Police Misconduct Reports Jump

Article excerpt

Byline: REBECCA NOLAN The Register-Guard

The number of misconduct charges levied against Eugene police employees in 2001 by their co-workers and by citizens tripled over the previous year.

Police officials attributed the rise in part to new ways of handling internal problems such as officers failing to show up for scheduled court proceedings or overtime assignments.

But the number of charges stemming from complaints filed by citizens also grew in 2001, and Sgt. Kel Williams, police internal affairs coordinator, said there was no definitive explanation for the spike.

"The bottom line is, I don't know why that happened," Williams told members of the city's police and human rights commissions during a meeting Thursday.

The department's Internal Affairs Unit handled 76 cases in 2001, including 142 separate charges against police employees. The 28 cases filed in 2000 involved 44 different charges against police employees. A case can involve multiple charges against one or more employees.

Forty-six of the cases were initiated from within the police department, filed by a supervisor or co-worker. Investigators sustained 42 of those cases, ruling that the employee involved had violated police department policy.

The remaining 30 cases were citizen complaints. Seven of those cases were sustained. The others were ruled unfounded or too close to call.

Of the total cases, 20 involved police conduct, 39 involved performance, seven excessive force, eight discourtesy and two discrimination. None of the excessive force or discrimination cases was sustained.

Most employees named in sustained complaints received an oral reprimand or documented counseling from a supervisor. Six were given a written reprimand, eight were suspended from work, and four resigned or were fired.

The internal affairs unit also handed out 403 commendations for good work in 2001, a number which, when compared to the 76 complaints, "speaks for itself," Williams said.

Police identified a number of reasons for the leap in internally generated complaints against employees, including some officers' failure to show up at court hearings.

When the Lane County district attorney and Circuit Court judges complained about the no-shows, police officials were "astounded" and initially did not believe the accusation, Capt. Becky Hanson said.

But it proved to be true. A small number of officers had either forgotten or confused court dates, or had simply failed to appear, causing cases to be dismissed or postponed and prolonging the stress for victims and witnesses prepared to testify. …