Portland police, union, feds reach settlement
Of the Associated Press
PORTLAND — The city of Portland announced an agreement Wednesday among its police force, the U.S. Department of Justice and the police union that would settle a lawsuit over policy changes on the use of stun guns on the mentally ill.
The lawsuit came after a 15-month U.S. Department of Justice review of the bureau's practices and procedures, which included its use of stun guns on people who had been determined to be suffering from a mental health crisis. The findings showed a pattern of excessive force.
The city of Portland accepted the Justice Department findings and said it would implement them, but the police union intervened, saying the changes undermine collective bargaining rights.
Each side was readying for a federal bench trial next year. The agreement, coupled with a new collective bargaining agreement between the police force and police union, settles the matter.
“The clouds have parted,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said.
Details of the forthcoming settlement were scant Wednesday. The union agreed to withdraw its objection to the settlement, and the agreement sets out a dispute-resolution process if any of the parties disagrees with how it works.
But the details of what changed between the filing of the police union suit and the agreement announced Wednesday were elusive.
“We brought the changes in line with the Constitution,” was as far as union president Darryl Turner would go.
Before Wednesday, the details of the rest of the agreement were widely known: The city has agreed to hire a compliance officer to ensure the agreement is followed and form a community oversight board.
That body, which will be chaired by the compliance officer, will include 15 voting members and five advisory panelists.
The city also must create a crisis-intervention team, expand its mobile crisis units from a single vehicle to one vehicle per precinct and complete investigations of officer misconduct within 180 days.
Among the incidents that drew federal attention was the 2010 case of Aaron Campbell. Police had been called to do a welfare check on Campbell because he was thought to be suicidal but shot him in the back while he ran away. A review of the incident after his death exonerated the officers, even though Campbell was unarmed.
In recent years, the city has paid settlements to the families of Campbell and James P. Chasse Jr., a 42-year-old diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia who died in police custody in 2006.
The Justice Department investigation listed several examples in which officers used stun guns without justification against people who were later determined to have some kind mental health problem at the time.
The police bureau's new policy limits the use of stun guns on people suffering from mental illness and prohibits their use on handcuffed suspects.
It encourages officers to attempt to handcuff suspects rather than subject them to repeated Taser shots.
The agreement must still be ratified by the City Council.