Eugene Police Auditor Mark Gissiner was given his 11th, and final, police auditor annual evaluation during the Dec. 15 City Council meeting. Eugene’s police auditor since 2009, Gissiner publicly announced his official retirement for February 2021.
First formed in 2005, Eugene’s police auditor office was established as an external source to audit citizen complaint investigations conducted by the EPD. As a government agency, auditors have access to internal police records pertaining to investigations that the public doesn’t have.
“We’ve looked at over 4,000 cases in the 11 and a half years I’ve been here. And I appreciate that there were some people happy with our decisions,” Gissiner said. “There are probably six to 10 police officers that are no longer working at EPD because of the work that we have done and the work EPD has done. I believe we’ve set a good standard here.”
The performance review usually occurs in July but was postponed until December this year due to “the unique and multiple challenges associated with spring, summer and fall of 2020.” The EPD was under heavy scrutiny this year from community members as a result of police misconduct during protests across the nation and in Eugene. The Eugene police auditor’s office has been working to complete a “community impact case” resulting from EPD’s actions during protests over the May 29th weekend.
The auditor’s office announced in a Dec. 9 press release that their investigation into the community impact case was complete. The Civilian Review Board met Dec.15 to discuss the cases.
For Gissiner’s annual review, councilors were asked to fill out performance forms that included both questions and ratings that ranged from unsuccessful to excellent. Of the review forms made public in the meeting’s agenda, Councilors Chris Pryor and Claire Syrett rated his performance as excellent, Councilor Betty Taylor rated it as good and Mayor Lucy Vinis rated his performance as successful.
The verbal reviews of Gissiner’s 2020 performance that occurred during the City Council’s work session served as more of a sendoff. Most councilors thanked Gissiner for his time and expressed gratitude for the system and team that he will leave behind.
“Being involved in the hiring of you was one of my best decisions as a councilor,” Councilor Alan Zelenka said of Gissiner. “I think you’ve done just an amazing job of making this a really sought after position, because of your retirement, but also as one of the best police auditor offices in the country.”
Gissiner told Eugene Weekly that the reason behind his retirement is, “nothing more than I will turn 65 and wish to spend more time on family, health and longevity.”
Many of the councilors also spoke about the difficulty that lay ahead in finding someone to fill the place that Gissiner leaves behind.
“To find someone as skilled and capable as you is going to be a real task. I think we got so lucky and really snagged you in a way that we are really fortunate to have done so thank you so much,” Syrett said.
Gissiner was also given the opportunity to reflect on his time and speak on the improvements that can still be made.
The biggest obstacle in police oversight, according to Gissiner, remains at the state level. If a police officer is under investigation, the findings and disciplinary actions are exempt from public view under public records exemptions of personnel matters involving law enforcement employees.
Gissiner says that he doesn’t think there would be as many problems if there was more transparency and that people just want to know what’s happening.
“This most recent officer involved shooting we wanted to go right away with the video but there’s all these processes we have to go through and people want answers right away. And we have to wait because of the structure of things that are at the state level,” Gissiner said.