Tag Archives: Department of Justice

SR editorial: Health care crisis far wider than DOJ report

When it comes to police conduct in this city, there is always a bounty of finger pointing to go around.

The Department of Justice’s report on its investigation of the Portland Police Bureau points its own fingers, too. It is critical of the police bureau’s “unconstitutional” overuse of force, including the repeated application of Tasers, on people experiencing or perceived to be experiencing mental illness. It points to the bureau’s administration and deficiencies in policy, training and supervision. We agree, and support the creation of an independent body for police oversight.

The DOJ also cites a lack of capacity in social services to handle mental health crisis situations, including the absence of a crisis triage center. Entire chains of communication had gaping holes between the street and accessing acute care.

Indeed, the report packs its criticism with caveats around limited resources and an inordinate expectation that police officers take care of mental health crises, at least as they appear on the streets, among those facing perhaps the worst moments of their lives.

One finger is missing, however. The one that should be pointing back at Washington D.C. and the health care industrial complex. This is a health care issue, after all, and for all the potential the DOJ report can offer us in terms of reform and improvements, it is a view through the lens of the criminal justice system. Continue reading

The future of the Portland Police Bureau: Community voice Jo Ann Hardesty

By Jo Ann Hardesty, Contributing Columnist

Finally, someone has called it like it is. On Sept. 12, the highest-ranking law enforcement officials, having studied the Portland Auditor’s “Independent” Police Review Board (IPR) for more than a year, has labeled this sham of police oversight a ‘self-defeating accountability system.’

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) gave notice to the city of Portland that they had found widespread patterns and practices of unconstitutional behavior. Continue reading

The future of the Portland Police Bureau: Chief Mike Reese

By Michael Reese, Contributing Columnist

Recently, Portland police officers responded to a call regarding a distraught man who told onlookers near the RiverPlace Marina he was going to commit suicide. He took some pills and jumped into the Willamette River from the dock. The man then swam away from a Good Samaritan and began to drown. He was eventually pulled from the water semi-conscious by a sheriff’s office boat and transported to a local hospital. Sadly, this same man was previously assisted by Portland police officers not even a month ago, when he overdosed on pills and was threatening suicide by jumping off of a downtown parking structure. This is just one example of people in mental health crisis who officers come in contact with not just once, but multiple times. In fact, we estimate that out of the 400,000 contacts, 20 to 25 percent involve people in some form of mental health crisis. Continue reading

Ellen Rosenblum and the new DOJ

By Jake Thomas, Staff Writer

Ellen Rosenblum had some high-profile shoes to fill when she was sworn in as Oregon’s first female attorney general earlier this summer. She completes the term of John Kroger, the Enron-trial hero, author and publicity heavy who resigned the post to become president of Reed College.

But Rosenblum brings her own set of legal chops to the state’s top law office. Rosenblum’s long legal career in Oregon includes representing author Ken Kesey in a dispute over the film adaptation of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” as well as a 14-year stint as a federal prosecutor and 22 years as an appellate and trial judge.

While running against Dwight Holton in the Democratic primary for the office, Rosenblum became an unexpected hero for advocates of liberalized marijuana laws after she took positions that put her in sharp contrast to her opponent, a former U.S. attorney who had been at the forefront of the federal crackdown on medical cannabis.

Although Rosenblum said she would make enforcement actions against pot a low priority as attorney general and would stand up for the state’s medical marijuana law in the face of federal opposition, she never fully embraced her branding as a champion of cannabis. She claimed she merely wanted to make sensible use of limited law enforcement resources and respect the will of the voters on medical marijuana. Regardless, the enthusiasm and money she drew from medical marijuana advocates helped catapult her to victory.

Rosenblum comes to the job after 49 state attorneys general reached a settlement with five of the country’s largest lending institutions. The agreement addressed mortgage loan servicing and fraud by the banks that caused a wave of foreclosures across the country. The lawsuit produced a $25 billion settlement, as well as new protections for homeowners that Rosenblum will have a hand in implementing.

Street Roots spoke to Rosenblum about how she plans to uphold civil liberties in an age of increasing government surveillance, what marijuana legalization might mean for her office, difficulties in keeping distressed homeowners in their homes, the high cost of incarceration and how she hopes to improve some of the little-noticed services her office provides. We began our conversation with one of the more controversial issues in Portland’s law enforcement practices.

Jake Thomas: Do you agree with your predecessor that Portland should have rejoined the Joint Terrorism Task Force (a partnership between various U.S. law enforcement agencies that has been criticized for violating the First Amendment rights of activists)?

Ellen Rosenblum: Not necessarily. I was perfectly comfortable with us having not joined it, and I never understood what the considerations were in rejoining it.

I have a lot of concerns about civil liberties. I met yesterday with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union to hear their issues. That was not one of their issues that they raised with me. So I haven’t put that on my table with my issues.  When I heard we were rejoining, I had some of the same concerns that the city had when they decided not to. Continue reading