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PPB Deemed Out of Compliance with DOJ Settlement Agreement
Community Committee Continues Pushing for Change

In early October, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) declared that due to the City's response to racial justice protests, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is no longer in compliance with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement. Portland Copwatch image of Oregonian article Report: Police fail to document use of 
force, from October 10anticipated this analysis in our September newsletter (PPR #81), but thought the reason would be the excessive force being used by police at the protests. Instead, the COCL found officers weren't filing their paperwork in a timely manner, reserving judgment on specific incidents until after the 180-day deadline to investigate misconduct passed. Because the demonstrations began in late May, those first investigations should be reflected in the COCL and DOJ's January assessments. To their credit, the COCL flagged a particular incident which should have been categorized as deadly force. Meanwhile, the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP), created in late 2018 to oversee implementation and bring the community and police into direct dialogue, continued making recommendations for change and holding forums to hear public input.

In addition to force reporting, the COCL found PPB out of compliance with regard to training, saying the protests and the pandemic made in-person sessions much harder to organize. The Report acknowledges the protests and their goals of undoing 400 years of oppression, but also criticizes what it deems to be protestor "violence."

In the draft report, the COCL complained PPB is only getting 4.4% of the City's budget now that $15 million was cut (PPR #81), citing a June 24 article on 24/7 Wall Street showing this is the 2nd lowest percentage of 50 large cities in the US. Looking at the data more closely: (a) the same paragraph in the article shows Portland's nearly $250 million police budget is the 31st largest in dollars spent, and (b) a September 22 Bloomberg News article says the Bureau's budget is 30% of the discretionary funds Council is allowed to redirect. Unlike many cities, Portland receives people's water and sewage payments, creating a huge portion of the budget which is non- discretionary. By echoing the sentiment that the percentage is low, the COCL justifies recommendations to throw more money at the police.

Since he started work in 2015, COCL team head Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum has frequently sided with police, but the Black Lives Matter movement seems to have shifted his focus. Having viewed a video of an officer hitting a protestor in the head with a baton and walking away in a huff, Rosenbaum noted the Bureau thought the head strike was "not intentional," and the "Independent" Police Review (IPR) thought it was just a "push." The Compliance Officer rightly says a hit to the head with a hard object is deadly force and should be investigated as such.

Noting that Sergeants now oversee 4.8 officers each, down from 5.2 officers, the COCL concludes the Bureau needs to hire more officers-- rather than reduce the number of Sergeants. The Agreement's requirement about staffing is based on the idea of "span of control." Thus, if the City decides to have fewer officers, there should be a reduction in the number of Sergeants as well.

In any case, the DOJ is the final arbiter of compliance, and it is not clear if they will agree with the COCL when they report to federal Judge Michael Simon in early 2021 and in his courtroom on February 25. While it is crucial the City not be allowed to backslide on its commitments, the City's mantra of "we have to wait until the Settlement Agreement ends to make other changes" needs to be addressed to ensure that both the federally mandated reforms and community demands can be met at the same time.

The PCCEP held a forum with the COCL in October at a Mental Health subcommittee meeting, leaving barely enough time for community dialogue. At the October general meeting, they made a statement about the COCL report, supporting its out-of-compliance findings, but unfortunately also echoing the 4.4% budget misdirect. PCCEP's Racial Equity Subcommittee invited Black women to provide input at a late August meeting with guest speaker Shirley Isadore, the mother of Kendra James, talking about the loss she still feels 17 years after police shot her daughter (PPR #30). In late September, PCCEP held a forum to discuss the upcoming City Council vote on the budget.

While PCCEP has made some strong recommendations, they also dragged out discussions of City legislation to allow them to continue after the Settlement Agreement ends (August-November meetings). They also voted not to take a vote about metrics proposed by amicus groups to the Agreement which were requested by Judge Simon in February 2020 (September meeting), and are image of November PCCEP meeting screen shot of Elliot Young 
and Taji Chesimetnegotiating with the City about who will be in charge of creating a Truth and Reconciliation process for the Bureau (October-December meetings). They have begun looking at the Bureau's policies ("Directives" see article this issue) despite a review timeline not conducive to PCCEP's monthly schedule. In September, they voted 8-0 for a recommendation requiring uniformed officers to wear visible identification as a means to help hold them accountable. PCCEP earlier voted 1-9 against an ambiguous resolution from member Vadim Mozyrsky about "violence in the community" which seemed to condemn protestors' behavior but not police violence. While discussing a proposal for the Bureau to review its advisory groups, PCCEP revealed the City had not informed them when the other groups held their meetings.

Shortly after the October COCL Report noted the City had promised to respond to PCCEP recommendations within 60 days, Mayor Wheeler got out his pen and signed off on quite a few of them, albeit with some disagreement. For instance, he agreed with the proposed ban on tear gas (since he already ordered it) but not to ban other weapons.

At the November meeting, PCCEP elected as co-chairs Elliott Young and Taji Chesimet, with former co-chair Lakayana Drury stepping into the "alternate co-chair" position after being termed out. In a December runoff between Mozyrsky and former alternate co-chair Ann Campbell for the Secretary position, Campbell won.

The Bureau's Annual Report, required by the Agreement to be shared with PCCEP in draft form, was only heard at the Settlement Agreement/Policy Subcommittee in November, where the PPB refused to make changes and said they would post the report soon thereafter. 2019 was the only year where the Bureau came close to releasing such a Report in a timely manner. In 2020, the Report was presented to City Council on December 16 without the required presentations in each Precinct.

Find the Copwatch analysis of the COCL Report at portlandcopwatch.org/COCLanalysisPCW1020.html.

  People's Police Report

January, 2021
Also in PPR #82

100+ Days of Protests and Police Violence
  Officer Indicted for On-Duty Assault with Vehicle
• Portland Out of Compliance with DOJ Agreement
Oversight Board Continues; New System Voted In
No PPB Shootings but Two Incidents in Washington
  • State Deadly Force Incidents Pass Average Despite Pandemic
Outside Report Knocks '18 Shooting of Black Man
New Profililng Reports Show Same Disparities
Houseless Community Faces Winter, COVID, Sweeps
Terror Task Force: Community Wants Full Withdrawal
Training Council Analyzes Use of Force
 • Second Round of Police Budget Cuts Scuttled
 • Police Contract Talks to Restart in January
 • Lawsuits Total Nearly $16 M in 28 Years
 • New "Brady Rule" Policy and Other Policies Posted
Rapping Back #82

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.

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