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 11)


Summary: The Court should make clear what the terms of the Agreement mean so that determining "substantial compliance" can be done objectively by reviewing the Court record, not subjectively reading the Agreement.

The most important part of any legal contract, especially one affecting an entire governmental entity, is how it is enforced. As we have outlined elsewhere, the City has already varied from the terms of the Agreement in several ways:

--failing to create "walk-in/drop-in" centers for people with mental illness in the timeline set forth (section 7);
--failing to establish a process for collecting demographic data on police encounters in the timeline set forth (section 9);
--revising Bureau policies without doubling back to the community with a revised draft (sections 6 & 8);
--changing the names of two mental health related bodies (section 7);
--setting the 180 day timeline for investigations as "aspirational" instead of mandatory (section 4) [we agree with this change though it varies from the Agreement]; and
--agreeing to change the procedure to pick the Community Oversight Advisory Board (background section) [another change we support].

If the City and the DOJ continue to decide which items are mandatory and which items are just "guidelines," it leaves the community in a difficult position of not knowing what to expect from the process.

The City will soon set about to hire a Compliance Officer/Community Liaison to oversee the implementation. The COCL has tremendous responsibilities and abilities to collect and synthesize data (paragraphs 161-165 and others), but has no power before the federal court when recommending changes to the Agreement (paragraph 164), nor is it even clear whether the COCL will be able to address the court directly if his/her reports are used to prove or disprove compliance (paragraph 184). We hope the court will clearly lay out expectations on hearing from the COCL directly.

We also hope it will be clear that though the Agreement calls for the COCL to chair the COAB, he/she is not a voting member and is there to facilitate and ensure "efficient operation of the COAB" (paragraph 144).

We welcome the data on lawsuit payouts being included in the COCL's semi-annual reviews, but urge that term "settlement" be replaced with "settlement, judgment, and jury award" (paragraph 173- e-v). After the James Chasse settlement in 2010, very few lawsuit payouts have been brought up publicly to Council, likely because they are being entered as judgments and are thus not subject to Council review. (City law requires any payment over $5000 to be agreed to by a majority of Council.)*-41

It is commendable to have the police present their annual report in each of the City's precincts (paragraph 150), but there need to be civil rights or oversight organizations involved to augment any claims they make about force, "biased-free policing" and people's rights and responsibilities when stopped by police. Ideally, police would be interested in ensuring people know their rights (such as the rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney), but the reality is that they are trained to circumvent those rights to solve crimes and gather information. This is made clear in the above- mentioned Portland Tribune article on "stop-and-pat-downs" (section 9), in which the officers berate "white hipsters [who] frequently tell black guys 'You don't have to talk to the cops.'"

We earlier raised concerns about some of the questionable personnel decisions being made by the Bureau, such as the hiring of Officer Burton in the Mobile Crisis Unit (section 7). Similarly, the City has hired a controversial person previously involved in state mental health work to assist the Compliance Coordinator.*-42 The Mayor has chosen to replace his former liaison to the Police Bureau, a community activist with years of experience, with an active duty police officer.*-43 We hope that both the process and outcome of hiring the COCL and putting the COAB into place will have more thoughtful results.

Our organization has a long history of following police conduct and suggesting ways to improve both police behavior and oversight. We believe our presence on the COAB would be a great benefit to the implementation of this Settlement Agreement. However, if the COAB is going to be relegated to looking at the Agreement as the maximum expected change-- a ceiling, rather than a floor-- and if its job will be limited to interpreting the Agreement as it is written, our organization cannot in good conscience even apply to participate.

That is why we are asking the court to lay out expectations for "substantial compliance," direct the parties to negotiate a new side agreement under paragraph 187 to fix the problematic parts of the Agreement listed in our testimony, and give guidance to help make true steps toward a Bureau free from corruption, brutality and racism.

Thank you
Dan Handelman
on behalf of
Portland Copwatch

*-41- City Code 3.15.020[F][4][b]
Back to text
*-42- "Portland police hire former head of Oregon's Psychiatric Security Review Board who resigned under cloud," Oregonlive, December 19, 2013
Back to text
*-43- "Hales Hires Police Officer as Policy Director Overseeing Police Bureau," Portland MercuryBlog, October 28, 2013
Back to text

DOJ Letter of Findings (September 12, 2012)

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

Next Section: (Additional Materials /Exhibits)

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