Feds launch civil rights review of Portland Police

Feds launch civil rights review of Portland Police »Play Video
A news conference announcing a federal investigation of the Portland Police Bureau. Portland Mayor Sam Adams and police Chief Mike Reese are standing to the left of the podium.

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation of the Portland Police Bureau after allegations that officers used excessive force.

“The Justice Department will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by officers of the PPB,” a DOJ representative wrote in a statement.
 
 
The investigation comes on the heels of an announcement Tuesday that federal prosecutors will not pursue civil rights charges against specific Portland officers related to the Aaron Campbell shooting.
 
Campbell was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a Portland officer in January 2010.
 
The Campbell shooting, the death of James Chasse and other incidents have raised questions about Portland officers using excessive force. Chasse died after being tackled by Portland officers. He reportedly suffered from mental illness.
 
In the last 18 months, Portland Police have been involved in eight shootings involving people with mental illness.
 
"This investigation will examine whether there is a pattern or practice of excessive force used by PPB officers, particularly against people living with mental illness," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez wrote in a letter to Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
 
Perez wrote that investigators have so far not reached any conclusions. In a news conference, he said investigators want to "identify any problems, if any exist, and work collaboratively to fix those problems. We're not here to fix the blame, we're here to fix to problem."
 
 
Federal investigators said they will consider all relevant information in their investigation, including efforts the police bureau has already taken to comply with federal law.
 
The investigation will have two components, Perez wrote. First, lawyers and experts will meet with members of the police bureau. Second, investigators will meet with community members and other relevant people outside the bureau.
 
"We more than welcome this investigation, we asked for it," said Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
 
Portland Police Chief Mike Reese said he's proud of his officers and how they deal with volatile issues. Still, he said there is room to grow.
 
"I believe this is a unique opportunity for us to work with the Department of Justice to ensure we are at the forefront of best practices," he said.
 
"Hopefully we'll see a change," said Marva Davis, Aaron Campbell's mother. "He was saying all the wonderful things and hopefully we'll see a change."
 
There was no word how long the investigation could take.
 
The feds said they have launched similar investigations in places like New York, Ohio, Louisiana and California. | Read more about similar case in Cincinnati
 
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon are all working together on the investigation. If you have comments or concerns, you can email community.portland@usdoj.gov or call 1-877-218-5228.
 
KATU reporter Dan Tilkin and KATU.com producer John Tierney contributed to this report