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Bruce Poinsette of The Skanner News
Published: 01 May 2013

Sunday, May 5 will mark the tenth anniversary of the killing of Kendra James. The 21-year-old Black woman was shot and killed, despite being unarmed, by Officer Scott McCollister during a traffic stop.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform will be leading a memorial vigil at the Greater Faith Baptist Church at 931 N. Skidmore. This site is just yards away from where the shooting occurred.

According to a statement from the alliance, "James' death was a touchstone for many in Portland who saw the shooting of an unarmed African American woman as a symptom of a Police Bureau needing major reforms. In many ways her death led the accountability efforts down the path to the changes now being sought as a remedy by the Department of Justice in their lawsuit against the City."

According to reports, the incident occurred when James tried to drive away from the traffic stop. McCollister told investigators that most of his body was inside the car when he tried to remove her. He said he tried to pull her out by her hair, pepper spray her and use a Taser but all attempts were unsuccessful. When she put the car into drive, he fired his gun because he thought his life was in danger, he claimed.

Police Chief Mark Kroeker and former Mayor Vera Katz, then police commissioner, disciplined McCollister for unsatisfactory performance.

McCollister was suspended for 5.5 months before an arbitrator lifted the suspension.

The arbitrator, John C Truesdale, ordered the city to pay McCollister's lost wages and expunge the suspension from his record because the Portland Police Bureau didn't conduct a full internal affairs investigation. Such investigations are required by bureau policy in cases where officers use deadly force.

Kroeker was forced to resign that same year.

On Dec. 17 of 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint against the city, based on an 18-month investigation of the police bureau. The City and justice officials filed a settlement agreement at the same time.

As of Feb. 20, the alliance, justice department, City and the Portland Police Association have been in mediation talks to try and resolve their differences on police reforms.

The justice department concluded Portland police engaged in a 'pattern or practice' of violating the civil rights of people with mental illness, or those thought to have mental illness.

The settlement required changes to police use of force and Taser policies, along with stepped up crisis intervention, training, supervision, accountability and discipline procedures. The settlement will cost $3.5 million to implement, according to City estimates.

Portland Police Association opposes the settlement on the grounds that it undermines the union's collective bargaining rights. The judge granted the association the right to be a legal party with a right to intervene in some of the reforms, based on an earlier Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals court ruling that recognized settlements like these may affect collective bargaining agreements.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance wants more public input, on the grounds that the settlement fails to address concerns about racially biased policing, and does not include adequate oversight to ensure the agreement works.

Sunday's vigil begins at 5 p.m. and members of James' family will be in attendance.

For more information on the alliance, go to http://www.albinaministerialcoalition.org/.

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