Portland cops not meeting federal use of force requirements

February 11, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say police in Portland, Oregon no longer meet several key reforms required under a settlement agreement adopted after federal investigators found officers used excessive force against people with mental illness.

They cited inappropriate use and management of force last year during protests, inadequate training, subpar police oversight and a failure to adequately share an annual Police Bureau report with the public as required, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.


Police used force during 2020 mass protests that violated bureau policy, with officers conflating active versus passive resistance as the basis for firing rubber bullets and other impact munitions considered to be less lethal, according to a Justice Department review filed Wednesday in federal court.

Supervisors frequently failed to probe or analyze officers’ use of force, gave blanket approval of force and often “cut-and-paste” identical or similar language into their reviews, the report said.

The Portland Police Bureau “repeatedly has asserted that certain impactful events — COVID 19, national political turmoil, and a wildfire season — were beyond its control. True though that may be, those events do not eliminate the City’s obligations under this Agreement and the Constitution,” the 78-page report said.

The next court hearing on the settlement status is set for Aug. 26 before U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon.

Simon in 2014 approved the settlement after a Justice Department investigation found police engaged in excessive force against people with mental illness and fired unnecessary cycles of Taser gun shocks.

“The City must now engage in the difficult task of acknowledging deficiencies, identifying successes, and rebuilding both community and organizational trust in systems based on constitutional policies carried into execution,” Justice Department lawyers Jared Hager, Laura Cowall and R. Jonas Gessler wrote.

The federal findings are similar those identified by a city-hired compliance team and reflect some of the findings by a separate federal judge who found Portland police in contempt of his court order restricting less-lethal munitions during last year’s protests.

Police Chief Chuck Lovell said of the report’s findings, “We will use the valuable feedback to continue to improve and grow as an agency.”