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Ministerial coalition, police union ask to be part of federal civil rights settlement


A federal judge hears arguments Tuesday morning on whether the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform and the Portland Police Association should be allowed to intervene in a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights settlement agreement with the city.

Members of the ministerial alliance and the police union have asked federal officials to be included in deliberations on the Dec. 17 agreement that requires the city and the Portland Police Bureau to improve its contacts with people suffering from mental illness. The agreement arose from a federal complaint more than two years ago that police were routinely using excessive force against mentally ill people.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon will hear the intervention requests beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse.

U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall has asked the court to reject both intervention requests. Marshall’s office filed a 30-page report with the court concluding that the city-federal agreement would not benefit from the intervention. It also claimed that nothing in the federal agreement prevented the two groups from taking their own legal action on other police-related cases.

After an investigation that began in 2010, federal officials claimed that police actions violated the constitutional rights of the mentally ill. A Sept. 13, 2012, U.S. Department of Justice report laid out findings of excessive force used by police against people with mental illnesses. An agreement filed in December required the city to increase training and services for police officers who come into contact with mentally ill people.

Attorneys for the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition asked to be included in the settlement agreement discussions because of several high-profile police shootings involving African Americans in the past 10 years. The coalition formed in 2003 after the police shooting of Kendra James, an African American woman who was killed during a traffic stop.

Alliance members were included in city talks on the draft agreement, but were not part of the final plan filed in federal court. According to the alliance's intervention request, the agreement “fails to address the concerns raised by the AMA Coalition,” because it didn’t include race in the city plan.

Officials with the Portland Police Association claimed that their organization should be part of the agreement to protect the rights of the union and its members, who will be subject to any final plan adopted by the city and federal officials.