PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — City leaders have voted in favor of hiring an independent monitor to oversee the Portland Police Bureau, in addition to other terms established in a settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Portland.
Portland City Council approved the changes at its meeting on Wednesday afternoon. This vote comes years after the city first entered the settlement agreement with the DOJ in 2012, when the agency alleged that local officers wrongly used force against residents with mental illnesses.
During the meeting, Chief Deputy City Attorney Heidi Brown explained that the latest agreement included three important modifications: the appointment of a highly qualified independent monitor, termination of the provisions that the city has been in compliance with for the past three years, and the adoption of provisions that allow the city to self-monitor after the independent monitor determines that it has been in compliance for a certain amount of time.
Liani Reyna, the former PPB sergeant who served as the incident commander during the 2010 death of Aaron Campbell that sparked the lawsuit, was one of the five Portlanders who shared a testimony during the meeting.
“The assignment of an independent monitor is 11 years overdue and should’ve been assigned from the very beginning,” Reyna said. “Portland’s lack of truthfulness and transparency continues to be a significant problem.”
The other community members who offered testimony — including two members of Portland Copwatch — backed the appointment of a new independent monitor as well.
However, they noted the public should have more time to weigh in on the terms of the settlement agreement. They also said the independent monitor should be someone local with an understanding of PPB’s history.
According to City Attorney Brown, the selection process for the independent monitor will include a request for proposal in which organizations such as the Portland Police Association and the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform will be able to provide feedback.
Afterward, the city and DOJ will conduct interviews and narrow it down to three finalists using input from community organizations. The public will have an opportunity to choose between the three finalists during a 30-day period, when a town hall will be held.
“Having an independent monitor, I think, strengthens our hands,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said before voting to appoint an independent monitor. “And while there are definitely some tradeoffs to this arrangement, I think ultimately it will help us achieve all of the accountability goals we want to achieve.”
“It will enable the Portland Police Bureau to spend more time and energy focusing on its core mission, it will allow us to move on having further enhanced trust with the public that we all collectively serve,” he added.
In the next phase of the settlement agreement, officials will host a fairness hearing on Nov. 30 that allows the public to provide additional feedback.