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Federal civil rights probe alters police use-of-force policy

Chief Reese says investigations will be 'transparent'

The Portland Police Bureau is changing the way it investigates the use of force by its officers in response to the U.S. Department of Justice's ongoing civil rights investigation into its relationship with minority communities.

Police Chief Mike Reese cited the investigation in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon announcing the changes, which take effect on Jan. 15.

"As the chief of this outstanding organization, I am committed to providing the very best service to the city of Portland,' Reese said. 'In doing so, I believe it is paramount that we conduct force investigations in the most professional and transparent manner possible. Based on the recommendations of the department of justice's expert, and consistent with national best practices, I am changing the way the Portland Police Bureau investigates the use of force.'

Under the new policy, sergeants will respond immediately to any incident where an officer under their command uses force that results in an injury or when a person complains that any officers used inappropriate force that causes an injury.

Until now, officers have only had to fill out a form describing their use of force after such incidents.

The justice department announced an investigation last year after a series of incident in which police killed or seriously injured a number of minorities, including African-Americans and the mentally ill. Mayor Sam Adams and then-Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman requested the investigation after the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to town and denounced the bureau's relationship with minorities.

A similar investigation in Seattle recently concluded with the justice department finding a pattern of excessive force, but not a history of civil rights violations. Seattle is instituting similar changes in response to the findings.

The news policy comes mere weeks after local police watchdogs criticized the Portland City Council for not seriously reforming the ordinance governing the Independent Police Review Division of the City Auditor's Office and its nine-member Citizen Review Committee.

Although many changes had been proposed by the activists and an advisory committee, the council only adopted a few of them at a Nov. 30 hearing.