- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The city of Portland’s unique attempt to have community members work with outside consultants to monitor federally mandated police reforms has unraveled, a year and a half into its creation.

Chicago-based academics Dennis Rosenbaum and Amy Watson no longer want to lead the Community Oversight Advisory Board. In fact, they don’t want to be involved with the board at all.

This week, they petitioned the city and U.S. Department of Justice to amend the settlement agreement to allow them to pull out.

The seven-page separation proposal that Rosenbaum and Watson wrote reads like a divorce petition.

Their relationship with the community board is so damaged that it “prohibits restoration,” following more than a year of “ambiguity, disrespect and willful undermining” of their authority to run the board, it said.

They cited continuing confusion surrounding how independent the board is supposed to be, and feel certain board members are trying to usurp their power. They also complained that the police officers who are non-voting members of the board do not receive the respect they deserve by other board members. Board meetings have dissolved to a point where members of the public are labeling some members as “fascists,” ”Nazis,” and “pigs,” they wrote.

Rosenbaum and Watson complained that they have “taken the brunt” of board members’ frustrations about the lack of response by the U.S. Department of Justice, Mayor Charlie Hales or former Police Chief Larry O’Dea to a host of recommendations the board passed on police use of force, use of the stun gun and other policies, “even though we have not been the source of such delays.”

Citizen members of the board aren’t surprised. Nine of the 10 members who have not quit and remain on the 15-member board don’t want Rosenbaum and Watson to lead their meetings or even select a person to chair the board, believing the chair should be one of the board members. The former chair, Kathleen Saadat, resigned at the end of June.

But even more striking, many board members are now suggesting a federal judge appoint an outside monitor to assess the progress of reforms.

“This particular model isn’t the one to work well in Portland,” said board member Avel Gordly, a former state senator. “What is working well in other cities, including Seattle, is having a court-appointed monitor. I know I’m not alone in suggesting that.”

Civil rights attorney Tom Steenson, who won million-dollar lawsuits against the city on behalf of the families of James Chasse and Aaron Campbell who died in Portland police custody, said Seattle has been quicker to adopt changes to its police practices and believes it’s because a court monitor was appointed at the outset of the federal government’s consent decree in 2012.

“We’re making if any progress, very slow progress,” Steenson said.

Los Angeles-based police consultant Merrick Bobb, director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, was appointed by the federal court to serve as the Seattle police monitor following a 2012 consent decree between Seattle and the federal Justice Department to curb use of excessive force and avoid biased policing. He was asked to conduct 15 formal assessments of different areas of the consent decree, aimed at determining if new policies and procedures adopted by Seattle police are being followed.

Former Mayor Sam Adams tried to avoid having a court-appointed monitor at the time the city reached a settlement agreement with federal Justice officials, instead adopting a different approach that was described as unique - a community advisory board and a city-hired compliance officer.

Rosenbaum and Watson suggest the city, U.S. Department of Justice, Portland Police Association and Albina Ministerial Alliance reconvene to amend the settlement agreement. They also recommend the community board stop meeting until those involved in the settlement agreement can craft a better way forward.


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, https://www.oregonlive.com

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