Last September, I put in a request for Brent Taylor's disciplinary files:
I requested: All disciplinary records (whether or not a given complaint, investigation, etc., resulted in the imposition of discipline) for Brent M.Taylor (DPSST #51250).
I knew the City of Portland wouldn't give them up easily, The Oregon Public Records law hides most police disciplinary records from public view. (Listen to this series from the Behind The Bastards podcast for more detail on the powerful Portland Police Association.)
There are two statutes in Oregon that keep those records secret: ORS 181A.830 (3) prohibits disclosure of information from an investigation into alleged wrongdoing if the investigation does not result in discipline. ORS 193.345 (12) prohibits disclosure of information from an investigation into alleged wrongdoing if the investigation does result in discipline.
Each of these exemptions has a "public interest" clause that allows disclosure when the public interest outweighs the private or governmental interest in secrecy. In practice, the Portland Police Bureau very rarely finds that any disclosure is in the public's interest.
In anticipation of the City's denial, I included an argument for disclosure with my original request:
While these records may include conditionally exempt material, Officer Taylor has become famous for his extraordinary brutality against non-violent protesters and wanton destruction of property (especially automobile tires). Understanding what complaints have been made by the public against this officer, and the details of how internal review systems have failed to protect the public from his violent impulses are of extraordinary public importance and outweigh any interest Officer Taylor may have in avoiding (deserved) public shame for his outrageous acts.
That's not hyperbole. Taylor has a special place in the gallbladders of Portland protestors. His penchant for unprovoked violence toward people and car tires have made him notorious and the subject of some hilarious videos, including these by Twitter phenom @WOKE_DJ_LRAD:
As expected, the City, which legally had 15 days to complete the request, responded five months later, on February 8, 2021, with a complete denial:
From: Portland Public Records Request Center <firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>> [...] Dear Alan, [...] The public records requested are exempt from disclosure and will not be provided. The City asserts the following exemptions to disclosure: ORS 181A.830(3): personnel investigation of a public safety employee which does not result in discipline
I have now appealed this denial to the office of District Attorney Mike Schmidt. I hope he will order disclosure, it would be the kind of reform he was elected to accomplish.
From: Alan Kessler <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Monday, February 8, 2021 4:16 PM To: GIBBS Adam Subject: Fwd: Police General Records Request :: S149515-092820 Dear Mr. Gibbs: I would like to appeal the denial of the attached public records request. Officer Taylor has brutalized countless Portlanders for engaging in protected speech. He was recently found by a federal court to have violated a protective order against such abuses on two occasions in early Summer, 2020. Media have captured many abuses since. Officer Taylor is the same individual (#12) that I tried futilely to identify through the public records process when his violent attacks on protesters was first documented last year. The public has an overwhelming interest in understanding why the disciplinary system within the PPB failed to keep this dangerous individual from assaulting an unknowable number of demonstrators. The public deserves a full understanding of what warning signs the PPB ignored and what crimes it buried in protecting Brent Taylor from facing the criminal and economic consequences of his outrageous actions. Please order release of these records. The delay in the City’s response is unreasonable, please order a waiver of any fees. Sincerely yours, Alan Kessler