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EPD’s ‘Sustained’ Rate Of Misconduct Grows

The Eugene Police Department (EPD) finds that in approximately 44 percent of the cases investigated for serious misconduct, the officer investigated has committed serious misconduct. That is a rate higher than many other cities, according to the city of Eugene Police Auditor’s 2013 Annual Report. The report, released May 31, shows four other cities with “sustained” rates ranging from 2 to 20 percent.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the whole investigative process — what the expectations are, willingness to make decisions, having the resources to manage the kind of load that we have,” Police Auditor Mark Gissiner says. 

Eugene Police Commission Chair Bob Walker says he thinks the number is high because of Eugene’s comprehensive oversight process. Cases are reviewed independently by the police auditor and the Civilian Review Board — a seven-member volunteer citizen body that evaluates certain allegations of misconduct. Cases are also reviewed at EPD by Internal Affairs, and the police chief receives feedback from all three groups. Walker says he thinks EPD holds police to a high standard.

The number is up from the previous year’s sustained rate of 31 percent. Gissiner says he hopes the number goes down in the future. The auditor’s office sees more incidents now that EPD officers use Blue Team, software that reports all uses of force, he says.

The oversight bodies see more uses of force with Blue Team, Gissiner says, because the software leads to all uses of force being reported by a supervisor and sent to the auditor. “I can’t imagine that there’s very many agencies around the nation that see every use of force,” Gissiner says.

The annual report shows the most common allegation of misconduct is regarding use of force; in 17 of 19 cases reported, the use of force was found to be within policy or the allegations were proven to be unsubstantiated. Twenty-nine percent of complaints alleging serious misconduct are about use of force, down from the previous year’s 35 percent. Gissiner says use of force is commonly the most prevalent allegation in other cities. 

The year 2013 brought the most complaints — nearly 400 — against EPD since the auditor’s office has been open.

The report also states that the office has seen an increase in complainants who are affected by mental illness. In the last year or two, Gissiner says, the office has received more walk-ins by those he believes are affected by mental illness. He says people come in the office three to five times each week experiencing delusions — some say officers are “following them around or devices from the sky are controlling their behavior.”

The annual report can be found at wkly.ws/1sf.