Murmurs: Portland Cops Inch Closer to Body Cameras

In other news, the city’s fire-plagued tire recycler is operating without a permit.

COPS WILL FINISH BODY-CAM TRAINING BY YEAR’S END: The Portland Police Bureau is moving quickly to roll out body-worn cameras in the wake of the compromise reached this spring among its union, the city and the U.S. Department of Justice over policies governing their use. The bureau plans to train officers in the Central Precinct and gun violence response team on use of the cameras this month, according to a “joint status report” filed in federal court on Aug. 8. The city’s training, which focuses on circumstances in which the cameras should be used, will happen “either concurrently or close in time” with training by Axon, the manufacturer, on how to use the new technology. The remaining officers will be trained on the new policy during “fall in-service training,” which will be completed before the end of the year. The training, as well as the continued rollout of the program following a 60-day pilot, is contingent on approval by the Department of Justice, which took the city to court a decade ago over the Police Bureau’s use of force against people with mental illness. The Portland Police Association and city officials long disagreed whether police should be allowed to review body-camera footage before writing a report. They came to a compromise earlier this year to “avoid the delays and uncertain outcomes of interest arbitration,” resulting in the new policy: It requires officers give a recorded account of what happened before reviewing video in cases where someone is injured or dies.

FORMER BROWN HOPE EXEC SUES: Brondalyn Coleman, the former chief operating officer for Brown Hope, filed a lawsuit against the racial justice nonprofit and its CEO Cameron Whitten on July 17 in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Coleman alleges Whitten directed her to fire an employee for refusing to meditate; demanded she and other employees and board members use the psychoactive drug ayahuasca; told her to sign tax documents she believed “concealed potentially unlawful activity”; and told her he intended to fire an employee who was “too white.” Coleman, who joined Brown Hope in September 2021 and earned a salary of $93,000, says when she pushed back against Whitten, who also demanded she carry an “angelite stone crystal with her at all times for religious or spiritual purposes,” her relationship with the CEO deteriorated and he fired her in January 2023. Coleman is seeking $5 million in damages. Whitten’s response: “Brown Hope has a deep love and commitment to all the people of Portland, and that definitely includes our current and former employees. We are currently beginning a mediation and restorative justice process for anyone who has concerns.” His board chair says an outside investigation found allegations against current staff “legally unsubstantiated.” An Oregon Department of Justice investigation into Brown Hope continues.

KOTEK JABS RACING COMMISSION: Among the stack of bills that came to Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk last week: House Bill 5535, the budget bill for the Oregon Racing Commission. As WW reported in a cover story earlier this year, that commission facilitates billions of dollars in online betting on horse and dog races for almost no benefit to the state (”Track Addicts, May 17, 2023). State Rep. David Gomberg (D-Otis) has hounded the agency to comply with Senate Bill 1504, a 2022 law aimed at stopping the commission from taking bets on greyhounds from people living in states where greyhound racing is illegal. The commission has resisted full implementation of SB 1504, to Gomberg’s displeasure, and Kotek, in a rare move, allowed HB 5535 to become law without her signature. “I believe in the intent of this law [SB 1504] and will direct the Racing Commission to act within its available authority to prohibit betting on greyhound races, regardless of where they take place,” Kotek wrote in her explanation of why she didn’t sign the bill.

FIRE-PLAGUED TIRE RECYCLER LACKS DEQ PERMIT: Castle Tire Recycling has a fire problem. In May, a three-story pile of shredded tires ignited at its shipping location on the Willamette River, just north of the Steel Bridge, spewing acrid smoke into the morning air. A few days later it reignited as heat built up deep in the pile. On Aug. 7, Castle had another fire, this one at the North Portland industrial site where it chops up the tires. So far, though, Castle has failed to take steps that might prevent the next blaze. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined Castle $13,600 and asked the company to either remove the pile of tires on the Willamette or get a permit to store them there before they’re shipped to Asia to be burned for fuel. Castle has done none of those things. The pile on the river is still there. Castle hasn’t sought a permit, DEQ says, and it is contesting the fine. DEQ says it has met with Castle CEO Chandos Mahon and that he intends to submit a permit application. In the meantime, the tire pile remains. Mahon didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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