Federal government sues Portland and its police force

In response to numerous complaints and reports of police brutality, the federal government has filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland, Oregon, and the Portland Police Bureau. The suit accuses police officers in the city of regularly using an excessive amount of force, which the government claims violates both the 4th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution. The 4th amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, while the 14th amendment makes it illegal for police and local governments to enforce the law unevenly among their citizens.

The civil litigation calls for the immediate end of the alleged excessive police force. The federal government has asked a judge to order Portland and "its officers, agents, and employees to refrain from engaging in any of the predicate acts."

The government has brought a number of accusations against the Portland Police Bureau. For instance, it alleges that the PPB often uses electronic control weapons, such as stun guns and other similar devices, when doing so is unnecessary. It also claims officers with the PPB have used such weapons multiple times when a single use is sufficient to subdue a suspect.

Additionally, the PPB is accused of regularly using excessive force against individuals suffering from actual or perceived mental illness. The PPB also allegedly fails to use appropriate force for many low level offenses and often violates citizens' constitutional rights while on duty.

The lawsuit argues that the numerous problems within the PPB were ultimately caused by the City of Portland's failure to properly train and supervise its officers in "the proper use, reporting and investigation of force." While the federal government does not often file suit against local governments, it may do so if the results of the litigation could prevent law enforcement practices that deprive citizens of rights guaranteed by federal law or Constitution.

Source: KOIN6, "Portland cops sued by feds for excessive force," Dec. 17, 2012

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