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Oversight or Overslight?

Rent-a-Cops Get New Complaints Procedure

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The mayor's office has asked the Portland Business Alliance to create an official complaints procedure for its rent-a-cop firm, Portland Patrol, Inc. (PPI), in response to concerns over lack of oversight.

"We were getting questions about not having a way to complain," explains Maria Rubio, the mayor's public safety policy manager.

PPI officers patrol Old Town and downtown dressed like real cops ["Trust Me, I'm a Rent-a-Cop," Feature, May 3]. Many of them carry guns, and they have issued more than 1,100 park exclusions since last November. But there has been no public complaints procedure since the private security firm started its patrols in 1998.

Now, according to Rubio, PPI officers will give out business cards to people who wish to make a complaint, and the firm will provide the mayor's office on a quarterly basis with a list of all the complaints it has received, and how they were resolved. The first of these complaint lists is due next month and will be public record.

PPI head John Hren has refused comment, while the mayor's office and the Portland Business Alliance were unable to furnish the Mercury with a copy of PPI's complaints procedure by press time.

Police oversight activists say it's too early to tell if the new policy goes far enough. "I'm glad the message is getting through to the city that there needs to be accountability for anyone with the power to police," says Alejandro Queral of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center. "But I won't be able to comment beyond that until we know how the disciplinary process is being conducted, and whether there are any consequences to it."

"The fact that the city has asked for this is a good sign," says Dan Handelman of activist group Portland Copwatch.

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