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Portland Commissioners Vote To Accept 'Use Of Force' Changes

Portland city commissioners voted Wednesday to accept an agreement with the U.S. Civil Rights Division. The agreement outlines intended changes to the Police Bureau’s “use of force” policy.

The agreement is 83 pages long and comes after the federal Justice Department found Portland Police engaged in a pattern of using excessive force against people with mental illnesses.  The agreement outlines changes in everything from the way stun guns are used, to requiring officers complete an “after action report” within three days of using force against someone.The vote to accept the agreement was unanimous.  But some commissioners expressed concerns.  Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted for the agreement, but had reservations about the speed at which the feds want some changes made. 

Michael Clapp/OPB

She said, “There’s a lot of momentum at this point. I’m very happy that we are recognizing the needs of people with mental illnesses. Some of things, such as the 21 days for the Citizens Review Committee to do their work seem extremely ambitious. But what I heard last week was that the Department of Justice wants us to try that.”

Fritz says the City of Portland just launched a new hot line for people who are feeling sucidal or if going through a mental crisis.

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese, left, with Mayor Sam Adams (file photo).

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese, left, with Mayor Sam Adams (file photo).

Rob Manning/OPB

Nick Fish expressed misgivings about the cost.

“Given the inadequate resources around prevention and addressing problems before they result in tragedy, I have a real concern about committing long-term money in this way,” Fish said.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman said cost was also a concern for him.

Mayor Sam Adams says the cost of the changes was negotiated down to about $3.5 million. He says that’s less than the $5.5 million that Seattle is paying to implement similar changes in its police force. 

A U.S. District Court Judge needs to sign-off on the agreement before it becomes binding.

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