The event was led by the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform—which was granted "friend of the court" status in the months of negotiations leading to a final deal on how officers use force and how the bureau trains and investigates its officers. The reforms followed findings from the federal Department of Justice in 2012 that the Portland cops had engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, particularly against people with mental illness.
The AMA has been a strident critic of the city's appeal—decidedly unconvinced by Mayor Charlie Hales' insistence that the city merely wants to clarify the terms of US District Court Judge Michael Simon's demand for annual updates in his courtroom. They spoke against the vote to seek the appeal in October. And in remarks outside city hall today, they accused the city of attempting to "cover up" its progress in making reforms.
"They don't want any unbiased, independent authority like a federal judge to review what they are doing," the Reverend LeRoy Haynes, co-chair of the AMA, declared while reading from prepared remarks. "They want to keep it under their control in order to cover up or not implement parts of the agreement."
Haynes was followed by Jeanna Frazzini, director of Basic Rights Oregon—also a part of the AMA's coalition—and members of Portland Copwatch and Portland Jobs with Justice and others. Basic Rights Oregon hasn't always been as visible a member of the police accountability movement, focused for the last couple of years on the fight to bring same-sex marriage to Oregon (a battle won in the courts instead of at the ballot)..
Frazzini said Basic Rights was there in "full solidarity" with the AMA and its demands that the appeal go away, invoking the "real experience, the lived experience" of the LGBTQ community when it came to police raids and discrimination in years past.
"We will not be silent on this issue of police accountability and transparency," she said. "This is a weak agreement in the first place. [The commissioners] should stick with what we've got in place."
After the rally, Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, told me that the city's attorneys hope mediation will be "quicker and cheaper" than a full blown appeal to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He also said a contract with the team selected to oversee the city's reforms, up for a vote this afternoon, includes money to bring those overseers in for updates in Simon's court.
The first such hearing is scheduled for September. Haynes said the city will attend, assuming that doesn't change in light of mediation or an appeal that can take up to two years to see through. The mediation call was first reported this morning by the Oregonian. He says Hales doesn't want to avoid updates—he just wants to know how often they'll be, where, and on what terms. The city, Haynes says, will comply with whatever terms emerge.
"We're still going to be there."
Update 2:54 PM: The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed that the city's concerns about the hearings qualify for mediation, a step that could replace a formal appeal, deputy city attorney Ellen Osoinach just announced in city council. The first session is set for February 23. She said it helped that the Department of Justice and Portland Police Association also agreed mediation would make sense.