Feds, City of Portland reach settlement agreement on police reforms

READ – Settlement Agreement (PDF download- 170KB)

WATCH – Press conference

Portland mayor, chief, and Oregon U.S. Attorney announce settlement on Portland police reforms

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Oct. 26, 2010

Mayor Sam Adams

Mayor Sam Adams

Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese stood with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall Friday afternoon in City Hall to announce a settlement agreement that the city reached with the U.S. Department of Justice on reforms to Portland police policy, training and oversight.

Among the changes called for in the agreement, Portland must hire or retain a compliance officer and appoint a community liaison to oversee reforms of police policies. A 15-member Community Oversight Advisory Board will also be created.

The police bureau will also adopt the kind of crisis intervention team model used in Memphis and expand its single mobile crisis unit, which pairs one officer with one Project Respond mental health worker, to three units.

The bureau intends to set up a new “Addictions and Behavioral Health Unit” staffed with a lieutenant, a new crisis intervention coordinator, an analyst and the five officers in the bureau’s mobile crisis unit. The manager of the existing Service Coordination Team, which works to find housing, treatment and addiction services for frequent offenders of low-level crimes, will also serve in the new unit.

In addition, internal affairs investigations will now have to be completed within 180 days, federal officials said. To accomplish that goal, more investigators will be hired.

Portland City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade said she’s committed to increasing the diversity of investigators working for the Independent Police Review Division. City records show that the division will get three new full-time staff, under the agreement. Griffin-Valade said she intends to bring on at least one new investigator who has a mental health background.

“This agreement is going to make the Portland Police Bureau better,” Adams said. “For me this is a watershed moment for the Portland Police Bureau.”

The city estimates the reforms will cost $3.5 million to implement.

A spreadsheet released at the conclusion of Friday’s news conference suggests that the start-up costs will be $519,301 and the annual ongoing costs will be $5.4 million.

The city figures show a gain of 32 new staff – 26 within the Portland Police Bureau, of which the majority are civilians, one attorney in the city attorney’s office, three full-time staff in the Independent Police Review Division and two staff members to the city’s Office of Equity.

A member of the Citizen Review Committee, which now hears citizen appeals of complaints against Portland police, will be added to the bureau’s Use of Force Review Board, which evaluates officer-involved shootings and use of force.

Chief Mike Reese

Chief Mike Reese

Reese also endorsed the 74-page agreement.

“We all agree we can do better as a police bureau and as a community,” the chief said. “This agreement will provide us a road map as we move forward.”

Joyce Harris, a member of the Albina Ministerial Alliance’s Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, urged the federal and city officials to recognize that community involvement is key to its success.

“I probably shouldn’t have to say this, but community engagement is critical,” Harris said. “We can’t let it fall apart, because lives are at stake.”

The agreement was negotiated after federal officials announced last month that their more than year-long investigation found Portland police engage in a pattern and practice of excessive force against people who suffer from or are perceived to suffer from mental illness.

On Sept. 13, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez reported in a 42-page letter to the mayor and chief that Portland police officers frequently escalate conflict, rush in to an encounter when they can hold back and continue to use force even when the need for it has waned.

Federal investigators concluded that the excessive force used by officers results from bureau “deficiencies in policy, training and supervision” that have been in place for a long time.

Federal officials called for an array of changes in bureau policies and practices, including restrictions on the use of Tasers, a revamped use of force policy that emphasizes the need to de-escalate conflicts, and the reinstatement of a specialized team of crisis intervention officers who would be called out to respond to calls involving people in mental health crisis.

The agreement will go to City Council for a first review on Thursday at 2 p.m.

Once the council formally approves the agreement, it will need to be signed by a federal judge and filed in U.S. District Court.

The federal justice department will formally file a civil lawsuit against the city, but then voluntarily dismiss the suit from the court’s active docket. At the same time, the federal government and the city will sign the formal agreement on reforms to be adopted.

The agreement will be legally enforceable, as it will remain under the court’s jurisdiction.

Federal justice officials have said they would be available to provide technical assistance to the police bureau to help with the reforms.

“This agreement is going to make the Portland Police Bureau better,” Adams said at Friday’s news conference.

Under the 74-page settlement agreement released Friday, federal justice officials identified principles it expects the Portland police to include in its revised use of force and Taser policies.

It said the Portland police shall use “disengagement and de-escalation techniques,” when possible, and/or call in specialized police units when practical “in order to reduce the need for force and increase officer and civilian safety.”

U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall

U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall

The agreement says Portland police will prohibit Taser use for pain compliance “against those suffering from mental illness or emotional crisis except in exigent circumstances, and then only to avoid the use of a higher level of force.”

It says that after the firing of one Taser cycle, officers shall evaluate the situation to determine if subsequent cycles are necessary, and that includes waiting for a reasonable amount of time to allow the person to comply with a police warning.

The agreement also covers supervisors’ responsibilities. Portland police are to revise their directives to require that supervisory officers complete “after-action reports” within 72 hours of the officers’ use of force.  Supervisors will also be subject to potential discipline or removal from their supervisory position for deficient investigations based on the “accuracy and completeness” of their after-action reports.

“All supervisors in the chain of command are accountable for inadequate reports and analysis,” the agreement states.

Under the agreement, a bureau inspector shall present a quarterly analysis of patterns or trends in Portland police use of force to the chief, the training division and the new training advisory council.

The inspector – a command level position in the bureau’s Professional Standards Division – will be expected to audit police use of force reports and ensure officers are acting according to bureau policy, their use of force reports are comprehensive and their supervisors are completing their responsibilities appropriately.

Under changes to training, the bureau is expected to instill expectations “that officers are committed to the constitutional rights of people with mental illness. The bureau must update its training plan annually, considering officer safety issues, misconduct complaints, problematic uses of force, court decisions and input from police and community members.

Last week, the police chief publicly released drafts of revised bureau policies for public comment, as city and federal officials were in the final throes of negotiations on the police reforms.

Some of the chief’s drafts did not go as far as justice officials had sought in several areas.

For example, federal officials urged the bureau to require officers involved in shootings to be interviewed immediately by detectives, instead of allowing a 48-hour wait after an incident. The Justice Department also urged the city to restrict the number of Taser cycles an officer can fire at a suspect.

The bureau did not include those standards in its drafts, but made other changes. For example, the chief wants to require officers involved in shootings to provide an “on-scene interview” to a detective, after given a reasonable chance to confer with a lawyer or union representative. It will be a briefing on what occurred, but a full sit-down interview could still be delayed for 48 hours, under union contract.

The chief’s draft policy on Taser use does not restrict the number of stun gun cycles an officer may fire at a single person. But it says, “members should evaluate their force options and give strong consideration to other force options, if the Taser is not effective after two” cycles on the same person.

Last month, federal and city officials said the proposed settlement between the Portland police and federal justice department would ensure that the city:

  • revises its use of force policies so officers have “necessary guidance” when encountering someone with mental illness or someone perceived to have a mental illness;
  • revamps its Taser policies to focus on de-escalating encounters arising from welfare checks or low-level offenses;
  • expands its single Mobile Crisis Unit team, which pairs an officer with a Project Respond mental health expert, to provide 24-hour, 7-day-a-week coverage; and
  • sets up a Mental Health Triage Desk at the dispatch center to ensure mental health-related calls are properly dispatched to the appropriate agency.

Under the preliminary agreement, the city also agreed to work with community mental health providers to try to open a 24-hour secure drop-off, or walk-in, center that will give officers more options when helping people with mental illness. The Police Bureau would actively use its Early Intervention System to track officers with many citizen complaints or use of force complaints to help curb problem behavior; and expedite internal affairs inquiries. And, a community group would be created to continually monitor the requested reforms.

Statement from Mayor Sam Adams

By Sam Adams, Oct. 26, 2012

Dear Portlander,

I hope that you are enjoying our change of seasons. City government continues to make big changes as well.

I am writing to let you know that we have a proposed agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that will not only improve the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) but also fast-track healthcare reforms that will increase the availability of community-based mental health care services.

Some solutions will require additional funds, others expedite federal and state healthcare reforms already underway, and others will require labor negotiations with our employee labor organizations.

The proposed Agreement is separated into several parts, which I have summarized here:

1. Use of Force:

PPB will retain its current force policies, which emphasize the use of less force than the maximum permitted by law. The PPB will add to its force policies de-escalation techniques and consideration about the mental health status of the person encountered (if available).

In addition, new policies reflecting best practices will be instituted regarding use of “Tasers.” Such policies generally will require verbal warnings, restrict the use of Tasers on people suffering from mental illness, and prohibit their use on handcuffed suspects.

I welcome your comments on these draft policies, currently available on PPB’s website.

The draft Agreement with DOJ strengthens PPB policies regarding force reports, to ensure they are timely, complete and require on-scene investigations by supervisors when a force event occurs. All supervisors in the chain of command are subject to discipline for the accuracy and completeness of force reports and investigations.

The use of force will also be subject to quarterly audits by an independent Inspector who will identify and correct deficiencies revealed by this trend analysis.

2. Training:

The Training Division will revise and update PPB’s Training plan annually to take into account any problematic uses of force and input from the community. PPB must also train all officers on the requirements of this proposed settlement Agreement. The independent Inspector also will audit the PPB’s training program using a list of performance standards that PPB must meet.

3. Community-Based Mental Health Services:

DOJ recognizes that there are other participants in the mental health infrastructure besides the City that control the quality of mental health care, including the State of Oregon, Multnomah County, Community Care Organizations (CCOs), community mental health providers, health care and emergency department providers, private insurers, and many others.

This proposed Agreement is only binding on the City of Portland, but DOJ expects community partners to assist the City to remedy lack of community-based addiction and mental health services to Medicaid and uninsured residents.

I am grateful that the CCOs and community partners have agreed to fast-track mental health service improvements to mid-2013. As such, the City, CCOs and community partners will identify opportunities for the dispatch of mental health professionals instead of police officers if and when appropriate. We will also work to ensure that PPB has better resources to gather real-time information when a person who has encountered the police is having a mental health crisis and needs assistance.

4. Crisis Intervention:

The PPB has agreed to develop an Addictions and Behavioral Health Unit (ABHU) within 60 days of the agreement’s effective date. It will oversee PPB’s Crisis Intervention Team, a Mobile Crisis Prevention Team and a Service Coordination Team.

An ABHU Advisory Committee comprised of individuals from across various government entities and mental health services providers (among others) will be established to assist the City as it provides these enhanced services.

PPB will continue to provide Crisis Intervention training to all its officers. In addition, the City will establish a “Memphis Model Crisis Intervention Team” and recruit volunteer officers to serve on that team. Such members will receive additional specialized training and will be dispatched if a crisis event occurs involving someone with a real or perceived mental illness.

PPB will expand the Mobile Crisis Prevention Team (formerly known as a Mobile Crisis Unit) to one car per PPB Precinct from one car citywide. The car shall be staffed by one sworn PPB officer and a civilian mental health professional and shall be a full time assignment.

The Bureau of Emergency Communication’s 9-1-1 dispatchers will complete training to triage calls related to mental health issues to the appropriate first responder resource.

5. Employee Information System:

The City has an employee information system to gather data and assist issues affecting employees. This will be enhanced to earlier and more effectively identify at-risk employees so that proper training can occur.

6. Officer Accountability: 

The City will reduce the timeline for all administrative investigations of misconduct to 180 days from the receipt of a complaint. This timeline includes appeals to the Citizens Review Committee.

The City will also revise its protocols for “compelled statements” from officers involved in force incidents to ensure that the law is followed while still obtaining more timely information. The City must submit this protocol for DOJ approval

PPB’s Police Review Board, which advises the Chief on administrative reviews and recommendations for discipline, will include a member from the Citizen Review Committee in cases where use of force is being reviewed. The Citizens Review Committee will be expanded to 11 members.

7. Community Outreach: 

There are a number of changes concerning community outreach. The Community and Police Relations Committee is part of the Portland Human Rights commission, and its function is to bring together members ofPortland’s diverse communities to improve community and police relations. The committee will be renamed the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB) and its functions and membership will change.  Its new functions include assessing the implementation of the Settlement Agreement, providing information to the community about the Agreement and its implementation and to contribute to the development of a PPB Community Engagement and Outreach Plan.

The 20 member COAB, which includes 15 voting members and 5 advisory members, will be chaired by a Compliance Officer and Community Liaison (COCL). Voting members of the Board include five Human Rights Commission members, five members chosen by City Council members and five members chosen by the community.

8. Implementation:

The City will hire a COCL within approximately 90 days. The duties of the COCL including preparing quarterly public reports regarding PPB’s compliance with the agreement hold quarterly town hall meetings and providing recommendations to ensure PPB is in compliance with the agreement.

In addition, PPB will designate a Compliance Coordinator to serve as a liaison between PPB, the COCL and DOJ. The Compliance Coordinator will coordinate PPB’s compliance activities, provide data to DOJ and collection information for the COCL.

9. Enforcement:  

To permit federal court oversight, DOJ will file a complaint against the City and will file this settlement agreement at the same time. If disputes arise regarding PPB’s compliance with the agreement, there is a dispute mechanism that favors discussions and mediation before court action.

When I took over as Police Commissioner, I said I would aggressively pursue changes that would make the Portland Police Bureau the best in the nation. To that end, Commissioner Dan Saltzman, community leaders, and I invited the federal government to conduct this evaluation and make recommendations. I embrace the changes called for in this proposed agreement.

We have worked toward an agreement that effects positive change in the way that the Portland Police Bureau provides service to the community. Council will take public comment at a hearing on November 1, 2012 at 2 pm in City Council chambers.





Mayor Sam Adams
City of Portland

PPB announces plan to manage use of force

From KGW.com, October 26, 2012

The Portland Police Bureau has announced a plan to better deal with emergency calls involving the mentally ill, which would include using only one Taser at a time.

The bureau made the changes after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation concluded it had engaged in “a pattern or practice of excessive use of force,” specifically when dealing with the mentally ill.

The new plan, put forth at a press conference Friday afternoon, will focus on de-escalation tactics, Portland Mayor Sam Adams said. Only one Taser will be used at a time and officers will attempt to use handcuffs between Taser deployments.

“For me this is a watershed moment for the City of Portland, for the Portland Police bureau, also the fire bureau and 911, and our first responders,” Adams said. “We are fully embracing the responsibility. We have and realities we face when it comes to dealing with folks who are perceived or suffering from mental illness.”

The DOJ report last month found that law enforcement agencies are often the first responders in mental health crises, so the new agreement will increase the mental health resources involved in such calls.

There will be three mobile crisis units on the streets, rather than just one. Each unit will include a specially-trained officer and mental health expert.

“As police officers we embrace our role in these changes, and the challenges we face in difficult circumstances every day,” said Portland Police Chief Mike Reese. “We all agree we can do better as a police bureau and community. This agreement will provide us a roadmap as we move forward.”

The cost of the agreement was estimated at $3.3 million. Adams did not say how it would be funded.

Portland Police, U.S. Department of Justice, Release Agreement on Mental Health Reforms

By Andrea Damewood, Willamette Week, Oct. 26, 2012

Portland mayor Sam Adams (L) and Chief Mike Reese (R)

Portland mayor Sam Adams (L) and Chief Mike Reese (R)

The U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Portland released a settlement agreement Friday on changes the city must make in order to stay out of court, in the wake of the DOJ’s findings that police have a pattern of using excessive force against the mentally ill.

The agreement ramps up both internal and external supervision of the department, expands police crisis training and response and further restricts officers’ use of Tasers.

Unlike many cities slapped with a DOJ case, Portland will not have an independent DOJ monitor of its reforms. Rather, the city must hire or retain a compliance officer and liaison to track progress. The liaison—to be selected from three candidates by the city council—will provide quarterly public reports, U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said during a press conference Friday at City Hall.

Officers must also only use one Taser at a time, and must attempt to handcuff suspects after each 5-second discharge of the weapon, she says. That portion of the recommendation doesn’t exactly jibe with a draft policy revision released by Chief Mike Reese last week, which did not restrict the number of Taser cycles that could be used on a person.

Oregon ACLU president Dave Fidanque said that his agency will meet with the police to express some of their concerns, including those about the draft Taser policy.

“There’s other stuff that needs to happen,” he says, adding that the bureau should ban stun gun use on those practicing active resistance—which includes actions like “tensing”­—and restrict use to those aggressively resisting officers.

The Portland Police Bureau will also create a Crisis Intervention Team of specially trained officers who will respond to all calls suspected to involve mental illness. The agreement will also expand the police Mobile Crisis Unit—a vehicle pairing one officer and a private social worker—to a 24 hour program.

A 15-member Community Oversight Advisory Board will also be created. The city auditor’s office will also hire three new investigators, including at least one with a background in mental health, City Auditor LaVonneGriffin-Valade says.

The cost is expected to be $5.8 million in the first year, and includes 26 new staff members in the PPB and six new staff members elsewhere in the city.

“I haven’t figured out how to pay for it, but we will,” Mayor Sam Adams said.

Adams, Chief Mike Reese and Commissioner Amanda Fritz all also spoke at the press conference Friday, and heralded the agreement’s stipulations.

“We’re fully embracing the responsibility that we have and the reality we face in dealing with those with mental illness,” Adams says. “We embrace the totality of our role in the mental health system.”

The U.S. Department of Justice released its report on the department’s “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional use of excessive force against those with mental illness. Friday’s agreement was due on Oct. 12, but the city needed extra time to complete the 74-page document.

Other mental health services are expected to be bolstered as a result of the DOJ’s report—those are due in mid-May, according to the city.

Portland, U.S. agree on police reforms; use of force against the mentally ill leads to change

By Steven DuBois, Associated Press, from the Register-Guard, Oct. 27, 2010

U.S. attorney Amanda Marshall

U.S. attorney Amanda Marshall

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 that 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 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 that 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 re-evaluate 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, composed 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.

Portland police, DOJ reach mental health agreements – Portland Business Journal, Oct. 26, 2012

DOJ, Portland Reach Agreement On Use Of Force – OPB News, Oct. 26, 2012

City files draft police accountability agreement to avoid federal lawsuit – Portland Tribune, Oct. 26, 2012