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City, DOJ Hash Out Remedies for Failed Compliance
with Agreement Between Court Appearances
Community Committee Turnover; Secretive Group
Ponders Deaths; Consultant Finds More Failures

Shortly after our last isue went to press in late August, at a Status Conference in federal court the US Department of Justice (DOJ) presented its nine proposed remedies for the City of Portland to [image of WillametteWeek article]return to compliance with the 2012 Settlement Agreement regarding excessive force used by police. The parties told Judge Michael Simon they had been unable to agree on details of remedies, which include instituting body cameras, and were headed into mediation. Those closed-door sessions took place in September and October, leading to a second status conference on November 9. There, Simon noted that the amici curiae (friends of the court) Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform (AMAC) and Mental Health Alliance (MHA) had raised valid concerns about the proposed amendments and asked everyone to mediate one more time. Meanwhile, the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP), a volunteer group created under the Agreement, has experienced an entire turnover in its membership just three years into its existence. Problems recruiting new members-- especially young people-- under COVID have left them with no backup plans to fill empty seats. In October, another advisory group, the Behavioral Health Unit Advisory Council (BHUAC), held its third public outreach meeting and agreed to consider talking about police shootings of people in mental health crisis. Also in October, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL), a consultant hired to evaluate progress, found more compliance issues in the second quarter Report than the seventeen listed in Q1 (PPR #84).

Judge OK's PCCEP Structure, Asks About Court Monitor

One step forward for the City at the August court hearing: PCCEP's structure, as set forth in 2018 amendments to the Agreement, was finally confirmed after years of the AMAC and MHA encouraging more time before such approval. The change has no real practical effect, but those who said PCCEP could not function under a cloud of uncertainty now have one less thing to blame if the experiment fails. The Judge again allowed community members (including Portland Copwatch) to testify. Many who raised concerns about people who are in mental health crisis (a main focus of the Agreement) being killed by police were sidelined by the DOJ saying officers who violate the constitution will be held accountable. No officers who have killed civilians have faced discipline since the DOJ Agreement began. The Judge hinted the parties might consider having a court- appointed monitor rather than having the DOJ in Washington and the COCL (originally from Chicago) be the arbiters of compliance. It's unlikely that suggestion will be adopted

Issues which were not fully resolved by mediation included the details of policies for body-worn cameras and whether or not investigations into force used at racial justice protests in 2020 would aim to hold officers and sergeants accountable along with Lieutenants and higher-ranking supervisors. Since the Portland Police Association (PPA) has a seat at the table as an "intervenor" and has strong feelings about discipline for its members-- who include both officers and sergeants- - it's not clear there will be any change when the parties come back before the Judge. This is also true of the copcams policy, which the PPA insists is a mandatory bargaining issue and has been hammering out for months behind closed doors in separate mediation sessions with the City (see the PPA update in this issue).

PCCEP Has Family Member Discuss Death, Changes Structure

At PCCEP's August meeting, Rachel Steven, the sister of Michael Townsend, spoke passionately about her concerns surrounding her brother's killing by Portland Police while he was in mental health crisis in June. A few days later, the City issued nearly carbon-copy sympathy letters to her family and to that of Robert Delgado, who was also killed while in crisis in April (Portland Mercury blog, September 24). This was based on a recommendation PCCEP made early in 2021 and accepted by the Mayor in March. At the August meeting, members also grilled the Police Bureau about the failure to stop street brawls between neo-fascists and anti-fascists on Aug 22 (see the article on protest lawsuits in this issue).

Members of the group who left at the end of their terms include former co-chairs Elliott Young and Lakayana Drury, the latter being the last remaining original PCCEP member. Recent new members include Byron Vaughn, Tia Palafox and Gloria Canson, though it's not clear whether any of them have been approved by City Council. The only person in one of the two seats meant for youth (ages 16-23), Taji Chesimet, was acting as co-chair from his college in Chicago but hasn't attended since September. At the November meeting, the group decided to restructure the Steering Committee so it would be made up of the chairs of the Subcommittees (Youth, Racial Equity, "Behavioral Health," and Settlement Agreement/Policy) with shared chairing for full meetings.

The Racial Equity Subcommittee is taking a deep dive into traffic and pedestrian stop data collected by the PPB. This is important, since no advisory body has been doing so since the 2016 demise of the Community Police Relations Committee. Conversely, the Racial Equity group also considered making a police employee a co-chair, which was the kind of thing which led PCCEP's predecessor, the Community Oversight Advisory Board, to implode (PPR #71).

Much time at the other meetings was spent talking about internal documents such as how to put PCCEP into City Code, their quarterly reports, and metrics to measure their success. They did vote in September to support the Citizen Review Committee's Crowd Control Report, but that was six days after CRC presented its Report to City Council. The last half hour of the November meeting included an important discussion about how PCCEP should respond to police deadly force and events like the grand juries who found officers committed no crime in the Delgado and Townsend shootings (see the Shootings article in this issue). The October meeting was primarily set up to discuss the COCL's Q2 Report.

At the December meeting, PCCEP acknowledged the death of Charles Moose, Portland's first Black chief, and talked about body camera policies.

Compliance Officer Finds Two More Areas Where Police Failed to Comply with Agreement

Because the police did not update their annual training plan to address Crowd Control or deliver training around managing protests, the COCL moved Paragraphs 79 and 84 to partial compliance, meaning at least 19 paragraphs out of about 90 actionable ones are now out of compliance. The City had been found in full compliance in January 2020 (PPR #80) but has to maintain compliance for a full year before the DOJ pulls up its tent stakes and leaves.

The COCL highlighted the concerning trend that force was previously used in just over 3% of police custodies, but that number has now grown to over 7%. However, as has been the case for most of the seven years these Reports have been issued, no mention was made about the use of deadly force against people in mental health crisis. The second quarter included three shootings, two of them fatal killings of people in crisis. Unless deadly force gets as much scrutiny as lower levels of force, such tragedies will continue.

The consultants pushed back against members of the Police Bureau who want to have officers leave their Tasers in patrol cars, which would change the current mandate that all cops carry the less-lethal weapons. In addition, though the COCL doesn't seem concerned about it, eight of 31 people with mental illness zapped with Tasers in Q2 (20%) were unarmed. While debriefing a scenario where cops could choose guns or Tasers, an instructor told officers that Tasers "require a lot of paperwork." Because officers who use deadly force are not required to fill out their own reports (Paragraph 69c), this gives an incentive to use lethal weapons. There is clearly a lot more work to do.

BHU Advisory Committee Encouraged by DOJ Comment to Examine Deadly Force

[image of WillametteWeek article]At the BHUAC's October public meeting, Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman, for the third time, asked them to discuss deadly force incidents at their regular business meetings. BHUAC chair Janie Gullickson stated those incidents were not in their purview. Local DOJ attorney Jared Hager asked her who had told them that, and Gullickson backed down, admitting it was just her feeling about it. Handelman noted the Police Review Board only looks at incidents to see whether officers followed policy and training, with barely a mention of mental health, so it is up to BHUAC to apply that lens on behalf of the community. Gullickson indicated they may start looking at shootings of people in mental health crisis in the future. While encouraging, this discussion could have happened in 2013 when the BHUAC first started up had they held open meetings like the other advisory groups mentioned in the Agreement.

For the complete Portland Copwatch analysis of the COCL Report, see portlandcopwatch.org/COCLanalysisPCW0821.html.

  [People's Police Report]

January, 2022
Also in PPR #85

2021 Portland Police Shootings Quadruple 2020
  • State Deadly Force Incidents Taper Off in Second Half of 2021
City, DOJ Hash Out Remedies for Failed Compliance
Council Votes to "Re-fund the Police"
Lawsuits: City Pays Out More for Protest Actions
Citizen Committee Punts Whistleblower Case
Commission to Design Oversight Board Meets
Chief Overrides Review Board to Punish Two Cops
Houseless Community Faces More Private Security
Force Data Ignores Race at Training Council
Sheriff's Last 12 Months Start w/Vax Card Scandal
Organizers Set for Testimony on Terror Task Force
Bureau Agrees with Copwatch on One Policy
Updates PPR #85:
 • Almost No Progress on Police Association Contract
 • Suit: Former Police Assoc. Head Leaked Unconfirmed Info
 • Revamped Gun Team Forming; Profiling Numbers Unchanged
Rapping Back #85

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 #85 Table of Contents
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