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Department of Justice Lambastes Portland
for More Failures to Comply with Agreement
New Remedies Introduced, Court Holds Two Hearings;
Community Group Spins Its Wheels

Perhaps in reaction to having had the City hide racist and violent training slides from them for at least four months (PPR #86), the US Department of Justice (DOJ) turned up the heat on Portland Police, finding seventeen new violations of the 2012 Settlement Agreement in a late June analysis. Among other things, their report revealed that at least one officer who was found to have violated Bureau policies had their record expunged, police dogs seriously injured two people unnecessarily, and that the Behavioral Health Unit Advisory Committee (BHUAC) needs to examine serious force against people in mental health crisis. Remedies proposed to fix issues the [image of Portland Mercury story]DOJ found in 2021 were adopted by federal judge Michael Simon on April 29. Simon also led a status conference on July 27 to reconcile the DOJ's concerns, those of the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) and the inadequate response from the City. Notably, the COCL ok'd the Bureau's actions in 10 of the 30 total paragraphs the DOJ cited as lacking. However, the COCL's Q1 2022 Report found three areas non-compliant the DOJ did not. Meanwhile, the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP), which narrowly escaped being shut down, has been hampered by their own reluctance to ensure they have a quorum to conduct business at their meetings. As a result, they were unable to adopt a group statement to present to the Judge.

The DOJ focused repeatedly on how the City is failing to hold officers accountable, including an ongoing issue raised previously about the Police Review Board acting to excuse officer behavior based on external factors. As they (and the COCL) have noted, these factors should be used in considering discipline but aren't relevant to whether officers violated policy. The COCL and DOJ have joined together in trying to have the BHUAC design ways to talk about critical incidents with the intent of finding ways to prevent them in the future. Despite discussing this issue since last October, no resolution has been reached.

The DOJ also calls out the PPB for sharing video of one deadly force incident to every officer in the Bureau immediately after it occurred, potentially damaging the neutrality of the criminal and administrative investigations. They note that Officer Jennifer Pearce, who was struck by a stolen vehicle she then shot at (PPR #83), was not interviewed for 48 days rather than the required 48 hours. Both the COCL and DOJ found instances where allegations of use of non- deadly force were dismissed or not investigated, violating the Agreement's terms.

The April hearing before Judge Simon was a Fairness Hearing conducted as a hybrid event. Two members of Portland Copwatch (PCW) testified virtually and a third was in the courtroom. Our testimony examined the eight remedies proposed by the City and expressed concerns about most of them. However, the writing was on the wall since the legal entities involved had shaken hands already, and the new sections were adopted as-is. At the July Status Conference, the DOJ was fairly conciliatory despite calling out the City for its shortcomings. City Attorneys and Mayor Wheeler made public relations friendly statements about how hard they are working. Community members including the same three people from PCW chimed in, supporting DOJ's analysis but also emphasizing how the Bureau only nominally engages the community. Only one PCCEP member, Byron Vaughn, testified as an individual because, as noted above, PCCEP never voted on a statement due to lack of quorum.

In the DOJ's report, they cite Flying Focus Video Collective's recording of the October 2021 BHUAC meeting as a reference point for the Committee members saying deadly force cases are not in their purview. In July 2022, Flying Focus became a fellow partner group with Portland Copwatch at Peace and Justice Works. Watch the video at tinyurl.com/ffvcBHUAC .

Community Engagement Group Lacks Unity, Engagement

PCCEP's May meeting was, in part, a town hall to hear the COCL present its review of the fourth quarter 2021. PCW conducted a lengthy analysis, calling into question a number of the "expert" [image of DOJ document]opinions. The COCL once again responded with less-than-compassionate answers, often simply defending the status quo (though to be fair they agreed to fix a few items as well). Their August meeting included a truncated town hall on the COCL's Q1 2022 report, with limited community input.

Because PCCEP dissolved its steering committee in November, it had no recognized leadership for eight months. They only had seven members of their allotted 13 seats until June 15, when two new members were added (Nathan Castle-- also chair of the Training Advisory Council, and Anthony Russell, Jr), and another was thanked for her service without renewing her term (Amy Anderson). Still, with only eight members, the PCCEP needs seven to hold a formal meeting or vote. PCW urged them repeatedly to have City Council set their quorum to a majority of seated members. That way, for eight people, quorum would be five rather than the seven needed for 13 theoretical members. However, the Committee did not even ask the City Attorney to look into the issue at either their June or July meetings. It's a mystery why they don't they even want to help themselves. Likely they believe the City, which keeps promising to appoint more members in a timely way. They clearly have no sense of history and how the City starved the Community Oversight Advisory Board of members before disbanding it and creating PCCEP (PPR #76). Again, they were unable to vote on a statement for the court due to there only being six members present at their July 20 meeting. They also were not able to make formal recommendations about the Bureau's Annual Report, which they're required to do by the Agreement, due to a similar quorum issue in June.

In early August, Council appointed another three members-- Pastor Robin Wisner, Lauren Ceaser and Kevin Provost, bringing PCCEP up to 11 members, still shy of their allotted 13 seats.

At PCCEP's July meeting, Deputy Chief Mike Frome told the Committee that the person hired to be the civilian "dean" of the Training Division was having their job offer rescinded due to issues with their background check. Frome declined to discuss the matter further, but it could have something to do with the former LA cop (Thomas Datro) making anti-community remarks on podcasts showing he was not by any means a good choice for the job.

Many of the PCCEP's problems stem from their two staff people quitting in December and March. The DOJs report says that the half-time supervisor of the project, who worked in the Office of Equity and Human Rights, could not account for the staff's daily and weekly work performance. PCCEP was moved under the Public Safety Division (PSD), which also oversees the Police Accountability Commission (p. 2) and the Focused Intervention Team Community Oversight Group (p. 1). Unfortunately, the PSD did not have any staff ready to take on this new role, so between the Mayor's police liaison Stephanie Howard and PAC staffer Sameer Kanal, the Committee just barely got its stuff together for the meetings in May, June and July. New staff was introduced at the July meeting. For some reason, after over two years using the regular Zoom format where all participants can see one another, the people staffing the July meeting used a "webinar" format, where only the Committee members can see each other. This switch undermines the concept of PCCEP being "community engaged."

Mental Health Advisory Group Still Doesn't Get It

The BHUAC held another public outreach meeting on August 11. They defensively responded to a question about why their business meetings are not open to the public by stating they had spent an entire meeting debating the issue again and had voted to keep those meetings private. Committee members and city staff accused the DOJ of moving the goalposts by never having asked the BHUAC to review deadly force incidents prior to the initial finding of compliance after attending meetings for seven years. Why, they asked, are they being required to hold those discussions now? What they seem to not understand is that the only reason DOJ realized the BHUAC thought they were not allowed to review those cases was because they never held public meetings until 2021, when PCW raised the question.

See Portland Copwatch's analysis for Q4 at tinyurl.com/PCWcocl0522
the DOJ's report at albinaministerialcoalition.org/DOJComplianceReport0722.pdf, and
COCL's draft Q1 report at tinyurl.com/COCLq12022
  [People's Police Report]

September, 2022
Also in PPR #87

Portland's New Gang Team Shoots at Three
  • Ongoing Trend of More Deadly Police Shootings in OR
DOJ Lambastes City for Failures to Comply
Dubious Ideas from Gang Team Advisory Group
Staff Leaving More Independent Police Review
  • IPR Annual Report Continues to Lack Adequate Info
Oversight Commission Begins Research Phase
Inhumanity Towards Portland's Houseless People
Sheriff: No Discipline for Offensive Coin
More Protest Violence Suits Cost City Big Bucks
Biased Force Use Ignored at Training Council
Quick Flashes PPR #87:
 • Suit for City Records Has Unintended Consequences
 • Ex-Cop Who Rammed Suspect Pleads Guilty
 • Forest Grove Cop Convicted for Vandalizing BLM Signs
 • PPB Traffic Stop Data: More People of Color Targeted
 • Bunch of Cops on "Brady List"
 • Copwatch Helps Thwart Scams by Transfer Officers
 • Keaton Otis Remembered, 12 Years Later

"Constitutional" Sheriffs: Troubling Trend
Police Ask Input: Crowd, Force, ID Policies
Rapping Back #87

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 #87 Table of Contents
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