Yesterday, City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the City Attorney to engage with the Department of Justice and ultimately the Court regarding a proposed code package, which would establish a new community-led police accountability system. This proposed code package is based on a 2020 voter-approved amendment to the City Charter and the recommendations of the Police Accountability Commission.
Under the proposed code package:
- The City would establish the Community Board for Police Accountability (CBPA), with 21 volunteer members, who must live or work in Portland, and none of whom may be a current or former law enforcement employee or have a current law enforcement employee in their immediate family.
- The CBPA’s staff in the Office of Community-Led Police Accountability (OCPA), not the Portland Police Bureau, would investigate all police uses of deadly force and deaths in custody.
- In addition to use of deadly force, the CBPA would investigate any complaint of excessive force, all complaints of discriminatory or biased-based policing, claims of violation of federal or state constitutional rights, and other complaints as defined in code.
- The CBPA, not the Police Chief and Police Commissioner, would decide and impose discipline for sworn police officers and their supervisors where the investigation leads to sustained findings of policy violation in cases under their jurisdiction.
- Community members would be assigned a complaint navigator as a consistent point of contact at the OCPA, to help them through the process. Community members would also have opportunities to appeal any administrative closure of their complaint, and to offer impact statements and additional information on investigations before the case is presented to a panel of the CBPA for consideration.
- The CBPA and its office would be budgeted at an amount not less than 5 percent of the operational budget for the Police Bureau allotted in the same City budget cycle.
The question before Council was not whether to adopt this code package. It merely authorized the City Attorney to move forward with the City’s obligations under its Settlement Agreement to propose code language and amendments to the Settlement Agreement to DOJ within 60 days of September 21, 2023, the date when Council received the PAC’s recommendations.
Council received diverse public testimony, both in writing and at yesterday’s Council session. Given the short deadline under the DOJ settlement agreement to put forward this package, Council approved the resolution. However, based upon the testimony, the City Attorney’s Office in collaboration with Council staff will host an in-person meeting to discuss the changes and hear feedback from the former members of the Police Accountability Commission, as well as any member of the public who would like to attend. That date is being coordinated now and will be announced as soon as possible.
Additionally, Council will continue to collect and consider community input for an additional 30 days, or until Friday, December 15, 2023.
Community members can send comments to DOJ-Comments@portlandoregon.gov, which will be received by all council offices and the City Attorney’s office.
Once the City and DOJ reach an agreement on the final settlement agreement amendments, a fairness hearing will be scheduled by the Court. There is no set timeline for this stage of the process so it is not clear how quickly a fairness hearing might be scheduled. If, after a fairness hearing, the Court approves the amendments, the final code package will return to Council for a vote regarding whether to adopt the code package.
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