A charge leveled at the Portland, Ore., police department that officers used excessive force against the mentally ill has resulted in a reform plan approved by the state and the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The investigation was initiated in June 2011 following a series of summer police shootings and was concluded in September 2012. The resulting allegations painted a picture of Portland police officers who routinely used excessive force against the mentally ill, including discharging stun guns without proper justification.
A preliminary deal was reached in September that included increased training and community oversight, but the new formalized deal will be monitored by the court. If all parties can agree that institution of the plan is successful the DOJ will revoke a civil suit it also filed against the city that alleges violations of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
Not everyone is happy with the deal. The Portland police union is attempting to block the agreement and an attorney representing the Portland Police Association (PPA) has filed a motion to intervene in the settlement. The attorney is using the same strategy used by the Los Angeles police department when it attracted similar charges from the DOJ in 2002, alleging that the settlement violates the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the city.
Portland has a documented history of police brutality and excessive force, much of which has gone unchallenged over the years. The city police department has been brought before the court in the past, however, and has even lost cases alleging excessive force, yet this is the first time federal authorities have attempted to make change.
It remains to be seen whether Portland’s law enforcement professionals will be forced into the court-monitored program. Although the City Council has agreed to the mandate, authorities must await the outcome of the PPA challenge.