PORTLAND — The Portland City Council has approved a settlement with the Justice Department on police reforms that some of its members think the city may not be able to afford.
Federal investigators found in September that police engaged in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness. The vote on the five-member council was unanimous Wednesday, The Oregonian reported.
It came two and a half weeks after Mayor Sam Adams and Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall publicly released the agreement calling for changes to use of force and stun gun policies, training and oversight.
Several community activists and attorneys have urged the council to slow down and complained that the agreement didn’t go far enough.
Civil rights attorney Tom Steenson says there a “disconnect” between the way Police Chief Michael Reese defines an “immediate threat” that can allow officers to use deadly force and how his police trainers interpret the same words.
He cites an officer’s killing of Aaron Campbell, shot in the back while running away. In recent years, Steenson won major settlements against the city on behalf of the families of Campbell and James Chasse Jr., a 42-year-old man with paranoid schizophrenia who died in police custody in 2006.
Today, the council is to consider an Adams proposal to tax on land-line phone service providers to help cover the cost of the reforms.
Members of the council said they were concerned about the costs. Commissioner Nick Fish said the city may be locking itself into commitments when there isn’t enough money.
“I have a real concern about committing long-term money in this way,” Fish said. “I’m going to vote ‘aye’ today because I think it moves the ball forward.”