PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The city was back in court Wednesday after a new federal report found the Portland Police Bureau moved further out of compliance with its 2014 settlement agreement with the Department of Justice.
That settlement found police used excessive force against people with mental illness and outlined a list of reforms for the bureau, some of which have still not been met.
The sisters of two men killed by Portland police while suffering from mental illness delivered powerful testimony for the court Wednesday as part of the ongoing agreement between the city and the Department of Justice.
“My brother was shot and killed in Portland, Oregon by police officer Curtis Brown after calling for help with mental illness,” said Rachel Steven, sister of Michael Ray Townsend.
“Robert didn’t know what he did wrong, he was just playing cowboy with himself. At 9:40 ‘shots fired, I got him,'” added Tina Delgado, sister of Robert Delgado. “My brother laid there slowly bleeding out while everyone stood around.”
The 2014 settlement, came after a federal investigation found PPB used excessive force against people with mental illness two years prior and requested the bureau adjust its response to people in crisis, reform training, police oversight, the use of force and more.
But eight years later the Mental Health Alliance says that not enough has been done.
“Harm has not been reduced, and in fact we are concerned that it’s slightly increasing,” said Jason Renaud with Mental Health Alliance.
A sentiment echoed by the new report filed last month found the city to be out of compliance with the agreement.
“We believe that the way to reduce use of force by police against people with mental illness is to separate them. At this point it’s just too dangerous for these two groups to be in contact,” Renaud said.
The report also outlined ongoing issues found since march of last year including management justifying force based on the actions of a crowd — inadequate attempts to de-escalate encounters — and interference by officer representatives during internal affair interviews.
But Portland Police Association President Aaron Schmautz calls the allegations disappointing and tells KOIN 6 that each investigation goes through substantial reviews and union reps rarely speak during those interviews.
“I don’t agree with the suggestion that we interfere, and I also don’t see how these conversations help move us forward toward a safer city,” he said.