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Portland Copwatch Testimony on
US Dept of Justice/City of Portland Settlement (Section 10)


Summary: The Agreement as it has been implemented already undermines its stated principles of transparency.

As noted in several previous examples, the City and the Bureau have been putting in place various aspects of the Settlement Agreement prior to its entry into court, a time-marker known as the "Effective Date." While some aspects are only required to be in place after the Effective Date, it is telling in many ways what the City has and has not done to meet the DOJ's terms.

The Agreement calls for the Bureau to "collect and maintain all data and records necessary to facilitate and ensure transparency and wide public access to information related to PPB decision making and activities" (paragraph 159). In section 2 on Taser Use we outlined how the PPB made changes to its Taser and Force directives without community input, but rather in conjunction with closed- door meetings of the Police Association (this also affected section 6 on Use of Force). Furthermore, the Bureau scrubbed the previous drafts from its website, and did not publish a "redline" version of the new Directives to indicate what changes had been made, necessitating a line-by-line comparison to do analysis.

In section 7 we noted that the Behavioral Health Unit advisory board decided none of its meetings would be public, which puts it in contrast with the Agreement- generated Training Advisory Council (paragraph 87) and the Community Oversight Advisory Board (paragraph 154), whose meetings by definition are open to the public.

We also outlined how the City only implemented some of the proposed changes to two oversight bodies, but did not enact their powers to order more investigation, in section 5 on the Police Review Board. Similarly, three sections requiring sharing more information with complainants by putting information on the City's website, sharing documentation about the complaints, and tracking the case from start to finish (paragraphs 138-140) have not been implemented to our knowledge. The Bureau, which posted its own assessment of their progress in June 2013,*-40 says documents have made their way to complainants, but this should include basic information such as police reports which we believe are still not being shared.

Because there are no public reports about the Employee Information System, we also do not know whether the system has been used to identify "at risk employees" (paragraph 116), or whether the new "trigger" of three uses of force in one month refers to a calendar month or a 30 day period (paragraph 119). (We support the AMA Coalition's suggestion that the new criterion should be expanded to cover a 90 day period.)

The Agreement is not clear about a few of the required reports-- the Professional Standards Division (PSD) Inspector reports to the Training Advisory Council (paragraph 86), the COCL's semi annual outcome assessments (paragraph 173), and the Chief's assessment of the effectiveness of new policies (paragraph 171), for example-- will be public.

It is possible, of course, that the hiring of the COCL and appointment of the COAB could shed light on some of these issues, but it seems that in the spirit of the Agreement, what has already been done to attempt to remedy the excessive force used against people with mental illness should be made far more clear. What is really needed is firm clarity and direction from the court on what is expected for the City to do. The Bureau's self-published June "implementation checklist" does not include any documentation or verification for its claims of what has been done. Any adoption of the Agreement should clarify that as much information as possible should be shared with the public, and underscore the importance of taking the principles of transparency to heart and erring on the side of too much information rather than too little.

*-40- Implementation Checklist, June 2013
  NOTE: The City quietly removed the June list and uploaded a new one dated December 17, 2013
Back to text

DOJ Letter of Findings (September 12, 2012)

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

Next Section: 11. Oversight of the Agreement / Conclusion

Back to Copwatch DOJ information page

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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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