DOJ demands PPB body cam accountability

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Department of Justice and the city of Portland held a meeting Wednesday following a notice that the city was not complying with police reforms.

In April, the DOJ said the city had not enacted reforms from a 2014 settlement that included how officers use body cameras — a program which could receive $2 million in funding this month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Hager told KOIN 6 News that the cameras should be used for accountability purposes and the program needs to be implemented in Portland.

After at least five sessions of mediation, Hager says they’ve developed a “well-thought-out compromise” that he feels protects everyone’s interest.

“I’m willing to defend that what we’ve done in this agreement is fair, adequate and reasonable,” Hager said.

In the past, lawyers with the DOJ highlighted the failure of the city’s accountability structure. Body cameras are now a big part of the discussion along with preferences how they should be used.

“I do see body worn cameras as an essential remedy for the accountability violation, not exclusively, but also in terms of force reporting and reviewing, being able to intelligently review a claim of misconduct, requires the type of solid evidence that body worn cameras provide,” Hager said.

Hager notes that DOJ policy preference maintains that a third-party should control body camera footage as opposed to the bureau.

“Whether it comes out of mediation, or whether you read the DOJ letter on Monday that clearly spells out, what we think an appropriate policy will do in terms of who controls, who keeps this footage? It is not the police bureau, the third-party vendor that’s owned by the city consistent with state law.  To me, that is a clear best-practice,” Hager said.

According to Hager, the DOJ also believes that officers should not be allowed to view any future body camera video before they file a report. 

“There should be no pre-review, you can view it after you write your initial report, then you can supplement it,” Hager said. 

Despite these preferences, the city is still undergoing collective bargaining with the police union and the end result might not reflect some of the policy preferences the DOJ is looking for. If that’s the case, Jared says they’ll take the city to court.

“If we end up with a policy that the DOJ says does not meet the concerns, they will bring us back to court,” Chief Deputy City Attorney for Portland Heidi Brown said.

As collective bargaining with the union is still underway, it is possible another year could go by before a body camera program is rolled out in Portland. Brown says that she hopes the process moves much quicker than that. 

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