People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Work on Racial Profiling Stumbles at Police Relations Committee
While the Community / Police Relations Committee (CPRC) has pushed forward institutional racism training for the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)'s upper ranks (PPRs #58 & 61), the effort to train all 800 or so line officers has stalled. A federal grant to assess the effectiveness of the training caused a small scandal, but eventually was adopted by City Council, as well as a new "Equity Manager" position for the Bureau. The Mayor and top brass of the Bureau attended a retreat to teach white men about white male privilege. CPRC put off reviewing the 2009 Plan to Address Racial Profiling for three months, though doing so is part of their mission and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement with the City (article). Also, while the Independent Police Review Division (IPR)'s examination of how the PPB interacts with the hip hop community continues, the owner of the Fontaine Bleu nightclub sued the police for closing down his club. Moreover, an official law enforcement body reported what the community has known for years-- that the police have no set standards when they claim crime is associated with "gangs."
DOJ GRANT: The CPRC originally sought a grant from the DOJ to pay an administrator for the anti-racism training to rank-and-file officers because CPRC member (and Human Rights Commissioner) Damon Turner had put in countless volunteer hours alongside Bureau statistical analyst Emma Covelli, but neither could extend the work to train the 800+ officers. Turner, like all HRC/CPRC members, was volunteering his time and Covelli was transferred to the Training Division. But the grant was written so that Turner, who also works as a consultant, would be paid over $14,000. After JoAnn Hardesty called attention to the issue at City Council, Mayor's police liaison / former Officer (/ former CPRC member) Deanna Wesson Mitchell told Council the plan was to get Turner paid for the time he'd been putting in. Yet nobody on CPRC was informed of the idea and, after more pushback, it was agreed the contract would be opened up and Turner would not apply for it (though if he cleared a discussion on conflict of interest, he likely could). Wesson Mitchell said the DOJ, which oversees the grant in question, would not fund the training itself, so the grant was rewritten to review the progress of the training, including a PSU professor who will help set up the methodology for the assessment.
STOP DATA/PROFILING PLAN: In May, CPRC also received a truncated presentation from Sgt. Greg Stewart on the final traffic stop data report from 2011 (PPR #62). No tough questions were asked (such as, why is the Gang Enforcement Team's record so much worse than the other parts of the Bureau) and Stewart made only vague promises that the 2012-2013 data would be completed "soon." CPRC finally looked at the Profiling Plan in August, revealing that (a) in five years, no progress has been made in drilling down profiling data to the individual officer level, and (b) efforts to improve officers' "hit rate" (actually contraband during a search) have been abandoned.
DIVERSITY TRAINING: Many in the community scoffed at special training attended by Mayor Hales, Chief Reese, and about a dozen high ranking officers and Mayor's staff-- all white men. The ridicule likely would have been reduced had they not chosen a posh retreat with a golf course (they say they didn't use it) to conduct the training, which actually has high marks nationally for getting white men to recognize the things that come easy to them which are harder for people of color, women, and sexual minorities. If only part of the training had also addressed economic diversity (and they'd gone somewhere more modest), PCW might have even championed it.
CLUB CLOSED: As for the lawsuit from Rodney DeWalt, the Fontaine Bleu's owner, he says the police, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission violated his due process, free speech, and economic freedoms by working to shut the club down, which it ultimately did in November after a civilian-on-civilian shooting drew police there (Oregonian, May 30). The suit asks for $2.9 million and says "the city told DeWalt to set a dress code including banning saggy pants, to stop playing hip hop music and to keep a line from forming out front" (Willamette Week online, May 28).
"GANG" REPORT: The obvious bias by police against African American men was also brought into focus by a report from the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC), which challenged the Portland Police Bureau's ongoing assertion that "gang" activity is on the rise. In particular, the LPSCC notes that gang-related shootings are down 24% and that there is "no comprehensive way to measure the number of gang members in Multnomah County or the violence they cause" (Willamette Week, July 23). The PPB refused to comment on the report, claiming they hadn't read it-- even though they are a member of the LPSCC.
"NEW" PLAN: Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea spent time at CPRC's June meeting describing a "new vision" to reach out to the community with diversity and inclusion-- which sounds like an effort to avoid using the catch-all phrase "community policing" and put a new spin on old ideas. Long-time community activist Richard Brown interrupted CPRC's meeting to say he'd heard it all before, and they needed to enact change, not just talk about it. Brown nailed it-- there is a lot of talk about ending racism in the Bureau, but it hasn't translated onto the streets.
In June, CPRC did not meet at the PPB's Traffic Division, but at Central Northeast Neighbors, where they'd met in April.
In May, CPRC had a presentation by the Training Advisory Council (article) from Suzanne Hayden of the Citizens Crime Commission/TAC and CPRC/TAC member Damon Turner. In July the Director of the Independent Police Review Division, Constantin Severe, gave a talk.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.