When will the pattern of negligence end, and accountability be found?

Posted June 2005

The Eugene Police Department (EPD) has gotten a lot of publicity in the last several years for increasing incidents of negligence. Instances like the participation in the questionable raids using excessive militarized force in a quiet neighborhood in Eugene on the morning of October 12th, 2002 raises concern. Criminal cases against EPD officers like Roger Magana and Juan Lara involving multiple counts of rape, sexual abuse, and even death threats using service pistols makes people begin to worry.

Currently in a civil lawsuit in regards to the crimes of Magana and Lara, the EPD is defending against $41 million in damages. Allegations remain that many other officers in the EPD were involved with similar audacities as Magana and Lara. It has been alleged that the EPD Internal Affairs, Lane County DA's office, even the Eugene Mayor's office ignored complaints in regards to these crimes. The courts in that case have recently ruled to not release some documents for public view saying it would be embarrassing for the EPD and hurt morale.

However, with such serious situations happening people are losing their trust of the city police, and nothing could be worse. It would not seem to be an appropriate time to worry about embarrassment

"Do not the people have a right to see what their police department is doing, despite how embarrassing it might be?"

There are many other instances of the EPD failing to address complaints about their officers. It seems a pattern to avoid dealing with things, hoping they just go away. This avoidance is not responsible, and is not the path toward reform. In one ear and out the other. Then when pressed with an issue comes too little change, just a bit too late. Excuses that it is an isolated incident or the department is under budget. Perhaps it is just a situation of severe mismanagement..

"What more could the EPD be hiding?"

Though claims are being made of police reform. According to some sources, the leadership at the Eugene Police Department is still seemingly failing to grasp the idea of accountability and responsibility.

"Are the citizens of Eugene at the mercy of the failures of local bureaucracy as it flounders about?"


In 2004 a review of the EPD was conducted to examine the condition of the department. This review was carried out by the Eugene Police Commission combined with 3rd parties; the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). This review concluded the EPD is in "crisis".

The following article appeared in the Eugene Weekly of March 11th, 2005. Titled "Cop Crisis" this article discusses the results from the 2004 review of the Eugene Police Department.


Cop Crisis
Review finds EPD fails to lead, supervise, discipline officers.
BY ALAN PITTMAN (Staff writer for the Eugene Weekly)


The Eugene Police Department used a flawed hiring process to give officer Roger Magaña a gun and then failed to supervise him and officer Juan Lara before they were convicted of sexually abusing more than a dozen women over the past decade, an outside management review of the department found.


The $108,000 review by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) described an EPD in "crisis" and lacking public trust, adequate supervision, leadership, and internal affairs investigations.


"Many community members are convinced that something is terribly wrong in and with the police department," the 98-page report found, noting the cops' sex crimes. "What kind of culture allows such activities to go unnoticed and unaddressed?"

Magaña & Lara


The EPD did not adequately investigate internal failings that may have contributed to the Magaña and Lara cop crime sprees, the report found. "After the criminal investigations were completed, the department did not initiate further investigation into peripheral matters typically addressed in a thorough internal investigation." Reviewers recommended that the city contract with outside investigators to complete reviews of such high-profile cases.


The review described Magaña's hiring a decade ago as a "fast tracking" process for four officers that was meant to increase minority hiring but was "flawed." The Magaña hiring did not include the usual background check or psychiatric evaluation for hiring armed police officers.


In Magaña's case, "Criminal history information that would normally have been considered as cause for disqualification was not because the police record had been removed, although it appears that there was knowledge of the matter."


The criminal file "mysteriously reappeared" years later after Magaña was charged with sex crimes. Magaña was arrested for burglary in 1982, but not prosecuted.


EPD lacks a system to prevent record tampering and Magaña's criminal file "obviously had been taken" which was a "serious problem," the report stated.


Magaña also had a previous juvenile criminal matter, but the record was expunged, according to the report. "Interestingly, the request to expunge was dated after the selection process for police officer began."


EPD officers involved in the "fast tracking" hire were "concerned about applicant quality, however, there was considerable pressure" to "take advantage of the opportunity to hire minority applicants."


With Magaña and Lara, "It is hard to imagine that patrol officers - with clearly defined roles and geographic boundaries - were able to engage in such serious misconduct for so long and go undetected … There clearly was a failure of supervision."

Unsupervised


The lack of direct supervision of EPD officers is a "major problem" in the department, the report found.


"Patrol sergeants are often so consumed by administrative and other supervisory duties they rarely can be available on the street to respond to calls with their subordinates … Some personnel estimate that patrol sergeants in Eugene have as little as 15 percent of their time available for direct supervision."


"Some EPD members complain they do not feel supported by management. They see other members doing substandard work with impunity, and their own efforts go unrewarded." Without supervision, "soon poor quality work becomes the norm."
Many sergeants and commanders are concerned with the level and quality of supervisor training. "When supervisors suffer from poor leadership skills, they provide poor or no guidance to officers, especially those who are young, inexperienced, and may be more likely to make poor decisions that result in citizen complaints."


EPD has an adequate number of sergeant supervisors, the report found. The department should "audit" its sergeants' use of time to find out why they aren't spending more time supervising, the review recommended.


Moving internal investigations to a fully staffed Internal Affairs (IA) department will free up some sergeant time for supervising, reviewers noted.


The EPD does not adequately evaluate officer performance, the report found. Supervisors believe evaluations are "too time consuming to complete." Reviewers looked at a sampling of completed evaluations and found, "Many of the evaluations were superficially completed with little detail, especially in the case of some of the incarcerated officers."


"The evaluation system has not been enforced at all by the police department for the past several years. There is no process in place to ensure supervisors complete the evaluations," according to the report. The EPD does not use effective evaluations as an "early warning system to identify problem personnel."

Leaderless


"Past (and some believe current) lack of direction by the City Council, city manager, and the police chief have created an environment where police personnel believe that they have little or no support from the city or police leadership, and are unsure of expectations," the reviewers found.
EPD Chief Robert Lehner is "well regarded" in the department, but his leadership is seen as "somewhat uneven." Some faulted past chiefs' commitment to improving the department and noted there was a two-year leadership "vacuum" while an interim chief was at the helm.


A 1997 PERF report included many similar reform recommendations as the current report, but city leaders largely failed to make the changes. A "long-term commitment to change" is needed to rebuild public trust, according to the report.


Police leaders have failed to define and implement community policing and continue to send "mixed messages" on the issue. EPD leaders lack a "critically important" strategic plan.


Police leaders have claimed for nearly a decade that a "Hobson Report" proves they need vast funding increases. But the reviewers note that most police departments think they are understaffed. The report faults the Hobson Report for not determining "what the actual need was in terms of personnel hours to handle the existing workload."


Between 3 am and 6 am the highest ranking EPD official on duty is a sergeant, reviewers found. Police lieutenants are "warring amongst themselves" for promotion to captain.

Internal Affairs


"Problems with incomplete and timely investigations, illogical findings and conclusions, and inadequate managerial review have resulted in a lack of confidence in the police department's ability to properly administer the complaint process," the review found.


EPD lacks a fully staffed IA unit, causing immediate supervisors to be far more involved in internal investigations than at most agencies, reviewers noted. IA should be expanded from one officer to four, or perhaps contracted out, they recommended.


But Lehner has balked at creating a fully staffed IA department. "The chief of police has determined the staffing needs on the streets of Eugene are such that there is no opportunity to staff a full service IA unit at this time," the report said.


EPD employs sergeants as untrained and inexperienced IA investigators leading to inconsistency and "a general lack of quality" and timeliness in internal investigations. "Discipline is being avoided completely in some instances because of incomplete or improper investigations."


"The practice of assigning one police officer to investigate a complaint against another, especially when they are coworkers and potentially long-standing friends, is a deeply rooted concern," the report said.


EPD lacks "effective practices designed to cut down on covering up complaints and inquiries to suit the receiver's fancy." The department also does not adequately track complaints and lacks an "early warning system" to identify problem officers that citizens frequently complain about.
The city discourages complaints by threatening people who complain with arrest if they have unrelated outstanding warrants, according to the report. Reviewers "heard a consistent demand for transparency" in the complaint process among those interviewed.


Some officers "believe when a manager is the subject of an investigation, the entire matter is swept under the proverbial carpet."


There's a "widespread desire" inside and outside the EPD for creating an external police review board, but effective review boards must be adequately funded and staffed, the report stated. The EPD police union asserts that it supports external review and reform, but many in the community don't believe them, according to the report.


The reviewers warned that lack of public trust in the complaint process "can lead to less cooperation, the inability of the police to control crime, declining service, and eroding morale of the officers themselves."

Turf War


The city's Human Resources (HR) department pushed for tougher discipline and minority hiring in EPD, but many EPD officers opposed the effort as "meddlesome" interference in their internal affairs, according to the report.


Women and Hispanics continue to be underrepresented in the EPD, but many officers "feel Human Resource Services exerts inappropriate pressure on the police department to hire minority candidates over better qualified candidates."


In one case, officers alleged that HR told police "termination is warranted" before a police investigation was completed, the review said. Officers said that "in some instances Human Resource Services requested investigators change the wording in portions of investigative reports to lessen the city's potential liability."


The reviewers apparently did not trust EPD to reform itself and instead "strongly" recommended that the city hire an outside consultant to oversee recommended changes. If insiders attempted the reforms, they could put their jobs or promotions at risk if they challenged or pointed out faults in their bosses, the review found.


The EPD needs real reform, the report said. The public mistrust crisis the EPD faces "is not simply a matter of better public relations."

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