The audit finds improvements to be made to the training agency for state law enforcement
The state agency responsible for training and licensing Oregon law enforcement officials has work to do to improve oversight, according to an audit by the Secretary of State’s office. State.
The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training teaches, certifies, and regulates all law enforcement officials in the state, including municipal, county, state, and tribal police officers and law enforcement officers. correction. The audit was prompted by local and national calls for police reform and improved accountability following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
The audit revealed obstacles to the detection and addressing by the DPSST of agents who should be decertified. He also found that personnel and technology constraints hamper the agency’s ability to hold officers accountable, and that on-the-job training varies by agency and is not properly regulated in the state. .
“Today’s report clearly outlines the key steps DPSST and law enforcement partners need to take to improve performance and build public confidence,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said in a statement. communicated.
Discussions of the Police Policy Committee and the DPSST Board of Directors are broadcast live, and the agency publishes certification decisions online, along with details of the investigation. But state agency certification decisions are secondary to local disciplinary decisions, which are often shrouded in secrecy. Agent layoffs usually trigger certification exams, which means that in most cases DPSST does not get involved in agent discipline.
“For this reason, most police accountability measures, including low-level discipline and employment decisions, are probably entirely or at least initially taken at the local level. [law enforcement agency] level ”, we read in the audit. “Neither the DPSST nor the board has the authority to overrule employment or disciplinary decisions made by local LEAs as long as they meet the standards and requirements of the board. “
The DPSST also relies on inquiries from local agencies to conduct its own character reviews. This is a problem, according to the audit, as local agencies typically conduct investigations to determine if an officer has broken a policy or committed a crime. The information gathered for these investigations may not be the same as that which the DPSST would need to determine the moral suitability of an officer.
Even when an incident triggers a moral fitness investigation, they are hampered by too narrow criteria, according to the audit. The competence of officers and the use of excessive or lethal force does not trigger a certification exam.
The audit recommended addressing resource constraints that prevent the DPSST from conducting its own fitness surveys when there is insufficient local information, and fine-tuning standards of fitness to apply as well. cases of excessive or fatal use of force.
A 2017 study by the DPSST and Washington State University found that the organization’s training program produced desired behaviors in recruits, including empathy, concern for the safety of civilians, as well as communication and effective de-escalation. But the audit notes that the study was conducted using scenarios before and after blocks of training.
“Due to a lack of research after an officer leaves the academy, there is little evidence to show whether DPSST training has real-world implications, or for how long,” said the ‘audit. “With the exception of anecdotal evidence, DPSST currently has no mechanism to measure or assess agent performance once agents move to work in their communities. “
Although all three phases of the core academy have been revised and updated in recent years to incorporate nationally recognized best practices, auditors found that only 21% of state-certified officials had passed. by at least one of the updated phases.
The audit also found that an increased demand for the DPSST Police Academy Basic Course, combined with a reliance on volunteer instructors “on loan” to the academy by local agencies, has resulted in a chronic shortage of instructors, especially dangerous for high-risk training such as emergency vehicle operations. and firearms training.
After completing the four-month Basic Police Academy, new officers spend additional time in on-the-job training at their local office under the guidance of a more experienced “field training officer”. Additional training is not standardized and training officers are not state-certified, auditors wrote, leading to training inconsistencies across the state.
Among the audit recommendations, it suggests that the DPSST seek additional funding to fully staff the academy or consider long-term contracts with local agencies to ensure comprehensive and predictable staffing levels. The secretary of state’s office also recommended developing a process to assess the performance of officers after they graduate from the academy and work in the field. Finally, the audit recommended a certification process for field training officers.
The auditors interviewed DPSST management, management and staff as well as law enforcement personnel from 11 Oregon agencies. The auditors also interviewed local watchdogs and advocacy groups, and conducted an investigation of state police standards and training programs for New Hampshire, Idaho, New Mexico, Wyoming, Maine, Vermont and California.