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LAPD inspector chosen to serve as independent monitor for Ore. PD reforms

As part of a federal settlement, the monitor will oversee pared-down requirements that will allow the city of Portland to concentrate on police accountability and officer use of force


By Maxine Bernstein

PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland and the U.S. Department of Justice have selected Los Angeles Police Department’s Inspector General Mark P. Smith to serve as the independent monitor of mandated Portland police reforms under the city’s federal settlement agreement over excessive force.

The City Council will vote on the selection of Smith’s MPS & Associates firm on May 2 .

City officials, Justice Department lawyers and community advocacy groups that have been parties to the longstanding settlement identified Smith and his firm as the “most qualified,” citing his understanding of Portland and its challenges, as well as his expertise in police oversight, constitutional policing and community engagement, according to a court filing.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon in November approved changes to the city of Portland’s settlement with the Justice Department that called for hiring an independent monitor to oversee pared-down requirements that will allow the city to concentrate on police accountability, officer use of force and the accurate reporting of police use of force.

The settlement was drafted in 2012 to address federal findings that Portland police used excessive force against people with mental illness. It called for widespread changes to police use-of-force and Taser policies, training and oversight, a restructuring of police crisis intervention services and quicker investigations into alleged police misconduct. Simon approved the settlement in 2014.

The monitor team will do semi-annual critiques of the city’s compliance with the remaining requirements, provide recommendations and advice to police on how to meet and sustain the requirements, hold community outreach town hall meetings and provide updates to the judge overseeing the settlement.

The city received applications for the monitor from 13 teams and invited representatives from the police union, the Albina Ministerial Alliance’s Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, the Mental Health Alliance and the Portland Committee on Community-Based Policing to review the applications and provide feedback.

Seven candidates were invited for Zoom-based interviews in February. Three finalists were then identified on Feb. 21: Smith; Darryl Neier, a former prosecutor who works for a New Jersey public safety think tank; and Katie Zafft of the Crime and Justice Institute, a Boston-based consulting group that analyzes local law enforcement, according to court records.

Finalists appeared at a public town hall in mid-March.

Smith has spent nearly his entire 19-year legal career in civilian police oversight. He has served as the inspector general of the Los Angeles Police Department since 2018. He also previously served as a constitutional adviser to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the first independent police auditor for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District known as BART and as a deputy chief administrator for Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority.

If appointed to the new role in Portland, he’ll resign from his job in Los Angeles and the independent monitor’s role will be his primary focus, according to court records.

Smith’s proposal to the city estimated his team’s cost of serving as independent monitor for the two-year period at $1.6 million: $837,500 the first year and $753,750 the second year.

Antoinette Edwards, a longtime Portland community activist who was a former director of Portland’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention, will serve on Smith’s team as an associate monitor overseeing community engagement and training.

Edwards said she was on vacation and got a call from Smith, who told her that others had recommended she be part of the process.

“I wanted to be sure there was a Portland connection and a Portland perspective,” Edwards said.

Smith said his team members already have experience overseeing police departments and have a “first-hand understanding” of the extensive work that goes into adopting changes. He pledged to be accessible and present in Portland during the monitoring, take a cost-conscious approach and ensure the people’s voices are heard and incorporated in the work.

Smith said he recognizes Portland isn’t dealing with a new settlement agreement but one that is more than a decade old, “one that is ready to be wound down through sustained compliance.”

He said his team will be guided by the principle that “everyone who makes up Portland’s diverse communities deserves policing that is professional and constitutional.”

Also joining Smith would be Brian Buchner, who now works with him as the assistant inspector general of the Los Angeles Police Department; Jose “Che” Ramirez, now senior adviser of homelessness operations to the Los Angeles mayor; John Thomas, chief of the University of California, Los Angeles, police department who previously spent 20 years with Los Angeles police; and Russell Bloom, current independent police auditor for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District.

The move to a monitor followed 10 months of mediation with the help of U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman.

If the City Council approves the selection of Smith and his firm, city lawyers will appear in court on May 15 to ask Simon to appoint Smith & Associates as the independent monitor.

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