Two of the Portland police officers disciplined in the death of Aaron Campbell in January 2010 will not face federal criminal charges, one of the attorneys representing Campbell's family in a federal civil rights suit told reporters this afternoon.

The family is not challenging the decision. Here's Tom Steenson's statement:

The family of Aaron Campbell learned yesterday that the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has decided not to criminally prosecute Portland Police Officer Ryan Lewton and former Portland Police Officer Ronald Frashour for their shooting of Aaron Campbell on January 29, 2010. The family accepts this decision. To have prosecuted them would have served little purpose in the healing process for the family.

The family also looks forward to a decision being made in the near future by the federal Civil Rights Division as to whether it will investigate the Portland Police Bureau for patterns and practices of federal civil rights violations related to the deaths of innocent citizens.

Neither the family nor its attorneys will have any further comment at this time.

Update 1:45 PM: Here's a copy of the letter sent by the Justice Department. In the letter, the feds say there isn't proof that Frashour and Lewton "willfully" acted in defiance of the law.

Update 4 PM: Mayor Sam Adams, who demanded a federal investigation into Campbell's death before taking over the police bureau from Dan Saltzman last May, has issued a joint statement with his handpicked police chief, Mike Reese. Hit the jump to see the statement, in which Adams and Reese attempt to put some daylight between themselves and their predecessors, pointing to several changes made by the bureau in recent months. A full investigation of the bureau, it should be noted, has not yet been ruled out.

Is this a surprise? Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman says he can't remember a single instance, even nationally, of the DOJ charging officers criminally. "This is disappointing," he says, "but not a surprise."

(Update 6:30 PM: So... I'd meant to look into this claim a bit more deeply after the Mercury's press deadline this afternoon. And while rare, federal prosecutions of police officers are not unheard of. Salon has a good piece from last week on the Obama administration's intensifying crackdown on police departments. A cursory look also shows prosecutions in New Orleans, Washington, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Chicago... )

Frashour, who fired the shot that killed Campbell, was fired last November. Lewton received two weeks' suspension for firing a beanbag shotgun at Campbell. The Portland Police Association is challenging Frashour's dismissal, saying he thought Campbell—who was unarmed—was reaching for a gun when he reacted to the beanbag shots.

Here's the statement from Adams and Reese:


Today, following a yearlong inquiry, the United States Department of Justice announced that there is "insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers" involved in the January 29, 2010 fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell. Shortly after the shooting occurred, then-Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Mayor Sam Adams urged Senator Ron Wyden to ask the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) Civil Rights Division to conduct a full review of the incident and all aspects of the Portland Police Bureau.

“The fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell was tragic, and I appreciate the Justice Department taking a thorough look at the facts of this case,” Mayor Sam Adams said. “Chief Mike Reese and the Portland Police Bureau and I have already taken action in the last year to learn from the Campbell case, and making necessary changes in police training and practices. We’ve sought to be decisive in addressing this issue.”

“I want to thank the DOJ for their investigation into this officer-involved shooting. We can’t undo the death of Aaron Campbell, but I believe we have taken significant steps to learn from it,” Chief Michael Reese said. “In this case, I believe each Bureau member involved was attempting to do their best to resolve a complex situation. However, there were significant issues that were brought forth in the Bureau’s internal reviews and those involved were held accountable.”

Immediately following the Campbell incident, the Police Bureau began an in-depth investigation followed by a Grand Jury review. There was also an exhaustive internal review focusing on potential policy violations, officer performance and adherence to Bureau training. The case then went to the Use of Force Review Board, which is comprised of community members, peer members and command staff. Based on recommendations by the Use of Force Review Board, the Mayor and Chief approved appropriate discipline for the sergeants and officers involved in the incident, including termination and suspension for policy violations and performance. The entire investigative file, training analysis and letters of discipline were released to the public.

As a result of the incident and subsequent review, additional training was implemented including the selection and training of officers carrying AR-15 rifles. The Chief also ordered all of the Bureau’s policies concerning less lethal tools to be reevaluated to ensure uniformity in each policy. In addition, ballistic shields were purchased and have been deployed allowing officers to approach down subjects in a more timely manner.