Next Tuesday marks the long-awaited "fairness hearing" on Portland's proposed settlement with the US Department of Justice on charges our cops routinely and unconstitutionally use excessive force, especially against people with mental illness.
And this week, the feds have divined a sneak preview of the heated public testimony US District Court Judge Michael Simon is expected to hear before deciding if the city's deal with the DOJ goes far enough or not. A spreadsheet (pdf) posted to the case file sums up some 50 different written submissions, most of them from people and groups who plan to speak in court, too.
Almost all of the comments want to give the settlement agreement more teeth. A big complaint is how a citizen panel charged with hearing police misconduct appeals has fared in the deal. Several commenters say the Citizen Review Committee should be given more leeway to question police commanders' discipline decisions and have more time to do its work beyond just the 21 days spelled out in the agreement.
Others, like Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland, wonder why there hasn't been any mention of late of the deal's required "drop-in" center for people in mental health crisis. That was touted heavily by former Mayor Sam Adams' administration. City sources say that's still very much a federal priority—just one that's been complicated by the growing pains surrounding federal health care reform and the coordinated care organizations that have been created to help implement it.
The brother of James P. Chasse Jr.—whose death at police hands in 2006 is the subject of a searing (nationally distributed) documentary, Alien Boy, echoes several other commenters in demanding a court-appointed monitor for the agreement. Right now, the city has managed to avoid that by agreeing to hire a compliance officer who could only beseech the feds for help speeding along any changes that lag or don't work.
You should peruse the whole document. But here are a few highlights to start with. The hearing starts at 9 am next Tuesday, in the federal courthouse, Courtroom 13B.