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By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 26 October 2012

The City of Portland and the Department of Justice have released a Letter of Agreement that aims to resolve problems identified in police use of force.

Last month the DOJ published findings that concluded Portland Police Bureau has a pattern or practice of excessive use of force, especially against people who have, or are believed to have, mental illness.

U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, said the "historic" agreement was an opportunity to put best practices in place.

The 74-page Letter of Agreement includes a package of changes.

The City will:

Add more than 30 positions, most of them to the police bureau, but more than half of them civilians.

Add a compliance officer to oversee the changes, and a community liaison.

Create a new Addictions and Behavioral Health unit, with a crisis intervention coordinator, a lieutenant and other staff.

Expand the existing crisis team into three mobile crisis teams. Project Respond staff will work with officers to respond to people with mental illness or in crisis. Working with hospitals, the county and the community to create placement options and long-term solutions. Currently one crisis team has been put in place. The agreement also looks to the state's new coordinated care organizations to provide health alternatives.

Expand the existing review process through a 15-person Community Oversight Advisory Board: 5 members selected by each city commissioner; five members elected by the community, and five members of the Human Rights Commission.

Police Chief Mike Reese announced changes to use of force policy on tasers and deadly force last week. 

Mayor Adams said the plan would cost $3 million to put in place. The mayor also addressed concerns about the relationship between the police bureau and communities of color. The DoJ report stated that, while it had not specifically investigated racial discrimination, the "tense" relationship clearly warranted attention.

Adams reaffirmed that concern, saying police relationships with communites of color must improve.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Perez broke down the Department of Justice findings on Portland Police Bureau on Sept. 13, 2012. Report concludes that use of force violated rights of people with mental illness or those who appeared to have mental illness. Also expressed concern about tensions between police and communities of color.

Read the full report here

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