Police Reform Liaison Won’t Be Chosen Until November 12—With Some Twists Potentially In Store

From the Portland Mercury, October 30, 2014

There was some talk during a Portland City Council hearing yesterday that commissioners might fulfill a major part of the city’s police reform deal with the feds—choosing an independent “compliance officer/community liaison”—as soon as next week.

1414701342-copmarathonCommissioner Amanda Fritz, who’s been running point on the hiring process, said a “placeholder” ordinance for a vote next Wednesday would likely be filed this afternoon, going public on Friday. Then, maybe on Monday, after a lot of shuttle diplomacy led by Fritz, the council would announce its consensus pick in a press release. (Read all about the finalists, first identified by the Mercury, here and here. And here’s a copy (pdf) of yesterday’s agenda packet.)

The Oregonian initially reported as much last night, accurately capturing the discussion that had played out. But Fritz sent word, after the hearing, that things won’t actually be moving that fast. Any vote, she told me, now won’t come until November 12 at the earliest. And some substantial twists might be in store.

“We won’t file an Ordinance on the COCL tomorrow,” Fritz told me Wednesday night. “I want more time to discuss options with Council members and gather more information. The ordinance will be filed next week for hearing the week after.”

It’s not clear what other information Fritz and her colleagues might be still gathering. Fritz, when asked this afternoon, initially said only “more conversations and exploring options.” But when pressed further—asked if there was still a chance the council might reject all three finalists (something strongly urged by some advocates in the mental health community) or seek to combine one or more of the applicants’ proposals—she offered there are still “lots of potential outcomes,” and said “no decisions” have been made yet.

A vote on November 12 would come almost 45 days after a special selection committee vetted the three finalists during an all-day set of public hearings, launching them into an intensive series of one-on-one meetings with commissioners. That hearing came a month after a federal judge approved the deal between the city and the feds.

The city’s settlement deal with the federal Department of Justice—meant to address findings Portland cops have engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness—says a compliance officer is supposed to be in place 90 days after the judge’s approval.