USDOJ Requests Reductions in Portland Consent Decree

The Justice Department and the city of Portland, Oregon, filed a joint motion seeking court approval to terminate certain portions of the consent decree covering the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

The joint motion is based on one year of collaborative discussions between the department, the City, and key community stakeholders with a U.S. Magistrate Judge. Specifically, the joint motion requests: 

  • Terminating certain provisions based on the city and PPB’s sustained substantial compliance for at least three years. These provisions cover electronic control weapons (ECWs); Behavioral Health Unit; Training Advisory Committee; Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team; Behavioral Health Response Team; Service Coordination Team; Bureau of Emergency Communications; and Citizen Review Committee;
  • Transferring to the city and PPB the responsibility for assessing and reporting their compliance with provisions covering community-based mental health services, a behavioral health advisory committee, portions of community oversight, and PPB’s stops data and annual reports;
  • Appointing an independent monitor to assess the city’s compliance with the remaining provisions covering uses of force, training, PPB’s employee information system, and accountability. 

“Ensuing effective and constitutional policing is one of the Justice Department’s highest priorities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Under this consent decree, the Portland Police Bureau has made substantial progress toward meaningful policing reform for the entire Portland community. The action we are taking now is a true testament to the collaborative efforts of the police, city officials and community which have helped transform aspects of policing over the last eight years. The Justice Department will continue to support the community, the city and the police as they forge ahead toward achieving full compliance with the consent decree.”

“The Portland Police Bureau is committed to providing just and equitable policing for all Portlanders. We have seen this commitment repeatedly, firsthand, throughout the life of this settlement agreement,” said U.S. Attorney Natalie Wight for the District of Oregon. “The city has remained intently focused on improving its public safety services amid an incredibly challenging period marked by increasing violence, a global pandemic, and a historic addiction crisis. Despite these challenges, the police bureau has persevered and continued to achieve its objectives. We are proud to join the city today in marking this important milestone.”

PPB has made meaningful change in reaching compliance with numerous provisions of the consent decree, including:

  • PPB’s use of force against those with mental illness is now extremely low, occurring in about 0.5% of encounters (one in 209) and most of that is the lowest level of force, which does not cause injury;
  • PPB has significantly reduced the use of ECWs and when officers do use ECWs, the use is in line with policy and national standards;
  • PPB’s Behavioral Health Unit provides coordination and oversight of PPB’s various units that intersect with people in crisis, including the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team, the Behavioral Health Response Teams and the Service Coordination Team, and interfaces with community partners across the region. A Portland State University study found that every dollar the City spends on the Service Coordination Team “has a corresponding $20.61 in avoided cost for the community;”
  • The city’s Bureau of Emergency Communications has adopted policies and training to dispatch an appropriate first responder to calls for service that have a nexus to a person in mental health crisis; and
  • PPB’s Training Advisory Committee has held open public meetings to provide valuable citizen input to PPB’s Training Division.

If the court grants the joint motion, the parties will issue a public request for proposal seeking candidates for the Monitor role. Finalists will participate in a public town hall to answer community questions before the parties select a Monitor for the court to appoint. Once chosen, the Monitor will publicly report to the court every six months on the City’s progress and prepare outcome assessments measuring PPB’s performance implementing reforms.

The District Court for the District of Oregon entered the settlement agreement in July 2015. The agreement and information about the Civil Rights Division are available on the division’s website at Special Litigation Section Cases and Matters

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

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