Portland city attorneys are scheduled to participate in a phone conference Wednesday to determine if the city’s appeal of a federal judge’ s order regarding his continued oversight of federally mandated police reforms is a case appropriate for mediation.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals mediator will start the call at 11 a.m. with attorneys from the city, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Portland Police Association to determine if the city’s concerns can be resolved without a full appeal.

An hour later, a community coalition plans to rally in front of Portland’s City Hall to urge the city to rescind its appeal.

In late October, Portland’s City Council voted 4-0 to pursue an appeal of U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon’s order that requires city attorneys and federal prosecutors to appear before him at least once a year to update him on the status of a wide range of police reforms mandated in a settlement he approved.

The federal court’s involvement stems from a Justice Department investigation in 2012 that found Portland police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness. The negotiated settlement, approved by Simon in late August, calls for changes to Portland policies, training and oversight.

The City Council’s vote in October came despite widespread community opposition. More than 20 community members spoke out to oppose an appeal last fall. They questioned why the mayor and council members — who repeatedly have said they’re committed to transparency and ensuring the police reforms are fully adopted — are so fearful of having a judge check on their progress.

Simon made it clear he has no power to order further reforms but wrote in his order that the parties might present evidence if requested at the periodic hearings.

The city plans to question and “clarify” the judge’s authority to set “frequency, scope, procedure and evidentiary burdens” for the hearings, according to a resolution that the City Council approved.

The city has long argued that Simon doesn’t have the authority to require city officials to present evidence before him in court on the status of the reforms. When they voted to support the appeal, Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Steve Novick made it clear they oppose Simon’s continuing oversight of the settlement.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform is organizing the noon rally outside City Hall on Wednesday.

“While the City claims the appeal is to ‘clarify’ what kind of evidence can be brought forward by the parties,” the coalition said it’s clear the city intends to challenge’s the judge’s authority to monitor the progress of the reforms, the coalition wrote in a press release.

Portland’s mayor said at a community meeting last month that he expected the city’s concerns to be addressed through mediation by early this year.

“I’m looking forward to having it resolved, hopefully in January,” Hales said.

At 2 p.m., Wednesday, the City Council is set to approve additional money to help cover the travel expenses for a team of outside consultants selected to serve as compliance officers helping to oversee the status of the police reforms.

The ordinance adds another $75,000 a year to the city’s already-approved $240,000 annual contract with Rosenbaum & Watson, the Chicago-based team of academics selected to serve as the city’s new compliance officer/community liaison. The academics will be paired with former Oregon chief justice Paul J. DeMuniz.

The city also is seeking $45,000 for an administrative support position to assist a new Community Advisory Oversight Board, and $250,000 from a city contingency fund to cover costs for office and meeting space, equipment, website development and interpretive services for the new board and its chair, Oregon’s retired chief Justice Paul DeMuniz.

–Maxine Bernstein

[email protected]
503-221-8212; @maxoregonian

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