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James case review may take years

The city's Independent Police Review Division will examine the shooting of Kendra James to see if any police policies or procedures should be changed, but not until all civil litigation is over. That could take years.

James' family is considering filing a civil wrongful death lawsuit over the fatal shooting on May 5. Ken Walker, the family's attorney, formally notified the city about the possible suit Tuesday as required by law.

The police review division, part of the city auditor's office, was created last year to review complaints against the police concerning issues such as excessive force and rudeness.

The division also supervises a nine-member citizen review committee that reviews complaints other than those involving shootings and deaths in police custody.

Before the citizen committee was created, the police union lobbied that such cases were so serious that they needed law enforcement expertise to be properly reviewed. Members of the citizen committee receive several hours of training on issues such as civil rights and police procedure, but typically have no law enforcement experience.

Last year, the division hired an outside consulting firm to review officer-involved shootings in Portland.

The consultant Los Angeles-based Merrick Bob and Associates is reviewing 32 cases that occurred between Jan. 1, 1997, and June 30, 2000. Those cases include the April 1, 2000, fatal police shooting of Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot in a Sellwood psychiatric hospital.

The firm is expected to complete its review by July and produce a report that probably will address policy issues and training, looking for patterns and practices that might need to be changed.

The bureau will then decide whether to adopt the recommendations.

After the initial review is complete, officer-involved shooting cases that are closed each year will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Jennifer Anderson