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Twice as Bad

Is Cop Review Doubling Police Accountability Payouts?

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NEW FINANCIAL ANALYSIS of police accountability settlements paid out by the city from 1993 to 2005 shows the creation of the Independent Police Review (IPR) may have, in fact, led to a 197 percent rise in cop-related payouts.

City Auditor Gary Blackmer, who ran the IPR until the mayor moved to seize control of it from him two weeks ago, has repeatedly claimed that a drop in excessive force complaints, police shootings, and profanity complaints prove that the IPR has been effective since it took shape in 2002.

However, looking at the payouts in anti-cop lawsuits from 1993-2005 (the most recent year for which complete statistics are available) it appears that the city paid 197 percent more, or nearly double the yearly average, from 2003 to 2005—after IPR's creation—to what they paid in the 10 years prior to that. The average yearly payout from 1993 to 2002 was $383,907, whereas the average payout from 2003-2005 was $755,770.

The Mercury obtained the payout statistics from the city attorney's office under Oregon's public records law.

Copwatch activist Dan Handelman has also accused Auditor Blackmer of making "schoolyard digs" at the author of a report criticizing the way he ran the IPR, in a defensive attempt to divert attention from the issues presented by the consultant's work.

Handelman says both Blackmer and former IPR Director Leslie Stevens, who has since left to work for the police bureau, have made comments aimed at the credibility of the consultant, Eileen Luna-Firebaugh. For example, Blackmer wrote in his response to her report, "I certainly hoped for a better product for the city's $60,000," adding, "very little here is new or valid."

Blackmer did not return a call for comment.

City council will sit down to discuss making changes to the IPR next Tuesday, March 18, at a work session, which is closed to public comment (a decision that prompted protests by police accountability activists, who say council needs to hear their input before it works out a solution for IPR).

Council is also scheduled to have an open hearing on the outcome of their work session the following day, Wednesday, March 19. As of Tuesday, March 11, it was unclear whether Luna-Firebaugh would be coming to council to give testimony on her report, as was originally planned.

"Put it this way," she told the Mercury from Arizona. "I don't have any plane tickets."

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