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Judge to Rule on Mandatory City Attendance at Annual Hearings on DOJ Settlement
Portland Rejects Federal Role, Suggests City Employee as Sole Testifier; Skimpy Reports Released

On July 2, several months of legal wrangling over the US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit against the City of Portland for police use of excessive force (PPRs #58-62) came to a head. Following the Fairness Hearing at which community members made clear they want federal Judge Michael Simon to be sure the City fulfills its promises to change and to improve the terms of the Settlement Agreement, Simon proposed entering the Agreement as written. However, he ordered the four parties to the suit to come before him for annual status hearings on implementation. The July 2 deadline was for the four parties (the City, the DOJ, the Portland Police Association [PPA], and the Albina Ministerial Alliance [AMA] Coalition for Justice and Police Reform) to argue whether he has the authority to do so. In late June, the City proposed that rather than having the four parties speak to the judge, only the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL), a position created by the Agreement in lieu of a Court Monitor usually appointed in other cities, would speak. At PPR deadline, the judge had still not ruled so the case remains in limbo. The City and the Bureau have released a few reports related to the DOJ Agreement which are so threadbare, they prove why a COCL (or monitor) is needed even for the flawed changes in the making.

The prior months were taken up with the parties' previous proposal that the City hold public Council meetings and send video recordings and transcripts to the judge. The AMA Coalition signed on though it was inadequate, in the interest of moving the process forward. The judge, however, berated all the parties, saying such a hearing was not what he had asked for, and calling it "not sufficient" (Oregonlive, May 12). Following a court conference call on May 30, the AMA Coalition stepped up the pressure in a press statement saying the City's actions were jeopardizing the "historical opportunity to unite our diverse communities and take a leap in resolving the rift in our city between the police and the community."

However, paperwork filed July 2 underscores a broader rift. The judge was clear that he envisions hearings at which all he can do is ask questions-- not order changes to the Agreement's terms, nor action by the DOJ, nor any other order. Yet in its brief, the City lays out its argument that the judge's hearings would "improperly deprive future officials of their designated legislative and executive powers." In other words, they're saying "we were elected to run this City, not a federal judge." The irony of this assertion is fairly strong in light of Mayor Hales' failure to read the details of the Captain Kruger settlement (article).

The City continues to assert that they've made significant progress in implementing the Agreement, even though it still hasn't been entered into the court record. In late April, they published a 10-page multi-color booklet filled with infographics about what they claim is work done since the Agreement was signed in November 2012. It includes facts about the overall graduation rate of the "Service Coordination Team," a program started in 2008 that forces repeat drug offenders into rehab to avoid felony prosecution, as well as use of force statistics since 2008. In other words, they are including data from before the DOJ even began their investigation in 2011. The report talks about the updates to the policies on force and Tasers, not explaining how those policies were changed at the behest of the Police Association during contract talks. The report also says force is used in only 3% of cases, but leaves out that 25-30% of that force is against African Americans in a city which is 6% black.

Such information can be gleaned from quarterly force reports the Bureau has been publishing since early 2013, but one has to dig for those reports. (They can be found at the DOJ tab at .) While the reports do a poor job of analyzing issues about race, the police did notice a strong uptick in force against people listed as "transients"-- so much so that they stopped publishing those numbers in 2014 in order to "diligently study the data" (Portland Mercury, June 25). (Also see TAC article, right.)

The Agreement also calls for the City to work with the community to develop a survey to evaluate police services. Since the Agreement-mandated Community Oversight Advisory Board will not be chosen until the Agreement is formalized, the Bureau took it upon themselves to conduct such a study, which unsurprisingly was written in a way to make the middling results look better. The report, conducted by Portland State University, talks about how over 50% of Portlanders have a good feeling about the Bureau. But the numbers show that on a scale of 1 to 5, with 3 being neutral, 4 being good, and 5 being excellent, the only categories where responses came in above 4 were whether people would call police to report a crime in their neighborhood, or work with police to identify a suspect. In terms of whether police hold their officers accountable or treat people of color fairly, responses all came in at 3.0 or below, and whether people with mental health issues are treated fairly came in at 3.2 and below. The report notes these concerns but lacks analysis, and generates suggestions for change that clearly did not come from community members who are generally targets of police.

As for the COCL, the hiring process began in February but had still not been completed at PPR deadline-- three final candidates are supposed to be announced by City Council for the community to weigh in on before hiring. Portland Copwatch (PCW) had cautioned the City not to put out the job description before the Fairness Hearing in case something in the job description would change, or at least to note that the COCL might be called into court to testify. If the City's proposal is adopted either alone (just the COCL goes to annual hearings) or in conjunction with the judge's (where all four parties plus the COCL would come in), that could change the terms of the contract. But when does the City ever listen to PCW anyway?

More information is at albinaministerialcoalition.org/DOJ.html
  People's Police Report

September, 2014
Also in PPR #63

Third '14 PPB Shooting:
  Homeless Man

Judge Wants Annual DOJ Hearings
Board Finds Excessive Force
PRB Favors Cops Over Civilians
Updates PPR 63
  • Ex?-Nazi Cop Discipline Purged
  • Mohamud Appeal Denied
  • Mounted Patrol Update
  • Immigrant Holds on Hold
Training Council Looks af Force
Profiling Work Stumbles
War on the Poor Continues
Handcuffing 9 Yr Old Rattles City
Rulings on Cell Phones,
  No-Fly List

Copwatching May Day 2014
Quick Flashes
  • Taser Suit: $110K
  • OSP Cop Stole Gas
  • Ferguson Rocks Nation
Police Shootings in Oregon

Rapping Back

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #63 Table of Contents
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