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Portland City Hall
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 20 July 2017

Last week the Portland Police Bureau proposed a policy change that could delay police interviews of officers involved in deadly force -- possibly by weeks. Mayor Ted Wheeler is pushing back, but has declined activists’ request for a hearing on the matter.

The union contract between the Portland Police Association and the city last fall did away with the “48-hour rule” – a clause allowing officers to wait two days before giving a statement after being involved in deadly use of force cases. Wheeler had promised to do away with the rule during his campaign.

PPB’s proposed change is based on Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill’s citation of an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that he says requires internal investigators to wait until after a criminal investigation and grand jury review have been completed before they can compel a statement from officers. 

Underhill cited Oregon v. Soriano, a 1984 Oregon Supreme Court case that he believes requires someone forced to make a statement by an employer to receive automatic immunity from prosecution for a crime related to those statements.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition, in a July 12 press release co-signed by Portland Copwatch and the NAACP Portland Branch, has called on the city council hearing to conduct a public hearing before this policy is adopted, saying criminal investigations can take weeks.

“That criminal investigation usually takes at least three weeks, or ten  times longer than the previously carved-out 48 hours. If the person in question does not die, it is up to the discretion of the Professional Standards Division (PSD) whether the officer has to file Force report at all,” the release said.

The Oregonian reported Monday that the National Lawyer’s Guild had joined the AMAC in criticizing the ruling, and Wheeler’s spokesperson, Michael Cox, has said the mayor’s office is talking to city attorneys, the district attorney and officials from the Oregon and federal justice departments. Cox said Wheeler’s team is reviewing whether the DA’s interpretation of the ruling is accurate.

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