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Portland Copwatch Testimony on
US Dept of Justice/City of Portland Settlement (Intro)

Hon. Judge Michael Simon
US District Court (District of Oregon)
1000 SW Third Av
Portland, OR 97204

In the matter of United States of America v. City of Portland
Case Number: 3:12-cv-02265-SI

Testimony of Portland Copwatch on US DOJ/City of Portland Settlement
Prepared by Dan Handelman
January 31, 2014

Judge Simon


Portland Copwatch (PCW), a project of Peace and Justice Works, was founded in 1992 to promote police accountability through citizen action. Our all-volunteer organization works toward a Police Bureau free of corruption, brutality and racism. We have been students, teachers and critics of police policy, practices and training. One of our members has attended almost every publicly held police oversight body meeting since our founding. We were invited participants in the City's 2000 workgroup on the oversight process, the 2006 Racial Profiling Committee, and the 2010 Police Oversight Stakeholders Committee.

Our testimony addresses a number of issues related to the Settlement Agreement in US v. City of Portland that you are considering. To properly determine whether the Agreement is "fair, adequate and reasonable," we need to look at:

--what existed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation began,
--what the DOJ wrote in their letter of findings,
--what our group (and others) asked to be included in that Agreement, and
--what the City has been implementing while the Agreement has been awaiting the court's review.

While we recognize that the parties to the lawsuit are asking that the court enter the Agreement into the record as it is currently written, we are urging you to either (A) direct the parties to make changes to the Agreement itself before it is finalized, or (B) order them, using the provision of the Agreement to make changes (paragraph 187), to enact a new "side agreement" fixing the most troublesome parts. Small changes have already been made to the Agreement. The Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition's "Collaborative Agreement" allows changes to the process for picking the members of the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB, paragraph 145). Changes made to the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) ordinance*-1 allow flexibility in the 180 day investigative timeline laid out as a mandatory threshhold in the Agreement (paragraph 121).*-2 So arguments that nothing can be changed are merely expressions of investment in the status quo.

We have heard for many years after the City makes inadequate tweaks to policies and ordinances, "let's wait a while and see how this works." We hope that the Court does not fall sway to this delay tactic, and instead will direct the parties to take the steps necessary to fix the Portland Police Bureau (PPB / Bureau) and its accountability system. As context for our analysis of the Agreement, we remind the court that the DOJ called Portland's oversight system "Byzantine" and "self-defeating" (Findings Letter p. 27).

We also note that in addition to forwarding comments to the DOJ after they released their findings letter (co-authored with the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform-- Exhibit A-PCW), PCW met with the DOJ. At that meeting in November 2012, between two versions of the Agreement heard at City Council, they were unreceptive to many of these suggestions. However, in most cases it was unclear whether they disagreed with our proposals or whether they thought they would not be able to get the City to agree.

Our 22 years of advocacy on these issues puts us in a unique position to spot the weaknesses in the Agreement that will either prompt the City to take only minimal action or, worse, prevent the community from advocating for change during the time the Agreement is in place. That could mean waiting roughly five years to fix problems that pre-date the DOJ arriving on the scene.

Below we outline 11 basic areas of concern. While our comments are quite detailed, they by no means are comprehensive of all the issues that the Agreement could cover to improve the way the Portland Police interact with people in mental health crisis, and in general patrol the streets of our city.

*-1- City Code 3.21.120 [G][8], adopted January 8, 2014
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*-2- In fact, in October 2013, Police Chief Mike Reese testified before City Council that he believes the 180 day timeline is "aspirational."
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DOJ Letter of Findings (September 12, 2012)

DOJ / City of Portland Settlment Agreement (November 14, 2012)

Next Section: 1. Appealing Findings on Deadly Force Cases

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Testimony sections:

1. Appealing Findings
  on Deadly Force Cases

2. Taser Use
  and the DOJ Agreement

3. Accountability--
  Independent Police Review

4. Accountability--
  Citizen Review Committee

5. Accountability--
  Police Review Board

6. Use of Force
  and the DOJ Agreement

7. Mental Health Provisions
8. Training
  and the DOJ Agreement

9. Tracking Police Contacts
  / Demographic Information

10. Implementation and

11. Oversight of the
  Agreement / Conclusion

(Additional Materials

Testimony in pdf format
  (16 pgs)

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.

Posted January 31, 2014

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