Portland settles 2013 excessive force claim

The suit claimed PPB didn't train officer on how to deal with people in a mental health crisis

A Portland Police Bureau precinct in downtown Portland. (KOIN 6 File)
A Portland Police Bureau precinct in downtown Portland. (KOIN 6 File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The city of Portland has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who alleged a police officer used excessive force because he was not trained to deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Robert Seeger was in distress at a mental health outpatient clinic on Jan. 2, 2013, according to the suit. The clinic’s program manager called Portland police, telling them that Seeger was at risk of hurting himself and needed a police escort to a nearby hospital emergency room.

Seeger resisted being handcuffed, and the officer allegedly knelt on his throat during the ensuing struggle. The suit says Seeger suffered a swollen and bruised face, a swollen knee, an injured finger and ongoing back pain.

“Mr. Seeger was scared and confused about why he was being physically restrained,” the suit states. “Mr. Seeger did not understand what was happening to him and struggled against being handcuffed.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak this week approved the settlement that was reached between the city, and Seeger and his lawyer, Benjamin Haile, The Oregonian reported.

The settlement offer shouldn’t be construed as admission of liability, nor an admission that Seeger suffered any damages, senior deputy city attorney William M. Manlove wrote in court documents.

The suit claimed the Portland Police Bureau failed to train the officer on how to handle people suffering a mental health crisis. It refers to a 2012 investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice that found Portland police engaged in a “pattern or practice” of excessive force when encountering mentally ill people or people that officers thought had a mental illness.

A federal judge in late August adopted a negotiated settlement between the city and federal Justice officials that calls for a package of reforms to police policies, training and oversight.

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