Persistent Use Of Excessive Force Among Portland Police Raises Concerns

A recent review of the Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) use of force data has revealed a concerning pattern of excessive force used by a group of officers, casting a shadow over the city’s policing practices. The data shows that most of the top 20 officers who reported using force most frequently in 2022 also appeared at the top of the list at least once in the prior five years. One officer, shockingly, appears in the top 20 ranking for six consecutive years.

These revelations come as Portland continues to navigate a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over problematic police use of force. For years, the city’s police force has been under scrutiny for its handling of incidents and interactions with the community. 

The pattern of force usage raises serious questions about the efficacy of the city’s measures to address heavy-handed policing, especially as it enters its 10th year under DOJ scrutiny. The fact that those who report using force most frequently are relatively recent hires and are up-to-date on required officer training further complicates the issue. 

For years, a group of court-appointed advisers has expressed concerns about this pattern, urging police leaders to implement changes. Despite these calls for reform and promises of improvement from the department’s leaders, little seems to have changed. This stagnation has triggered frustration among community members, activists, and those who believe in the importance of police reform.

The persistent use of excessive force by a subset of officers underscores the need for a systematic review of PPB’s training methods, accountability measures, and overall culture. It also highlights the necessity for more effective mechanisms to identify and address officers who routinely resort to force.

This is a pivotal moment for Portland’s law enforcement community, a chance to make significant strides in police reform and build a more just and equitable policing system. The city’s ability to effectively address this issue will be crucial in restoring public trust and fostering a safer community for all residents.