The settlement agreement for United States v. City of Portland is now under some degree of management by the Chicago-based team of Rosenbaum & Watson LLP, and their Portland-based representative Kathleen Saadat. A cursory review of the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison & Community Oversight Advisory Board web site does not reveal any relevant progress to date – but they’re just getting started. The majority of the COAB’s time has been spent being “educated” by the Rosenbaum & Watson team, the Department of Justice or police bureau as to what they as community members ought to think and do.
(The settlement agreement was signed in October 2012. The COCL was hired in November 2014. The COAB held its first meeting in April 2015.)
The three initial and self-defined basic tasks for the COCL & COAB are to learn the problem; reach out to and engage with the community; create a baseline of data from which to measure a reduction in use of force against persons with mental illness. These are all fairly easy and could be done in a few hours.
Here is that baseline information – from the MHAP perspective.
Learn the Problem
The best way for member of the COCL or COAB to learn the problem is to review this web site. The MHAP provided a free screening in May at the Cinema 21 Theater of our documentary film Alien Boy: The Life And Death of James Chasse, and the documentary Arresting Power, about the history of conflict between the Portland Police and the African American community. The screenings were publicized to all members of the COCL and the COAB and also city and county staff members. The screenings were lightly attended and measured a general disinterested in independently acquiring information by members of the COCL and COAB.
No member of the COAB has made relevant contact with our organization as of July 11, 2015. We had a brief unproductive meeting prior to the formation of the COCL with a member of the COCL at our initiative. The COCL has not made independent contact. They may or may not have met with other similar organizations – there’s no way to know.
In February and March, prior to the COAB forming, leaders in city hall reached out to MHAP for assistance in recruitment and support of persons with mental illness on the COAB. We had straightforward conversations about the difficulties involved and asked the city to provide supports for those persons, including limiting meetings and group conflict, providing knowledgeable peer staff to support interested persons, have police officers attend meetings in street clothes. Both the COCL and city did not agree with any of our suggestions. Without support for members we concluded participation at this time is not safe, fruitful, respectful, or useful – and persons with mental illness included in first generation of the COAB would quit.
Three out of the five persons selected for the COAB who self-identified in their application as having a mental illness have since left the COAB – in the first three months. They were replaced with persons who do not identify as having a mental illness, making 2 out of 15 persons with lived experience on the committee, or 13%. Neither of these two persons were publicly engaged with mental illness advocacy prior to being selected for the COAB. No person was selected for the COAB who received undue force by the Portland police; that’s 0%.
Data Collection for Portland Police Bureau
Benchmark stat: since the signing of the settlement agreement to U.S. v. City of Portland, the number of persons killed by members of the Portland Police Bureau has increased sightly from durations measured over the past twenty years: for the duration of the agreement, 3.66 persons per year. So far, as of July of 2015, two people have been killed by police officers, Chris Healy, a man with schizophrenia who also used methamphetamine, and Alan Bellew, a man with a long history of opiate addiction and mental illness. The PPB is at statistical pace with prior years to kill one or two more people with mental illness in 2015.
All deaths at the hands of Portland-area officers for the duration of the settlement agreement were persons whose thinking was impaired by mental illness, alcohol or drugs.
There is no independent data-based information which shows U.S. v. City of Portland has reduced the number of persons killed by police. The DOJ and City failed in their settlement agreement to include any performance-based measure of success.
This post has been edited and updated.