PPB charts progress on 80 reforms sought by Justice Department, but some items notably absent

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, June 11, 2013

The Portland Police Bureau Tuesday released a matrix showing how it is tracking the adoption of 80 reforms sought by federal justice officials after a scathing inquiry last year into police use of force against people with mental illness.

READPPB’s 80-item matrix (PDF, 104KB)

The matrix was released four days after the city and federal justice officials declared in federal court an impasse with the Portland police union over formal adoption of the changes.

Despite objections from the police union, the Police Bureau has moved ahead in recent months with changes to the use of force and Taser policies, training on those policies, the creation of a Behavioral Health Unit and advisory board and an Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team, a specialized team of about 50 officers who will become the go-to officers to respond to mental health crisis calls. The bureau also expanded its single mobile crisis unit, pairing an officer with a mental health worker, to a unit in each of its three precincts.

The bureau is in the process of training street-level supervisors on new responsibilities.

The bureau is also working with the Bureau of Emergency Communications to figure out how the new Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers should be dispatched to calls and work in the field, and how better to triage mental health-related calls.

Since the new team completed specialized training May 30, for example, dispatchers have noticed that there aren’t Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers working on all shifts.

What hasn’t occurred yet: The city’s hiring of a “Compliance Officer and Community Liaison” to oversee the reforms who has expertise in police practices, community engagement and crisis intervention. Creation of a 15-member Community Oversight Advisory Board. A new process to effectively evaluate training and bureau curriculum, a better way to track civil police liability cases and changes to the Citizen Review Committee.

What the bureau color-coded as the single red action item that is not moving forward because of what it termed “barriers to implementation that require attention” is the federal justice department’s desire for the bureau to require officers involved in shootings to be interviewed immediately by detectives, instead of allowing a 48-hour wait after an incident.

In the new use of force policy Chief Mike Reese adopted, there was no mention of such a requirement. Instead, the chief sought to have officers involved in shootings provide an “on-scene interview” to a detective, after given a reasonable chance to confer with a lawyer or union representative. It would be a briefing on what occurred, but a full sit-down interview could still be delayed for 48 hours, under union contract.