Copwatch - a project of Peace and Justice Works


Site Navigation

About us
People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Cool links
Other Information
Contact info


Portland Copwatch Testimony on
US Dept of Justice/City of Portland Settlement (Section 8)


Summary: Training should include input from all of the community; changes to training should look at national and local past and present trends; trainers should be chosen carefully.

We support the AMA Coalition's ongoing concern that training of officers should include members of the community most likely to be subject to officer conduct, from the planning stages and including the actual training. Senior Bureau officials seem to be happy with the way that institutional racism training has been created, which involved members of the Community and Police Relations Committee in the design and implementation, going so far as to offer CPRC an award for its work. That collaborative process can prove a template for the Bureau to include community members at all levels of training. While the Agreement calls for the Training Division to consider public input (paragraph 79-f), it is not explicit whether it means input beyond the Training Advisory Council (TAC). As with our recommendations elsewhere, adding such specific requirements for the Bureau will remove ambiguity in the Agreement. When recruiting members to the TAC, the City required criminal background checks and adherence to a confidentiality statement, excluding many community members.

Similarly, the Agreement calls for the Bureau to incorporate changes based on "concerns reflected in court decisions" (paragraph 79-g), which should be clarified to include both higher court rulings and results of civil lawsuits against the City/Bureau. Also, when looking at "law enforcement trends" to improve training (paragraph 79-i), it should be a requirement to include the history of Portland Police to avoid re-introducing problematic tactics. For example, the carotid ("choke") hold is included in paragraph 38 as an example of lethal force, even though the Bureau banned those holds in 1985.

The exclusion criteria for trainers, like the ones for the CIT Team, rely too much on sustained force complaints (and only against people with mental illness--paragraph 83) since, as noted in section 7, very few force complaints are ever sustained. It also only calls to disqualify officers if a civil judgment has been rendered against the City because of the officer's use of force, while much of the time lawsuits in which the City does not prevail end in settlements. The Agreement broadly calls to ensure that trainers "do not have a history of using excessive force," so it seems that adding repeated complaints of excessive force and lawsuits that end in jury verdicts or settlements should also be included, at minimum. (It's interesting, too, that officers' history of generating lawsuits is not part of the CIT criteria.)

Along those lines, teaching officers how force could lead to civil liability (paragraph 84-a-iv) would be more meaningful if the lawsuit payouts in Portland came out of individual officers' pockets, the Bureau's budget, or, as is being considered in Minneapolis, mandatory individual insurance policies for each officer.

Again, we do have support for some concepts listed in the Agreement: training through role playing (paragraph 84-a-i), incorporating de-escalation into making arrests without force (paragraph 84-a-ii) and teaching tactics such as disengaging, waiting, and calling for appropriate backup units (not necessarily for more firepower--paragraph 84-a-iii).

In short, parts of the Agreement which are vague should be more clearly defined and strengthened before the City moves forward with its proposed changes, and there should be deeper community involvement in training than just the Training Advisory Council.

DOJ Letter of Findings (September 12, 2012)

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

Next Section: 9. Tracking Police Contacts / Demographic Information

Back to Copwatch DOJ information page

Back to top


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

Back to Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice Works home page
Back to top