Purpose: From 2002 to 2014, the Portland Police Bureau reported large reductions in complaints against officers and use of force indicators. This paper develops a case study to document these changes and explore possible influences. Design/methodology/approach: The paper maps the changes in conduct indicators against the developing relationship between the Bureau and the Portland Independent Police Review Division, and changes in policies and procedures. Findings: Public complaints reduced by 54.4%, while the rate of specific allegations per officer fell by 70.1%. Quarterly use of force incident reports reduced by 65.4% between 2008 and 2014. Annual average shootings decreased from a high of nine per year across 1997-2002 to just below four per year in 2009-2014. Fatal shootings also trended downward but remained two per year in the last three years on record. Reforms instituted during this period that may have influenced these trends include a more rigorous complaints process, an early intervention system, enhanced external and internal review mechanisms, policy changes and training initiatives. Research limitations/implications: The researchers were unable to control for a range of additional variables that may have influenced the findings, including police deployments and changes in officer demographics. Practical implications: The study provides support for strategies to improve police conduct including external oversight, diagnostic research, training focused on de-escalation and minimal force, and complaint profiling and early intervention systems. Originality/value: There are very few studies available showing large long-term reductions in adverse police conduct indicators.
Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice / Vol. 2, No. 4, pp.260-273