Text of Kristi Jamison’s testimony given at Fairness Hearing

EI logoSpoken testimony delivered by Kristi Jamison at the Fairness Hearing, Feb. 18, 2014

“Honorable Judge Simon, members of the court: my name is Kristi Jamison and I am the Executive Director of Empowerment Initiatives, a peer-managed wellness program active in Portland for nearly a decade.

I thank you for the opportunity to be heard. I have concerns about the enforcement provisions of the Agreement and believe the Agreement to be inadequate without additional language.

I feel the Agreement is not adequate to address the urgent and well documented need for safe alternatives for persons in crisis. The Drop- off center referenced in paragraph 88 appears already to be out of compliance.  The Mental Health Association of Portland clearly and eloquently outlined this in recent testimony, so I will not repeat the detail. However, this breach, along with the conflicting messages received frequently by the City further erodes the fragile trust between the community and the Portland Police Bureau.

In 2000, I was a part of the mental health redesign team that closed the Providence Crisis Triage Center, with predictable outcome. The Bazelon Center Report referenced earlier by Dr. Bennington-Davis that was completed in March 2012, cited police custody holds have increased as a result of lack of safe alternatives and the continuing decrease in community based services being readily available to first responders. The data captured between 2009-2012 indicated more than half of the police officer-assisted custody holds were repeat holds. The report concluded that the increase contact may be driving the use of force in these situations. This is a matter of imminent concern and represents an ongoing threat to public safety.

I strongly urge proactive oversight of the timelines set for each element, which, in the case of the Drop off center again we state, is already out of compliance. Each day the community is without this service, persons I am representing remain at-risk.

Further, I encourage the court to retain jurisdiction and to issue semiannual reports to the community using multi media, including media that respects the needs of individuals with sight and hearing impairment as to the progress of the Settlement Agreement. It is the only way for disability advocates to determine the Agreement is having the intended reforms as well as being honored -as written- between all parties.

I ask on behalf of persons with mental illness and addiction issues from the deaf and hard of hearing community, and for those with physical limitations, who are routinely forgotten in this process.

I ask on behalf of people who understand authority differently, and may need an accommodation to comply with police commands. Without recognized and adequate accommodation for disability, police encounters can quickly escalate and become dangerous.

I will remain concerned for the welfare and safety of the community until the majority of the Settlement Agreement is implemented or whatever next steps ensure that robust transparent civilian oversight is well embedded in the process.

In closing, I leave you with the words of the late President John F. Kennedy, “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man is threatened.”

Thank you.

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