November 23, 2020

Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer Urge Justice Department to Ensure Portland Police Compliance with Use-of-Force Settlement Agreement

The 2014 settlement agreement addressed the bureau’s use of force against people with actual or perceived mental illness

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer today urged federal officials to ensure the Portland Police Bureau is complying with a 2014 settlement agreement addressing the bureau’s use of force against people with mental illness.

The three Oregon lawmakers wrote in their letter to the U.S. Department of Justice that they are concerned Portland police are not complying with the August 29, 2014, settlement agreement with the Justice Department.

“The purpose of the settlement was to address the pattern of use of force by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) against individuals with actual or perceived mental illness and to put in place requirements for PPB to reduce use of force occurrences,” they wrote Attorney General William Barr. “We are concerned that aspects of this settlement are not being honored and that full, continued engagement from the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that PPB is in full compliance, is lacking.”

“One key tenet of the settlement is that the Portland Police Bureau document, manage and respond to use of force and officers’ conduct,” wrote Wyden, Merkley and Blumenauer. “With the recent protests in Portland, there is evidence of numerous incidents of use of force. However, there is no indication that these incidents are being regularly documented or investigated in accordance with the settlement.”

This situation has recently come to light, Wyden, Merkley and Blumenauer noted in their letter, when a Oct. 6, 2020 quarterly report by the settlement’s Compliance Officer and Community Liaison concluded the PPB is neither filing proper paperwork nor following up with the required full investigation and documentation of use-of-force incidents. The lawmakers added that during testimony at trials related to use-of-force incidents at protests, Portland Police officials have indicated a lack of proper protocol when documenting and investigating use of force incidents.

A copy of the entire letter is here.

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