AMA Coalition files court papers to intervene in city-DOJ negotiated settlement on police reforms

From The Oregonian, January 7, 2013

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Tuesday afternoon filed a motion in federal court to intervene in the city agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice governing Portland police reforms.

Eds. Note: The motion for intervention was filed by the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform – not the Albina Ministerial Alliance. The AMA Coalition is a project of the AMA, but also includes other organizations and individuals which are not members of the AMA, including Disabity Rights Oregon, the Oregon chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Mental Health Association of Portland, and Portland Copwatch which is a project of Peace and Justice Works.

The alliance seeks to intervene as a plaintiff in the pending case United States of America v. City of Portland.

READ – Memorandum in support of AMA motion to intervene, 21 pages (PDF)
READ – Declaration of Dr. LeRoy Haynes iso AMA motion to intervene, 6 pages (PDF)
READ – Intervenor-plaintiff AMA Coalition’s motion to intervene, 2 pages (PDF)
READ – Officer-involved shootings and other in-custody deaths by the Portland Police Department, 2000-2011, Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition, 31 pages (PDF)

The alliance argued that the settlement agreement failed to address concerns raised about police use of force against people of color; lacks strict restrictions on police use of Tasers and provides no formal process for court oversight once an agreement is signed.

“Thus it is critical that an intervener representing the public’s interests be part of this process,” attorneys J. Ashlee Albies and Shauna Curphey wrote in a motion on behalf of the alliance.

The alliance is a group of 125 Portland-area churches that has been engaged in social justice work since the 1970s. The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform was founded in 2003 after the officer-involved fatal shooting of Kendra James.

“The AMA Coalition, with its diversity and deep roots in the communities most affected by the Portland Police Bureau’s excessive use of force against people with mental illness and persons of color, and long history of police reform advocacy in Portland is best suited to represent the interests of the community as an intervenor,” the attorneys wrote in a memorandum in support of its motion.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance submitted to the court a chart of shootings over the past decade. Its research found that at least 30 percent of the 61 people shot at or killed by Portland police were people of color, in a city that is almost 79 percent white. Of those 61 people, 14, or 23 percent were African American, according to the Alliance’s court filing. Twenty-two of the 61 people, or 36 percent, were unarmed, according to the alliance’s analysis.

Tuesday was the deadline for any person or group to file a motion to intervene in the case.

The Portland Police Association is the other group to have sought such intervention.

The U.S. Department of Justice and City of Portland have until Jan. 22 to respond to the motions.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon will hold a hearing Feb. 19 to rule on them.

The court filings stem from the U.S. Department of Justice’s nearly 15-month investigation into use of force by Portland police. The inquiry found police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people suffering from or perceived to have a mental illness.

The settlement, approved by the City Council on Nov. 14, calls for widespread changes to Portland police policies on use of force, Tasers, training, supervision and oversight. A community liaison official would be hired to oversee the agreement, under the settlement. A federal judge would maintain jurisdiction over the agreement, and could be asked to intervene if the agreement is not followed.

The Portland Police Association also has filed a motion to intervene. In court papers filed last month, the police union argues that the negotiated changes to Portland police policies and procedures undermine the collective bargaining rights of union members.

The union cited a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case that allowed the Los Angeles Police Protective League to intervene in a consent decree before the federal court on Los Angeles police reforms in 2002.

Members of the public will be able to participate in a so-called “fairness hearing” before the federal judge at a future time to express their opinions on whether the negotiated settlement is “fair, adequate and reasonable.” No date has been set for that public hearing.