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Nearly Half of DOJ Agreement Terminated in Deal
Replacing Compliance Officer with Court Monitor
Related Community Committee Holds Meetings
on Profiling Data, Progress Reports

City Council voted in early November on a plan to replace the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) with an Independent Court Monitor. The Monitor will assess whether Portland Police are successfully following the requirements of the 2012 US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement. As part of the plan, 40 of the 96 paragraphs of the Agreement are being dismissed from the DOJ's purview, leading to concerns among some in the community that the City [Oregonlive Nov 30 article]will backslide in those areas without consequence. Fifteen paragraphs will be up to the City to "self- monitor," which history tells us will not go well. One important issue: several paragraphs being dismissed relate to misconduct investigations, which could impact the implementation of the new oversight board (see article on new oversight board). At a court hearing on November 30, Judge Michael Simon approved the changes despite such concerns being raised multiple times, including by Portland Copwatch. Meanwhile, the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP) got new members and held meetings, including two focusing on stops data and two on the DOJ assessment reports. A separate group focusing on the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) held another public meeting and appears to have gone backward on the issue of providing recommendations about deadly force used on people in mental health crisis.

Court Monitor Will Be New "Referee"

The change from the COCL to the Court Monitor is significant in many ways. Unlike many other cities that were investigated for unconstitutional policing, when the DOJ found Portland used too much force against people with mental illness, the City agreed to make changes; thus a "Settlement Agreement," not a "Consent Decree" as exists elsewhere. The Court Monitor is a basic part of those Decrees, making the determination of when those cities are complying with the federal government's [cover of COCL report]terms. Until now, while the COCL has been producing quarterly progress reports, it is the DOJ (the plaintiff in the case) that decides on compliance.

Portland Copwatch (PCW) has been relatively neutral about which kind of system exists, mostly concerned that the best people to monitor the Portland Police are people with deep knowledge of and ties to the community, not outsiders (the COCLs have been people originally based in Chicago). It is possible that Dr. Tom Christoff, who just took over from his mentor to become COCL in July (PPR #90), could apply for the job.

The paragraphs going under self-monitoring include one on the collection of stop data. It's good that this is not being dismissed, as it's one of the only areas addressing race in the Agreement (the DOJ could not find a "pattern and practice" of racial bias despite overwhelming data which persists to this day). However, the fact that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) has made only minimal progress (if any) at reducing the over-representation of Black people in traffic stops after 11 years under the DOJ and 20 years of data collection indicates they're not the best arbiter of change.

Some of the dismissed paragraphs are relatively uncontroversial, such as whether the PPB has set up the BHU. It seems unlikely they will take away that infrastructure one day when the Agreement's complete and the DOJ leaves town. On the other hand, there are two paragraphs about the Citizen Review Committee (diversity of membership and ability to make findings upon appeal of misconduct cases) whose substance is not necessarily reflected in the City's proposal to implement the new oversight Board. Similarly, three paragraphs are going away covering the requirement for the Independent Police Review, which processes allegations, to communicate with complainants. One other paragraph, requiring the PPB to have a policy against retaliation, was dismissed... and the City's plan has that policy under the jurisdiction of Internal Affairs rather than the new Board. Very problematic.

Along these lines of poorly addressing community concerns, the City released their monitoring plan on Friday, November 3 and voted on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 8. The PCCEP, which had formally recommended the Court Monitor position, had meetings on Wednesday, November 1 (though that was canceled) and Wednesday, November 8, meaning the group had no time to discuss or reflect on the details of the plan. PCW member Dan Handelman, who is a member of the Steering Committee of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform (AMAC), was able to attend mediation sessions among the City, the DOJ, the Portland Police Association, the AMAC and the Mental Health Association, but unable to discuss the confidential details with anyone else. So an overwhelming majority of the community had just five days to digest the 34-page plan. The writing was clearly already on the wall-- Council passed the plan unanimously without any amendments based on public input.

PCCEP Hosts Compliance Officer Twice, Gets Back Up to (Almost) Full Membership and Talks Profiling

As part of its regular duties, the PCCEP hosts "Town Halls" with the Compliance Officer to present the quarterly reports and interact with the community. In October, they discussed ways to make the meetings and reports more community-friendly. On November 8, the presentation of the Q2 Report was... about as dry and hard to follow as usual, though there was a lively discussion period. Among other things, PCW pointed out that there was a case included where three officers fired their Tasers at the same person at the same time, which is against PPB policy. The Report says one Taser jammed, and the other two officer neglected to warn the others they were using the electroshock weapons by saying "Taser, Taser, Taser," as they are trained. The COCL and the DOJ's Jonas Geissler remarked that the policy prohibits deliberately firing multiple weapons at once, so there was no misconduct. Or, as Handelman stated, "no harm, no foul...except there was harm to the person who got 50,000 volts times two applied to them." Bureaucrats.

These Town Halls are often (as this time) held at subcommittee meetings of the PCCEP. At full Committee meetings on September 20 and October 18, the PCCEP discussed the Police Accountability Commission (PAC)'s plan for the new oversight Board, and adopted their bylaws (respectively). They were unable to formally support the PAC plan because there were only eight active members of PCCEP in September out of 13 seats, and only five people were present. PCW pointed out (yet again) that if they had a sliding scale quorum based on how many people were on the PCCEP rather than the number of seats, they could have voted that day. Co-Chair Pastor Robin Wisner testified at the September 21 City Council hearing on the PAC based on the meeting's discussion.

PCW again raised the issue of quorum as Council confirmed four members for renewal on August 29. Barbara Bochinski of PCW reminded Council that the idea of sliding scale is used in two police oversight systems in San Diego. In a rare instance, Mayor Wheeler engaged in conversation, suggesting that the City should just fill the empty seats; Bochinski said the quorum policy should be there as a backup. PCCEP staff indicated that by having a smaller quorum when fewer seats were filled, it would lead to equity issues. When four new members were appointed on September 27, other PCW members noted that when PCCEP was nearly suspended with a low membership in early 2022, there were seven members, of whom four were Black Portlanders. The appointment of the four new members brought PCCEP up to 12, including the long-empty youth seats. One position remains empty.

PCCEP also devoted two meetings to the issue of stop data/racial profiling. The first, held September 6, had three invited speakers: PCW's Handelman, AMAC's Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Jr., and former PCCEP member Vadim Mozyrsky. Among the three, it was highlighted that not only are Black people pulled over more often, but other data such as search, contraband being found, and arrests show potential discrimination. The PPB was then invited on October 25, where a white data analyst clearly laid out the ways the Bureau uses statistical gymnastics to explain the differences. While PCW has conceded that using traffic crash data makes sense (to compare stops to the population of people driving rather than the census data), the use of crime victimization data (to explain patrol officer stops) and no benchmark at all for the Focused Intervention Team is pure white supremacist nonsense. (For more on stops data, see profiling article.)

PCCEP also hosted a group talking about police interaction with people who have brain injuries, which may be indistinguishable to them from mental health issues but requires a different approach.

Mental Health Community Body Going in Circles

[BHUAC meeting screenshot]In October 2021, PCW comments at a public meeting of the Behavioral Health Unit Advisory Committee (BHUAC) prompted the DOJ to push that group to examine deadly force incidents with the goal of making recommendations for police policy (PPR #85). The BHUAC heard from the cops in March and April, reporting back at their October 2023 meeting that there was a lot of information delivered but that they did not believe they had to make any recommendations as it was not in their allegedly narrow purview. It's possible that the changeover from Lt. Casey Hettman as the BHU supervisor to Lt. Christopher Burley led to a loss in translation. However, most of the Committee members had been active in 2021 and should not keep shying away from this important duty. The rest of the community is not allowed into the BHUAC's regular business meetings, and the quarterly meetings only broadly ask for input without seeking advice on specific items they vote on, making policy that affects thousands of people living with mental illness. Harumph.

Read PCW's analysis of the Q2 COCL Report at
For info on the PCCEP head to portland.gov/pccep.
  [People's Police Report]

January, 2024
Also in PPR #91

Community Oversight Plan Dismantled by City
DOJ Agreement 1/2 Terminated, Court Monitor OKd
Police Violence Costs the City Another $371,000+
 • "Union" Pays Former Commissioner $680K for False Claims
PPB Kills Third Person in 2023
 • Man in Mental Health Crisis Dies in Milwaukie Cops' Custody
State Police Deadly Force Down from 42 to 30+
 • More News: D.Clark, DEA/Qualified Immunity, CW Graphic
Review Committee Loses Five Members, Gains One
IPR Annual Report Adds Some Detail, Omits Others
Criminalization of Homelessness on Hold
Medford Police Continue Spying on Activists
 • Mohammed Mohamud Loses Appeal Bid
Chief Lovell Steps Down, Bob Day Takes Over
Deputies Indicted: Jail Deaths, Off-Duty Fight
Profiling Data Discussed at Two Public Meetings
Training Council Delays Force Data Presentations
Car Crashes Spotlit in Comments on Police Policies
State Discipline Rules Updated at Iffy Meetings
Still No Deadly Force in Review Board Report
Updates PPR #91:
 • Council Approves Body Cameras as Pilot Ends Without Data
 • Drone Use Slowly Creeping Up Month by Month

Rapping Back #91

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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