September 27, 2012 - The ACLU of Oregon and our allies in police accountability advocacy submitted detailed recommendations to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), urging comprehensive reforms to the policies and practices of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). The recommendations were compiled in response to a September 12th report from DOJ, concluding that PPB employs unnecessary and excessive use of force on persons with mental illness. DOJ invited members of the community to provide input as to the terms of an agreement between DOJ and the City of Portland regarding reforms the PPB will undertake. The stated deadline for finalizing the agreement is October 12th.
As we stress in our recommendations, it is imperative that the final agreement require significant changes to PPB's policy and training for use of force:
• Requiring an emphasis on de-escalation,
• Taking into account whether the subject may have a mental illness or is experiencing a mental health crisis,
• Mandating officers use the lowest level of force necessary to achieve lawful means,
• Methods to achieve cultural competency, and
• Facilitating services for those in need of mental health treatment or support.
Furthermore, we believe DOJ must demand that implementation of the required changes be tracked both by members of the community and an independent monitor, and the monitor must have the authority to truly enforce the terms of the agreement.
DOJ's involvement at this time presents a unique opportunity for PPB to put in place changes to the way it interacts with the community that ACLU and our allies have been talking about for decades. We will continue our efforts to ensure that meaningful reforms to improve public safety and community trust are enacted.