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James Jahar Perez, 28
Portland, Oregon
March 28, 2004

Last updated: 8 months ago

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Perez is the third young, unarmed African American person shot by police in the last 3 years, following Byron Hammick on February 22, 2002 and Kendra James on May 5, 2003. In a city with one of the smallest African American populations in the nation, this is a worrisome statistic.

Information is slow to be released. We know that Sery's partner, Sean Macomber (#37147) fired a Taser after Sery shot Perez, and the Taser, which puts out a 50,000 volt pulse for five seconds at a time, was running for over three minutes.

The City has agreed to hold a public inquest for there to be a full airing of the facts. Although the inquest will determine how Perez died, the decision about whether to file criminal charges will be left up to a secret grand jury.

Instead of acknowledging the basic theme of the report—that “there is still room for improvement” in how the bureau trains its officers to avoid shootings, and then in how it analyzes shootings when they inevitably happen — Chief Mike Reese‘s office sent out a news release with a congratulatory headline.

It said, simply, “PPB Superior.” And it was an attempt to spin attention toward one of the report’s few pure compliments: that the bureau is better than most when it comes to reviewing errors. But after a detailed review of the 90-plus-page report, prepared by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review (OIR), a far bleaker picture emerges.

READReport to the City of Portland on Portland Police Bureau Officer-Involved Shootings, First Report, May 2012 (PDF, 983.5KB)

While the bureau might be trying to improve, communication lapses at shooting scenes, training issues, investigative shortfalls, and long delays in interviewing officers involved in shootings remain very real problems that have yet to be adequately addressed.

“Many of these events raise questions about officers’ ability to communicate with each other at the scene of critical incidents, to consider alternative plans, and to respond quickly and effectively when a subject has been downed by police gunfire,” the report’s authors write. “In some cases, [the bureau’s] evolution is notable and commendable. Others lead us—and members of the public—to question why the bureau had not learned more from its prior shooting incidents.”

"If you don't teach [non-lethal] options, you ultimately get what you're training for," Minnis says. "That, I think, is the fundamental problem."

Finally, there is the issue of racial profiling: Why, according to statistics compiled by the city in 2001, are blacks 2.6 times more likely to be pulled over than whites?