PHOTO: Latoya Harris testifies before the Citizen's Review Committee after her 9-year-old daughter was handcuffed and taken downtown in a police car in her bathing suit because of a fight at a youth club six days earlier. Helen Silvis photo.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has accepted the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Portland on reforms intended to improve the way police deal with the mentally ill, and to rebuild community trust.
But U.S. District Court Michael Simon said Friday he wants annual progress reports, a requirement the City of Portland previously opposed and could challenge in court. Simon ordered the first such hearing for September 2015. He also brought up the issue of having police wear cameras to monitor their interactions with the public.
The Justice Department found Portland police engaged in a "pattern or practice" of excessive force when dealing with the mentally ill and those perceived to be mentally ill. And a fairness hearing which allowed the public to comment brought a parade of individuals, legal and civil rights organizations who testified about racial profiling and excessive force. Portland Police Bureau announced a slate of reforms but police accountability activists say they want deeper reforms.
The Department of Justice report acknowledged that a deep mistrust marred relations between police officers and Portland's minority communities, but did not specifically investigate race discrimination. The City of Portland rejected the findings even as it instituted a slate of reforms.
Among the reforms underway, the city must create a crisis-intervention team, expand its mobile crisis units from a single vehicle to one vehicle per precinct and complete investigations of officer misconduct within 180 days.
The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform supports the ruling of Judge Simon affirming the Settlement Agreement for reforming the Portland Police Bureau and the active participation of Judge Simon in reviewing the progress or non-progress of implementing the Settlement Agreement.
The Coalition is particularly grateful that Judge Simon has insisted on the participation of all four parties to the lawsuit-- the DOJ, the AMA Coalition, the City and the Police Association-- as well as reports from the Compliance Officer/ Community Liaison.
The Settlement Agreement, while primarily focused on those experiencing mental health issues, should lead to better treatment of all Portlanders.
This ruling is a major step to creating a true community policing culture within the Portland Police Bureau in light of the national attention on Deadly Force and Excessive Force by the Police Department in the Michael Brown death in Ferguson, Missouri.
Yet, there is an intensified need for community engagement and community dialogue to prevent a Ferguson upheaval in Portland and keep Portland striving to create a national model of community policing.
The AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform is working toward these five
1. A federal investigation by the Justice Department to include criminal and civil rights violations, as well as a federal audit of patterns and practices of the Portland Police Bureau.
2. Strengthening the Independent Police Review Division and the Citizen Review Committee with the goal of adding power to compel testimony.
3. A full review of the Bureau's excessive force and deadly force policies and training with diverse citizen participation for the purpose of making recommendations to change policies and training.
4. The Oregon State Legislature narrowing the language of the State statute for deadly force used by police officers.
5. Establishing a special prosecutor for police excessive force and deadly force cases.