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City accepts federal police reform agreement

The city has accepted a federal judge's ruling that settles a potential civil rights case against the Portland Police Bureau for historically mistreating the mentally ill.

The ruling was issued on Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon. It requires the city to comply with all of the terms of a settlement agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation into police practices requested by former Mayor Sam Adams and current Commissioner Dan Saltzman when he was in charge of the bureau.

In the ruling, Simon says it could take up to five years for the city to substantially comply with all of the terms of the agreement. They include increasing training for dealing with the mentally ill, new rules on the use of Tazers, and speeding up misconduct investigations.

Simon is also requiring annual reports on the progress of complying with the agreement to be submitted to the court, with the first one due on Sept. 14 of this year.

Simon did not, however, order such additional steps as requiring body cameras on all Portland police officers.

In response, Mayor Charlie Hales issued a statement Friday afternoon which said, “Judge Simon’s order, approving the settlement, helps move us forward in implementing reforms related to hiring, training, rules of force and discipline of police officers. We are in the process of hiring a Compliance Officer/Community Liaison. We’re serious about having a police force that appreciates the issues around mental illness and that utilizes de-escalation tactics.”

The Albina Ministerial Association, which is a party to the settlement, issued a statement Friday which said, "This ruling is a major step to creating a true community policing culture within the Portland Police Bureau in light of the national attention on Deadly Force and Excessive Force by the Police Department in the Michael Brown death in Ferguson, Missouri."

The AMA also said its Coalition for Justice and Police Reform will continue working toward the following five goals:

1. A federal investigation by the Justice Department to include criminal and civil rights violations, as well as a federal audit of patterns and practices of the Portland Police Bureau.

2. Strengthening the Independent Police Review Division and the Citizen Review Committee with the goal of adding power to compel testimony.

3. A full review of the Bureau's excessive force and deadly force policies and training with diverse citizen participation for the purpose of making recommendations to change policies and training.

4. The Oregon State Legislature narrowing the language of the State statute for deadly force used by police officers.

5. Establishing a special prosecutor for police excessive force and deadly force cases.