The city of Portland has signed a contract with a firm specializing in police oversight to investigate racial and political bias within the police bureau.

It’s the fourth investigation the city has launched after Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was falsely implicated in a minor hit-and-run last month. Hardesty was wrongly identified as the driver by the victim of the crash, and the accusation was quickly leaked to media by local law enforcement. Hardesty was cleared of any wrongdoing the same day.

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The president of the Portland police union, Brian Hunzeker, resigned from union leadership soon after, citing a “a serious, isolated mistake” he made in connection to the incident. Nearly one month later, it remains unclear what the nature of this mistake was.

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The law enforcement leak, which was the second connected to Hardesty in the last five months, fueled questions over the extent to which the police bureau was targeting City Council’s most vocal advocate for police reform.

Both the bureau of emergency communications and the police bureau have launched internal investigations. The city contracted with the OIR Group, a Los Angeles-based firm specializing in independent police oversight, last month to carry out an investigation into who leaked the information.

The city has asked the same group to investigate the culture of the bureau. The city has agreed to pay up to $150,000 for the investigation and the contract lays out a broad scope of work for the firm. Investigators will be asked to determine whether the Portland Police Bureau’s “policies, culture, actions, or outcomes” are driven by racial and political bias, as well as the extent to which the bureau is “resistant to change sought by the community.”

The full set of issues investigators have been asked to address are listed below:

  • Community perception of racial bias: Are police bureau policies, culture, actions, or outcomes driven by racial bias? If so, what is the extent of any racial bias, what are the root causes of any racial bias, and what are the best practices to addresses those root causes?
  • Community perception of political bias: Are police bureau policies, culture, actions or outcomes driven by political bias? If so, what is the extent of any political bias, what are the root causes of any political bias, and what are the best practices to address those root causes?
  • Community perception that the Portland Police Bureau is resistant to change: Are the police bureau’s policies, culture, actions or outcomes resistant to change sought by the community? If so, what is the extent of this resistance, what are the root causes of this resistance, and what are the best practices to address that resistance?

The OIR Group must provide a report to the city attorney by the end of the year, according to the contract.

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