PORTLAND -- The United States and the City of Portland filed a settlement agreement Monday regarding the unconstitutional use of force by police against the mentally ill.
The complaint alleged officers (1) too frequently using a higher level of force than necessary; (2) using electronic control weapons (ECWs), commonly referred to as Tasers, in circumstances when such force is not justified, or deploying ECWs more times than necessary on an individual; and (3) using a higher degree of force than justified for low-level offenses.
The agreement requires changes in police training, supervisory oversight, community-based mental health services, crisis intervention, employee information systems, officer accountability and community engagement and oversight. It also calls for an independent compliance officer and community liaison to report to the city council, U.S. Justice Department and the public.
The investigation was launched in June, 2011 to examine the use of deadly force against all citizens, with a specific look at the mentally ill.
U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall in a September statement said the problems revealed in the probe are not unique to Portland and the vast majority of the PPB's use of force falls within constitutional limits.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams said the report also found that law enforcement agencies are often the first responders in mental health crises, which points to a lack of options for adequate community-based mental health services.
The PPB had a high number of officer-involved shootings, especially those involving people with mental illness, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez explained at a press conference in September.
Adams pointed out then that many of the deficiencies discussed in the findings originated before the current PPB administration were in place.
Background: DOJ investigates Portland police use of force
The federal investigation followed several controversial police shootings, including the death of Aaron Campbell. The January 2010 incident sparked protests and one officer was fired for his use of deadly force.
Another high-profile case was the death of James Chasse, who died in PPB custody after an encounter with police in Old Town in September 2006. Officers said Chasse appeared to be urinating outdoors and when he tried to get away they tackled him. His autopsy revealed that Chasse suffered 26 rib fractures and a punctured lung.