Building on last month’s federal report that blasted Portland cops’ use of unconstitutional force against the mentally ill, the US Department of Justice and city officials last Friday, October 26, reached accord on a “watershed” set of reforms bearing big promises—but even bigger questions.
The agreement aims to expand civilian oversight of the police bureau, strengthen mental health treatment and training, tighten Taser and use-of-force policies, and speed up misconduct investigations.
Charlie Hales by Catlin Gabel student Emmy Foster
“This is a watershed moment,” Mayor Sam Adams said. “We are fully embracing the responsibilities we have and the realities we face.”
But that landmark moment comes with a major price tag that Adams doesn’t yet know how he’ll pay: $3.5 million in annual costs for dozens of new positions—cheaper than in cities like New Orleans and Seattle, but a tough sum to absorb in a city facing budget cuts.
The deal also leaves much of the implementation to Portland’s next police commissioner. And advocates who have been tracking civil rights issues for years already are asking whether the deal actually addresses the problems laid out by the feds.
“It doesn’t solve my problem at all,” says Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland, who wrote to the feds asking why the agreement doesn’t include stronger provisions for firing cops who use excessive force. “There are police officers on the streets who have killed my friends. And they’re likely to kill again.”
Some changes, however, will happen quickly. Portland City Council is set to approve the reforms at a 2 pm hearing this Thursday, November 1. Then, the council will immediately seek out applicants to serve as a new city compliance officer—someone charged with making sure the city delivers on its promises while also leading a 15-member community oversight board (of which five members would be nominated citywide).
That person will not serve as a monitor with court-bestowed powers, officials say. Rather, he or she will report quarterly to the feds and to the public on how well the city is holding up its end of the bargain.
The police bureau also must begin sifting through several changes in training, policy, and oversight, including:
• Creating an Addictions and Behavioral Health Unit that will have power over a restored Crisis Intervention Team of specially trained mental health officers and oversee an expansion of the bureau’s mobile crisis units.
• How to wrap up misconduct investigations, including appeals, within 180 days—far shorter than the current year-plus average. The police bureau’s Internal Affairs division and the city’s Independent Police Review division are both expected to nearly double their teams of investigators.
• Changing Taser policies to ban the use of multiple stun guns on the same person at the same time. Cops will be also banned from using consecutive Taser cycles on someone—a change long sought by advocates.
Jefferson Smith by Catlin Gabel student Emmy Foster
Another key element required a buy-in, not only from the feds and the cops, but also the city’s health care industry. The state’s Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs), tasked with implementing federal health care reform in Oregon, have promised to add, by mid-2013, at least one center where cops can drop off people in crisis.
That’s sooner, Adams explained, than the CCOs otherwise would have moved. CCOs also will work with the city and Multnomah County to improve treatment in clinics and emergency rooms.
The city has at least five years to make the fixes. But skeptics, including Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, worry the city will skirt some of the more substantive reforms through the use of loopholes.
He lamented that Police Review Board hearings, which greatly inform discipline decisions by the chief’s office, remain closed to the public. Discipline, or a lack thereof, in deadly force cases still can’t be appealed. And he cited a change that would ban any cop rapped for the use of force in a three-year period from training other officers.
“The police want to find ways to keep doing what they’re doing,” Handelman says. “Nobody ever gets found guilty of use of force. They are accused, but it’s rare someone gets found out of policy.”
Both mayoral candidates, Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith, have indicated—Hales explicitly so—that they’ll keep Police Chief Mike Reese. Both also tell the Mercury they’ll be willing to make deep cuts at city hall while also looking to Multnomah County for help with funding.
But Smith appears more willing to play a bit rough if either the cops or the health care system refuse to fall in line. He says he’d hold up permits and zoning approvals for the CCOs if they didn’t work with the city.
“Since this is a federal agreement and the department of justice has also investigated our state mental health system,” Smith says, “the CCOs also have an incentive to live up to their end of the deal, lest they face greater scrutiny.”
And he also said he’d take action if, for example, the benchmarks for speedier misconduct probes aren’t met.
“The question of a special [court-appointed] monitor,” Smith says, “might need to be revisited.”
A 48-year-old man with a long history of mental illness was sentenced Monday to more than 12½ years in federal prison — as he had requested — for robbing a Eugene bank hours after his release from state prison in January.
Adam Parrish Ashe
Adam Parrish Ashe asked U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken to “do us all a favor” by imposing the sentence, saying he needed the structure of prison and “maybe I’d get some help there.”
Aiken said society “should be absolutely appalled” that prison has become the only option for the mentally ill.
“Shame on us,” she said. “I hope for the sake of other people that what you’ve said today will be heard.”
Defense attorney Bryan Lessley said he recommended reluctantly that Aiken impose the sentence because of his client’s concerns “for his own security and safety.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sweet sought the same penalty “not out of a desire to punish Mr. Ashe, but out of a desire to protect the public.”
Both the government and Lessley had expected Ashe to be committed to the custody of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board in connection with an arson fire that led to his state prison sentence, Sweet said Monday.
Both federal and state prosecutors had jurisdiction in that May 26, 2009, incident because it was a U.S. Post Office in Roseburg where Ashe broke a window, entered and started a fire in a wastebasket with a propane torch.
A police officer removed the burning can before the fire could damage the building, but Ashe reportedly started the fire because he was angry with the federal government.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office dismissed the federal case, however, after Lessley filed notice that he intended to pursue a “guilty but for insanity defense” to the state court arson charge. Had an Oregon State Hospital psychiatric evaluation shown that Ashe was incapacitated by mental illness, he could have been committed to the authority of the Psychiatric Security Review Board for 20 years.
Persons under the board’s jurisdiction can be housed in the state hospital or a variety of residential treatment settings.
But Ashe’s evaluation determined that he was “malingering” — feigning symptoms — and he was instead sentenced in September 2011 to 23 months in state prison, with credit for time served in jail since his arrest. That led to his release from prison just four months later.
State corrections officials put him on a bus with instructions to report to a Roseburg parole office, Aiken said Monday.
Instead, Ashe got off the bus in Eugene, walked to Home Federal Bank at 899 Pearl St. and gave a teller a note demanding money, falsely stating that he had a gun. Ashe left behind his prison identification card when he walked out with the cash. He was arrested minutes later, telling police he wanted to go back to prison. All the money was recovered.
Lessley and Sweet both told Aiken they believed Ashe to be genuinely mentally ill. If he was feigning symptoms, the defense attorney said, he’d been doing it since at least age 18.
Aiken then read aloud portions of a confidential history submitted by Lessley. She noted that Ashe had 10 separate psychiatric hospitalizations in South Carolina between 1982 and 1990. The first came when Ashe was 18.
His mother reported that her son’s hallucinations included “20-foot snakes” and that he was sniffing Liquid Paper. A Minnesota Social Security disability board in 1994 declared Ashe disabled by severe major depression and alcohol-related dementia, noting that he suffered auditory hallucinations and had made multiple suicide attempts.
After he came to Oregon, a police officer once found Ashe “sitting in fire” he’d ignited.
Ashe told Aiken he robbed the bank because he saw no other options.
“The only way that I can see getting any help is to escalate in my criminal behavior simply to get some more time in prison with time for my own reflections,” he told Aiken, later adding that he’s afraid of going to prison but “even more terrified of what I’m becoming in society.”
Aiken criticized the Oregon prison system for failing to provide structure for Ashe upon his release.
“It’s not good public safety to just lock you up and have no place when you come out,” she said.
Aiken recommended that he serve his sentence at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Missouri or in a mental health program at Oregon’s Sheridan Federal Correctional Institution. She also pledged that the federal court would provide better re-entry services when Ashe completes his new sentence.
The settlement offer distributed on October 27 may resolve differences between the city of Portland and the federal government, but from our point of view — that of persons with mental illness, those actually subject to the “pattern and practice” identified in your original report, those most likely to be harmed by police officers — there is little in the document which provides immediate reassurance.
Foremost, the city continues to employ officers who have mercilessly and thoughtlessly killed our friends without consequence. The settlement introduces no mechanism to separate those individuals from the police bureau, in order to prevent future threat to us or hold them duly accountable. No amount of policy, training, or wringing of hands can amend these crimes, and nothing has been done to protect us from the officers involved. Ignoring this situation evidences an unexplainable disregard for justice; as such, it undermines the entire agreement.
Second, as you noted in your findings, persons with acute mental illness, including psychosis, mania and even depression, often do not respond as expected to authoritative commands. Without worthwhile treatment resources, acute illness is a predictable, routinely experienced complication of many illnesses. For us, inability to respond to police immediately or typically can provoke an escalation in tactics that too often results in injury or death. While the settlement agreement does address treatment deficiencies, it is mainly responsive to the convenience of police, not the expressed needs of our community.
Third, just as persons with acute mental illness may be unable to respond to police commands, many of us have an equal inability to participate in normal political or bureaucratic processes. The settlement agreement introduces the Community Oversight Advisory Board, but its elaborate structure makes it wholly ill-considered if you want participation by persons at the center of the settlement. It is equivalent to giving a non-Braille text of Blackwell’s Dictionary of Law to a blind student: well-meaning, thoughtless, and cruel. You should have engaged capable persons with mental illness in your planning; they are plentiful.
We hope you will continue to investigate police brutality against persons with mental illness, because it does not just happen here, it is everywhere — and without real change, it will continue to deprive us of our lives, our rights, and our pursuit of happiness, unabated into the future.
Please note: Because our past communications with you have been ignored, we are sending copies of this email to members of the Portland City Council and to the media.
Teresa Rennick taught at Oregon Institute of Technology and at the Oregon Health & Science University at OIT in the Nursing Department for 25 years. She worked at Klamath County Mental Health as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner for more than 14 years. She resigned in December 2011. She is currently retired.
I’m no longer at Klamath County Mental Health. Or to quote the new director, Amanda Bunger, in the Sept. 11 Herald and News article, I’m one of those who “got off the bus.”
The reporter was told there were four of us, but in fact there have been more than 20 staff members who’ve resigned, or retired, in the last year and a half. Name changes and altered mission statements don’t change facts. Under this new administration, misinformation has been rampant, staff have been mistreated and the care of clients has been compromised. Some good investigative reporting would be welcome here.
“Unqualified persons writing care plans?” Ironically, these were case managers with bachelor’s degrees and many years of experience who are titled “Qualified Mental Health Associates.”
The state rules changed and master’s prepared staff were required to write the plans. But, check the dates and you’ll find that the changes were made and compliance was in place long before the new director climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Open door policy?” The first person to resign (I think of her as the canary in the coal mine) did so because of a decidedly closed door policy.
No indigent clients? Nobody on Medicare? Telling patients to leave when they had nowhere else to go? These abandonment policies were egregious, and many of us found them unacceptable, both legally and ethically.
“Nineteen mentally ill people working full-time in the community?” Is that true? What about the 13 people with severe and persistent mental illness who lost their janitorial jobs because of this new administration? Was there any financial benefit in hiring a janitorial service to clean our building when the client janitors were doing an excellent job? How do you quantify the loss of self-worth and dignity that came with termination of their employment?
What’s it like to work in a setting where the tone is: “You’re on the bus or off the bus?”
How do you make suggestions? Are you afraid to speak up for fear of reprimand? Will you be targeted, harassed and written up? How many grievances have been filed by KCMH employees in the last year and a half? The commissioners and county human resources will have this information, although concerns and complaints have largely gone unheard or were ignored by them.
“Better money management?” What have the hospitalization rates been under this new administration? Keeping people out of the hospital, when we can, is in the client’s best interest, plus it saves the taxpayers at least $1,200 per client, per day. In our previous administration, under Ann Lynn, our hospitalization days per month were so low that we were often a model in the state.
What’s the comparison between average hospitalization days per month under the old and the new system? Is the new system really saving money?
Under the direction of Ann Lynn, KCMH was productive and well run.
Our motto was “Practice Kindness,” a concept that we took seriously when dealing with clients and co-workers alike. Other supervisors who initially stayed on after Ann retired were equally respected and we were devastated when these wise and kind colleagues were targeted, treated shabbily and finally had no recourse but to resign.
Ask how many years of experience have been lost by the many resignations. Talk to staff who’ve left and hear their stories.
The new director’s metaphor about staying on the bus or getting off the bus continues to puzzle me. Where are the clients in this scene? Are they on the bus? Are they outside trying to get someone’s attention? Is the driver even looking? If the driver has only one thing in mind, “efficiency and productivity,” at apparently all costs, how many people are left waiting by the roadside, or worse, caught under the wheels?
The clients and the remaining staff, who continue to strive to give good care in the present atmosphere, and the citizens of Klamath County deserve better.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
For 13 years, the city of Portland has awarded a Lake Oswego man a contract to conduct psychological exams of prospective Portland police hires and to gauge whether officers who have been involved in shootings and other major events are fit to return to duty.
With little or no discussion, the City Council has granted or extended psychologist David M. Corey‘s contract nine times and paid him close to half a million dollars.
The city sought competitive bids for the contract three times: in 1999, when Corey was first picked to develop and conduct psychological tests; in 2003 when the contract was extended; and this year, after a decade of contract extensions with no bids sought.
When the city did open the contract to competitive bidding this year, it was riddled with controversy.
While Corey is highly regarded nationally and there’s been no specific problems cited with Corey’s work, members of the city’s minority communities say they object to his “monopoly” on the police bureau contract. They argue Corey has failed to weed out some officers with a propensity for violence, pointing to last month’s U.S. Department of Justice finding that Portland police use excessive force against people with mental illness.
Mayor Sam Adams, the police commissioner, recently backed away from awarding a new five-year contract to Corey. He acknowledged the city could have done more to draw a broader pool of bidders.
“I think the criticism was fair,” the mayor said, adding, “The fact that the contract has been with one person for so long is worth reviewing.
Critics have urged the city to find psychologists from diverse backgrounds.
“The city is only getting this one white guy from Lake Oswego’s point of view,” said Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch.
Corey, president of the American Board of Police & Public Safety Psychology, said the concerns are not off base. The community’s call for a multi-cultural group of psychologists to help determine police candidates’ suitability for the job “warrants serious consideration” by the city, he said.
“How the Portland Police Bureau selects its police officers should reflect the needs and interests of the broader community,” Corey wrote in an e-mail to The Oregonian.
“We look forward to reviewing the city’s new specifications for the services and to preparing a responsive proposal.”
Corey added, “My firm has had no role in determining the frequency of these competitive bids over the past 13 years.”
In 1999, the bureau for the first time sought a psychologist to develop and conduct evaluations for police candidates and fitness-for-duty evaluations of sworn officers when there’s a concern about their ability to perform their job. Three psychologists submitted bids, and Corey’s was lowest. His rate then: $325 per applicant; $150 per hour for fitness-for-duty tests.
A police captain, a lieutenant, an acting sergeant, and a police human resources analyst were on the selection committee. The city wanted a vendor to assess police candidates’ emotional control, sensitivity, moral-ethical behavior, and “ability to appropriately employ force under extreme stress.”
In subsequent years, the City Council voted eight times to extend Corey’s contract. Often, police bureau officials told council members that an emergency existed, allowing the city to bypass competitive bidding. The emergency, the bureau said, was that officer recruitment and fitness-for-duty evaluations needed to continue “without disruption.”
In July 2009, the city also awarded Corey a $150,000 five-year contract to conduct psychological exams on prospective emergency dispatchers, without seeking competitive bids. The Bureau of Emergency Communications cited an exemption from city procurement rules that allows no-bid contracting when determining “any prospective or current City employee’s ability to work or return to work.”
Most recently, on Feb. 2, Police Chief Mike Reese tried to extend Corey’s contract with the police bureau through March. Reese told the council no public involvement was sought “because it pertains to internal city government services provided by Dr. Corey,” as approved by a 2004 contract.
Sean Murray, the police bureau’s personnel manager, defended Corey’s work. “The bureau has been pleased with Dr. Corey’s service,” Murray said. “Dr. Corey’s process has not had any adverse impact on protected-status groups.”
According to Corey, his psychological exams disqualify 32.2 percent of Portland police candidates. Candidates of color are not at a disadvantage, Corey told a community group in 2010. His data showed some disparities for Native American candidates, but Corey said last week the current pass rate for the Native American applicants shows no “significant disparity.”
He said the pre-employment psychological evaluation for police applicants consists of a lengthy series of questions. The pre-offer phase consists of 614 questions. A post-offer evaluation consists of 992 questions. There is also a face-to-face interview as a part of the psychological evaluation.
Community activists became concerned about police psychological exams after a Portland police officer’s controversial 2010 shooting of an unarmed black man. Leaders of the Albina Ministerial Alliance and Portland Copwatch urged the mayor and chief to reach out to diverse communities to broaden the pool of psychologists available.
When the city this year asked for bids, it received only two: from Corey, and another psychologist.
This time, Corey was chosen by a selection committee that consisted of: the mayor’s public safety aide; the police bureau’s internal affairs captain; a retired African-American police lieutenant who works security in City Hall; and two citizen members of the minority community, one from the Albina Ministerial Alliance.
Each was given a draft of the city’s bid request and asked to offer any suggested changes. One community member questioned whether it was a conflict of interest for the same psychologist to perform initial screenings of applicants and fitness-for-duty exams of current officers.
Corey, in an interview, said finding a person psychologically fit at one time doesn’t preclude finding the person unfit later.
By Feb. 26,, the council was poised to extend Corey’s contract for five years. The ordinance was on the council’s consent agenda, meaning there would be no council discussion or public comment.
But community activists raised strong objections.
Pastor T. Allen Bethel, chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, was disturbed there were only two bidders. He said alliance members would have alerted prospective psychologists if they had known bidding had started.
“We notice that Dr. Corey has had this contract for over 10 years,” Bethel told the council.
The mayor backed off and proposed extending the contract for six months through the end of August, which the council approved.
In September, another emergency ordinance went before the council. The bureau asked to extend Corey’s contract through Oct. 31, adding $20,000 to cover additional police psychological testing. Murray told commissioners that there were “outstanding invoices to be paid” because the bureau had hired more officers. If the money wasn’t approved, the bureau couldn’t hire the recruits, Murray said.
Teresa Roberts, a citizen, addressed the council. “I don’t understand the fast-tracking of crucial considerations like this,” Roberts said. “In this economy, with so many people looking for jobs, to have only two qualified applicants — it doesn’t make sense. It does not engender trust.”
Before awarding a long-term contract, Adams promised that the city would develop a new request for bids and appoint a new committee for selecting a police psychologist, with greater outreach.
“I’m using this mistake to consult with the feds on best practices,” Adams said. “I want to figure out what the best way forward is.”