited by the city ordinance that created it to reviewing files of closed cases that already have been adjudicated. Complainants not satisfied with the results of the adjudication process also can request that the board review their cases.

The board reviews summaries of all the closed cases monthly and chooses one or more for detailed review. Board members review the file, read all the transcripts and listen to the recordings of the interviews conducted by the investigating sergeant. They also review all the adjudications reached at the different levels within the department and by the auditor.

The board then discusses the case at its regular monthly meeting in open session, while maintaining the anonymity of all parties involved. …

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