Hall Monitor 

A Mother's Plight... Heard?

LATOYA HARRIS wasn't sure why she'd come to Portland's Citizen Review Committee (CRC)—a volunteer panel tasked with reviewing police misconduct cases—to nervously tell the story of that awful day last year when two cops arrested her nine-year-old daughter days after a fight.

The city's Independent Police Review Division (IPR), working under the auspices of the city auditor, had already been forced to dismiss her complaint. The officers who put her girl in handcuffs while Harris watched near her front door hadn't violated bureau policy—so they couldn't be disciplined. And without an active complaint to consider, the CRC would find its own hands tied.

In the end, Harris decided she just wanted someone else to know what had happened—besides the cops, and the investigators who couldn't help her—so maybe it wouldn't happen again.

"I appeal to this board for any help or advice on what I can do as a mom," she said. "My daughter is still in counseling. That's basically why I came today."

Hours after the Mercury first wrote about her daughter's arrest—we're still the only outlet to interview Harris and review police documents ["Arrested at Age Nine," News, April 16]—youth advocates and public defenders promised to lobby city hall for a new ordinance banning cops from handcuffing kids 12 and younger.

Now, two weeks after the story appeared, city hall says it's definitely listening.

Mayor Charlie Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, wouldn't comment specifically on Harris' case—citing potential litigation. But he confirmed Hales' office will work with police on how best to handle similar cases.

Haynes says the office will specifically examine how police respond to "bullying" complaints—which would include playground fistfights like the one Harris' daughter was accused of joining.

"You can overreact to bullying," Haynes says. "Let's take it seriously. Let's have the conversation."

Meanwhile, two other city commissioners have since decided to speak up. (Commissioner Nick Fish was the only elected official to do so immediately after the story.)

Commissioner Amanda Fritz initially told me she wanted to learn more before commenting. This week, she told me she personally discussed the matter with Police Chief Mike Reese and that she planned to bring up the issue with Hales.

"[Reese] said the officer followed bureau policy," Fritz said. "Now I need to talk to the mayor about making a change to that policy."

At the time, I still hadn't heard from Hales' office: "Maybe he's already on it," Fritz said.

Later, Commissioner Dan Saltzman's chief of staff, Brendan Finn, confirmed his boss met with two of the advocates who've been pushing the handcuffing ordinance: Joseph Hagedorn, head of Metropolitan Public Defender's Multnomah County juvenile unit, and Mark McKechnie, director of the juvenile justice law firm Youth, Rights, and Justice.

Saltzman's meeting was apparently the advocates' first in city hall. Saltzman has also met with some CRC members about the issue.

"He's interested in seeing that these gaps are addressed," Finn says. "We need to have a better policy."

Those changes will come too late for Harris' daughter. But without Harris speaking up, those changes wouldn't have come at all.

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