Rev. Leroy Haynes, vice president of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, speaks to reporters at the Allen Temple.
The Albina Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of several faith and community organizations, reacted to several significant developments with the Portland Police Bureau today at a press conference.
Last week, a traffic stop in northeast Portland ended with a man dead and an officer wounded. The incident has raised more questions about how the police handle encounters with the mentally ill, with questions lingering about the exact circumstances of the event. The city also settled a protracted lawsuit brought against it from the family of James Chasse, a schizophrenic man who died while in police custody. Mayor Sam Adams appointed a new police chief after a public falling out with now former Chief Rosie Sizer.
Speaking to reporters at the Allen Temple in northeast Portland, Rev. Leroy Haynes, vice president of the AMA, said that his group was rejoicing with the Chasse family, which settled the suit for a record $1.6 million, bringing to a close a three year battle that has scandalized the city.
Haynes said that the development did not carry the same force as if the family had won the lawsuit in court, but did send a clear message to the city. He also noted that the AMA was looking forward to the release of internal documents kept secret for three years while the city grappled with the suit.
He also expressed concern about the police shooting of Keaton Otis, 25, who was shot by police last week during a traffic stop. His family stated recently that Otis suffered from a mood disorder. According to police accounts, Otis pulled a gun on police after becoming confrontational with officers, which lead to his death.
“We have a growing problem in the Portland Police Bureau that won’t go away,” said Haynes, referring to mentally-fragile individuals dying at the hands of the police.
Such incidents, said Haynes, contribute to “tension and mistrust” between the police and the public.
“We still at the end of the day have an African American male with a mental health disorder dead,” he said to reporters.
Haynes said that the AMA was considering doing its own independent investigation into what happened, questioning if Otis indeed had a gun.
“It is alleged that he shot at the police officer,” said Haynes, arguing that the police account was not yet accepted as fact by everyone.
The AMA is also unsettled that Adams appointed East Precinct Commander Mike Reese to chief without community input.
Haynes stated that the AMA was eager to work with Reese as a partner, but was surprised that in Portland, which is known for having exhaustive processes to solicit community input on almost everything, was not used for such an important decision.
“We feel that process was circumvented,” he said.