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Human Rights Commission Encourages Community Members to Participate in Upcoming Forums and to Testify at Feb 18 Hearing on Police Accountability

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 27, 2014

PORTLAND – The Portland Human Rights Commission (HRC) believes that Portland can reach its goal of shaping a police bureau that models community policing that serves everyone. To that end, the HRC encourages all community members to testify at a Fairness Hearing on February 18, 2014 at Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, 1000 SW 3rd Ave. (Courtroom 13B) at 9:00 a.m., if they have experienced what they consider unreasonable use of force by members of the PPB, or if they can testify to unreasonable use of force used against a friend or family member.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform has also organized several community forums in preparation for the Fairness Hearing:

  • Tuesday, January 28 • 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. • First Unitarian Church • 1011 SW 12th Ave.
  • Saturday, February 8 • 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.• St Johns Community Center • 8427 N Central St.
  • Thursday, February 13 • 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. • Rosewood Community Center • 16126 SE Stark St.

If community members cannot attend these events, the AMA Coalition is available to help you with preparing testimony for the hearing or to send to Judge Michael H. Simon.

Background:

In 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon (collectively "DOJ") reported on their investigation of the Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) use of force, revealing the PPB “… engages in a pattern or practice of unnecessary or unreasonable force during interactions with people who have or are perceived to have mental illness.” The U.S. then sued the City of Portland based on those findings. Intending to remedy the issues outlined in the DOJ findings, Council adopted a Settlement Agreement among the City of Portland, the Portland Police Association (PPA), and the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Following that, Federal Judge Michael Simon set a “Fairness Hearing” to allow the community to weigh in on whether the Agreement is "fair, adequate and reasonable.”

HRC Considerations:

  1. The HRC recognizes the vital importance public participation and in this instance we are specifically guided by Article 21 (1) of the by UN Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.” Community testimony at the Fairness Hearing is important toward the process of strengthening the DOJ Agreement; a rare opportunity to improve police accountability in Portland.
  2. The organizers of these events, members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform (AMA Coalition), have been working for ten years toward significant change in use of force policy and practices of the Portland Police Bureau, and they were granted "enhanced amicus" (friend of the court) status to the DOJ's lawsuit. They have designed these forums as a resource to community members in advance of the Fairness Hearing, to explain the purpose of the Fairness Hearing to the community and to provide support for testifying. This may include sending written or video testimony to Judge Simon for community members who cannot make the hearing date.
  3. The HRC is supportive of strengthening the Agreement in order to obtain meaningful changes that make encounters with police safer for people with mental illness and to empower Portland’s Police officers to serve more effectively and protect civil rights. While the DOJ investigation did not address use of force disparities based on race, the HRC also recognizes that many of these same PPB practices are experienced disproportionately by people of color, calling for increased attention around use of force related to race.

For more information on the forums, please see the AMA Coalition website: www.albinaministerialcoalition.org

The Portland HRC works to eliminate discrimination and bigotry, to strengthen inter-group relationships, and to foster greater understanding, inclusion, and justice for those who live, work, study, worship, travel and play in the City of Portland.

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