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Police auditor department has distinct function.

Byline: Mark Gissiner For The Register-Guard

Recent discussions of the ballot measure that would create a Eugene performance auditor's office have briefly mentioned our office, the Eugene Independent Police Auditor. This is an opportunity to remind people of our department's extensive police oversight role.

The Office of the Independent Police Auditor and the Civilian Review Board were established by voter-approved city charter amendments in 2005 and 2008 to provide an external mechanism for the receipt, classification and adjudication of complaints against sworn and non-sworn employees of the Eugene Police Department. We are an office of the city's legislative branch - the City Council. We do not report to the city manager, who supervises the chief of police.

Our mission is to provide an accessible, safe, impartial and responsive intake system for complaints while ensuring accountability, fairness, transparency and trust in the complaint system.

Our office has three broad mandates: 1) to receive and classify complaints of police misconduct, 2) to audit the investigations stemming from these complaints, and 3) to analyze trends and recommend improvements to police services.

Within these three primary mandates, we respond to critical incidents (such as officer- involved shootings) and monitor the administrative portion of these critical incidents, including but not limited to participating in interviews of involved officers. We also participate in the use-of-serious-force review panel and provide recommendations for issues arising from these critical incidents.

Our office also has the authority to initiate complaints based upon credible evidence of possible misconduct. This authority is exercised several times annually.

We receive, process and review approximately 350 cases per year. The complaints include allegations of excessive force, illegal searches and seizures, high-speed pursuits and racial profiling. For complaints about police services, we act as an ombudsman, attempting to resolve complaints through inter action between community members and police supervisors. Many contacts involve people suffering mental illness. Our office also takes commendations of police officers.

We review all reportable uses of force by officers daily. In 2017, we reviewed 230 documented uses of force, reviewing body-camera footage, police reports, in-car video and dispatch records.

Several times, we have either opened investigations on these uses of force or asked for additional information. In a highly publicized incident at the jail several years ago, it was our office that initiated an investigation of serious misconduct after we reviewed the use-of-force investigation.

Our office participates in the investigation process before closing cases. Our staff participates in interviews of officers who were involved in or witnessed incidents. We also receive the entire file for each investigation, and provide adjudication recommendations to the chief of police (whether the officer violated policy).

Our office provides staff support to the Civilian Review Board, whose goals are to provide a community perspective on the police complaint process, to make the system of police accountability more transparent and to increase public confidence in the way police work. The board reviews cases after the investigation has been completed to ensure that both the EPD and our office are doing our jobs of unbiased investigation and oversight. The board shares with the EPD its opinions regarding training and policy. Citizens can request that their complaints be reviewed by the CRB.

The CRB is required to meet only four times annually, but it meets 10 times per year - demonstrating how seriously its members take their responsibilities. All of these meetings are open to the public.

In 2016, we received 374 complaints. Our annual report documents each complaint, and we provide weekly newsletters. This information is available on our website,

With the addition of Beatriz Hernandez, our community engagement coordinator and translation specialist, we are reaching out to Spanish-speaking people who may fear or distrust city services. In December, we coordinated the city's first Public Safety Forum entirely in Spanish to reach a sector of our community that is not maximizing its use of public safety services. I work closely with the state's Law Enforcement Contacts Committee to develop and implement mechanisms for identifying racial profiling. Eugene is one of the few police agencies in Oregon meeting the state mandate that all complaints of racial profiling be reported to the LECC.

Our budget is approximately $530,000, or slightly less than 1 cent per capita per day. Given a police officer's authority to take away our freedom or use of deadly force, we believe that the investment in police oversight is worthwhile - as was indicated by the overwhelming approval of the charter amendment in 2005.

We hope this offers some clarity of our office's role in ensuring that employees of the Eugene Police Department are being held accountable. We appreciate how some may conflate our roles and responsibilities with those of the ballot measure's performance auditor. However, we are and will continue to be entirely separate entities.

Mark Gissiner is the city of Eugene's independent police auditor.
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Title Annotation:Guest Viewpoint
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 24, 2018
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