Eugene police auditor: Sustained allegations lead to terminations, suspensions of EPD employees

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Leia Pitcher, Eugene's interim police auditor
Leia Pitcher, Eugene's interim police auditor

Though overall complaints about Eugene police decreased over a two-year period, the number of allegations and of complaints about misconduct and criminal conduct have increased, according to the auditor’s annual report.

The auditor’s office logged a total of 339 complaints in 2021, according to the report that Interim Police Auditor Leia Pitcher presented Monday.

While that’s down from 446 in 2019 and 407 in 2020, the actual number of allegations is “higher than in any previous year,” Pitcher told Eugene officials.

The report shows the number of complaints involving allegations of misconduct and allegations of criminal conduct also were up from the previous two years.

“We had some big (investigations) last year,” Pitcher said.

The office sustained more than 60 allegations, two of which resulted in terminations, and does have around two dozen investigations still open because of staffing shortages, she added.

Here are some takeaways from the report, which covers data, planned improvements like a community portal to track complaints and more.

Total complaints down 17%

In total, the auditor's office got 339 complaints in 2021.

That was down 16.7% from 2020 and was only slightly higher than the 325 complaints received in 2017.

Complaints generally had been increasing and reached a peak at 446 in 2019 then started on what Pitcher described as a “pandemic decrease” in 2020, dropping to 407 then dropping again in 2021

Made with Flourish
Made with Flourish

Complaints about allegations of misconduct, criminal conduct up 19%

Though complaints overall were down, there continues to be an increase in complaints involving allegations of misconduct and allegations of criminal conduct.

After a dip from 26 to 24 in 2018, those kinds of complaints steadily increased to 41 in 2021.

They increased around 70% from four and five years ago and were up 34% from 2019 and 19% from 2020.

The number of specific allegations involving misconduct and criminal conduct saw a big jump, increasing from 71 in 2020 to 166 in 2021. That’s a 133.8% increase.

One complaint had 34 allegations of misconduct, Pitcher said.

Around 42% of specific allegations of misconduct, criminal conduct sustained

The report shows one employee was fired after the auditor’s office sustained around 34 allegations.

Overall, the auditor office upheld 70 allegations, or 42.2%, of misconduct or criminal conduct about a total of 19 employees.

Of the 70 sustained allegations, 65 were allegations of misconduct and five were specific allegations of criminal conduct.

In addition to firing one employee, the department suspended four others, required eight to go through documented counseling, gave three an oral reprimand, put one through coaching, and terminated another on probationary status. One employee resigned after the investigation but before any action by the department.

Made with Flourish
Made with Flourish

Office adding portal, could recommend oversight improvements

The auditor’s office plans to add a portal where people can check the status of complaints, according to the annual report.

That portal would let users keep “up to date with the status of their complaints and allow for easier submission of evidence” and should go live sometime this year.

Pitcher also recently gave a presentation on the history and structure of the city’s current oversight model and will return later this year with recommendations for improvements, the report reads.

Read reports from 2021, previous years

The 2021 report is available at bit.ly/eugene-police-auditor-2021.

It's also available along with past reports in the archive at eugene-or.gov/Archive.aspx?AMID=88.

Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at mbanta@registerguard.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeganBanta_1.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Report: People alleging more misconduct, criminal conduct by EPD