Portland, USDOJ agreement includes more oversight of police

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The city of Portland has reached a proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice on police reforms in the wake of an investigation that found officers too frequently use excessive force against the mentally ill.

The deal announced Friday afternoon by Mayor Sam Adams, Police Chief Mike Reese and U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall includes more oversight of the police bureau as well as additional training and revisions to its policy on the use of stun guns.

"When I took over as police commissioner, I said I would aggressively pursue changes. These are the changes that will make Portland a better place," Adams said via Twitter and Facebook.

The City Council will hear public comment on the settlement at its meeting Thursday. Once the council approves it, the agreement must be signed by a federal judge and filed in U.S. District Court, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

The Justice Department opened its investigation last year to examine whether Portland police engaged in a "pattern or practice" of excessive force when dealing with the mentally ill. Agency officials concluded in September that such a pattern exists, and began negotiating with city leaders on reforms.

The city has agreed to hire a compliance officer to ensure the agreement is followed and form a Community Oversight Advisory Board. The board, which will be chaired by the compliance officer, will include 15 voting members and five advisory panelists.

The Justice Department investigation listed several examples in which officers used stun guns without justification against people in a mental health crisis. The police bureau's updated policy limits the use of stun guns on people suffering from mental illness and prohibits their use on handcuffed suspects.

It encourages officers to attempt to handcuff suspects rather than subject them to repeated "cycles" from Tasers, referred to as electronic control weapons in the settlement agreement.

"After one standard ECW cycle (5 seconds) the officer shall reevaluate the situation to determine if subsequent cycles are necessary," the agreement states, "including waiting for a reasonable amount of time to allow the subject to comply with the warning."

In other reforms, the city must:

  • Create a crisis intervention team, comprised of patrol officers with specialized training, to be dispatched when a mental health issue is the main reason for the call.
  • Expand its mobile crisis units from one car citywide to one car per precinct. The cars will be staffed with an officer and a civilian mental health worker.
  • Ensure that investigations of officer misconduct are completed within 180 days.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.