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  • 29 Aug 2014

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City files draft police accountability agreement to avoid federal lawsuit

The city of Portland and the federal justice department took the first steps Friday afternoon toward an agreement to avoid a lawsuit on police use of force against people with mental illnesses.

A 74-page draft agreement filed in U.S. District Court lays out guidelines and requirements for the city to set up a crisis intervention team to deal with situations that include mentally ill people. As outlined, the new team could involve 60 to 80 officers who volunteer for the duty, according to the federal agreement.

Portland’s City Council will discuss the proposed agreement Thursday afternoon at City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave. The meeting begins at 2 p.m.

Mayor Sam Adams said he embraced “the changes called for in this proposed agreement.”

“We have worked toward an agreement that effects positive change in the way that the Portland Police Bureau provides service to the community,” Adams said.

“Some solutions will require additional funds, others expedite federal and state health care reforms already under way, and others will require labor negotiations with our employee labor organizations.”

The agreement includes changes in the way police handle use-of-force situations, working toward “de-escalation techniques and consideration about the mental health status of the person encountered,” Adams said.

It also leans on state coordinated care organizations and other changes in health care, he said.

The agreement focuses on training and accountability, setting up a Community Oversight Advisory Board to oversee the federal settlement agreement. The 20-member board will include 15 voting members and five advisory members. It will be led by a compliance officer and community liaison, who will be hired within 90 days.

Portland also will set up a crisis intervention team to deal with situations involving mentally ill people. Police Chief Mike Reese said last week that the Police Bureau would set up the new team similar to one in Memphis.

The bureau will set up an Addictions and Behavioral Health Unit within 60 days after the agreement is final. The bureau also will expand the Mobile Crisis Prevention Team to one car per precinct from one car citywide. One sworn officer and a civilian mental health professional will staff the car.