Judge OKs Portland police use-of-force reforms

A Portland Police car parked in downtown Portland. (KOIN 6 File)
A Portland Police car parked in downtown Portland. (KOIN 6 File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has accepted a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Portland on reforms intended to improve the way police deal with mentally ill people.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon said Friday he wants annual progress reports, and he set the first such hearing for September 2015.

The Justice Department began an investigation three years ago to examine whether Portland police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force when dealing with the mentally ill.

Agency officials concluded such a pattern exists, and they began negotiating with city leaders on reforms.

Among the reforms, the city must create a crisis-intervention team, expand its mobile crisis units from a single vehicle to one vehicle per precinct, and complete investigations of officer misconduct within 180 days.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales issued the following statement about the settlement:

“We all want our Police Bureau to treat all people with humanity and dignity, and to have the tools and training necessary to deal with the complexities of mental illness. This agreement, now affirmed, solidifies Portland’s commitment to serving our diverse community.

“Judge Simon’s order, approving the settlement, helps move us forward in implementing reforms related to hiring, training, rules of force and discipline of police officers. We are in the process of hiring a Compliance Officer/Community Liaison. We’re serious about having a police force that appreciates the issues around mental illness and that utilizes de-escalation tactics.”

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