The United States and the city of Portland, Ore., have jointly filed in federal court a proposed court enforceable settlement agreement to remedy constitutional claims that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional uses of force in response to “low-level offenses” against persons with actual or perceived mental illness. The agreement addresses the allegations described in a civil action also filed today by the United States, under provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 for alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Specifically, the United States’ complaint alleges that PPB engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force on individuals with actual or perceived mental illness by: (1) too frequently using a higher level of force than necessary; (2) using electronic control weapons (ECWs), commonly referred to as Tasers, in circumstances when such force is not justified, or deploying ECWs more times than necessary on an individual; and (3) using a higher degree of force than justified for low-level offenses.
Once approved by the court, the agreement will require changes in PPB’s policy, training, supervisory oversight, community-based mental health services, crisis intervention, employee information systems, officer accountability and community engagement and oversight. The agreement calls for an independent compliance officer and community liaison, who will be responsible for synthesizing data related to PPB’s use of force, reporting to the city council, the Justice Department and the public, and gathering input from the public related to PPB’s compliance with the agreement. The agreement also lays the framework for a community oversight advisory board, which will be a crucial mechanism for civil engagement in the reform process.
The United States and the city jointly filed a motion and other supporting documents requesting that the court approve the agreement and conditionally dismiss the civil action, while allowing the court to retain jurisdiction over the agreement for enforcement purposes if the city does not comply with the terms of the agreement. The agreement is the result of the Justice Department’s 14‑month investigation of PPB’s policies and practices and of subsequent negotiations with the city. The parties solicited and carefully considered extensive community feedback throughout this process.
The United States opened an investigation into PPB’s use of force in June 2011 and issued findings in September 2012. Shortly thereafter, the parties issued a statement of intent, describing their commitment to enter into a court-enforceable agreement regarding necessary reforms. Portland’s city council unanimously voted to approve the agreement on Nov. 14, 2012, following two public hearings.
“This agreement is the product of extensive negotiations between the city of Portland and the Justice Department and is reflective of the significant public feedback we received during our investigation, as well as throughout the settlement negotiation process,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I am confident that the reforms mandated by this Agreement will result in a Portland Police Bureau that provides police services in a constitutional manner and that better protects the community.”
“I look forward to a continued partnership with the city, Chief Reese and the community in the implementation of this historic agreement,” said Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “The reforms required by this settlement agreement provide the building blocks for a stronger and safer Portland.”
For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt . If you have any comments or concerns specific to this matter, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-218-5228.