Audit: State agency not doing all it should to train and oversee police officers

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — The state agency that trains and certifies police officers gives too much deference and power to local departments, according to an audit from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.

The audit was conducted in the spring, and the results are now out.

The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST),  provides a four-month basic training program for officers.

But the audit found in terms of further training and officer oversight, the agency is lacking.

“And this audit really reinforces how important greater police accountability is to increase public confidence in law enforcement,” said Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.

Fagan began a short news conference this week, by recognizing the need for improvements.

One key area is with investigations of officers. The audit found DPSST has improved rules and procedures to hold officers accountable, yet narrow definitions and gaps exist. For instance, the agency can decertify officers, but the criteria for doing so is limited.

The report notes that “police officer competency, use of excessive force, or use of force resulting in death do not automatically trigger a certification review.”

An example in the audit showed that only one officer’s actions may have met the standard for review, among 57 Portland Police Bureau officer-involved shootings and incidents of in-custody deaths from 2004 to 2018.

And right now, most initial investigations of officers’ conduct are done by local departments.

“We did find that they do have the authority to conduct their own investigations and it would probably be in the best interests of the state to conduct those, especially those that make the public view,” said audit manager Andrew Love.

The audit also found that DPSST does not adequately perform or monitor ongoing training for officers, that it is mostly left to local control.  Auditors found that DPSST is understaffed for all it should be doing.  Fagan said this audit is a first step to changing that.

“Today’s report clearly outlines steps that DPSST and law enforcement partners must take to improve performance and build trust with Oregonians,” said Fagan.

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