People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
OUTLAW'S OUTPOST Chief Makes the Rounds, Including Meeting Portland Copwatch
--Chief Outlaw Finds People's Police Report Article "Fair"
Four members of Portland Copwatch (PCW) were able to meet with Chief Danielle Outlaw and two of her aides in late February. Afterward, our sense was cautious optimism, as the Chief listened without becoming defensive, agreed (as have all the Chiefs we have previously met) with PCW's goals of a Bureau free from corruption, brutality and racism. She even referred to our first Outlaw's Outpost column (PPR #73), which contained praise and criticisms of her, as "fair."
PCW raised our concerns about use of force, including shootings and violent crowd control tactics. We noted that the Bureau's timelines for the community to review complex policies-- 30 days up front and 15 days after changes are proposed-- are too short. The Chief agreed, but was unable to promise any major change. (The timelines have now been flipped to 15 and 30 days, which doesn't really help-- see this issue's article on PPB Policies.) PCW also brought up the various statistics showing over-policing of African American Portlanders-- use of force, shootings, and traffic/pedestrian stops (see this issue's articles Portland Profiling Data Still Show Disparities and Training Advisory Council ). Her adjutant Lt. Chuck Lovell stated no annual report was produced on profiling data for 2016 but promised the 2017 one would be done soon.
Chief Outlaw also agreed with us the police should not be the front line in addressing people who are houseless. We raised concerns about sweeps, confiscation and destruction of property, and enforcing laws which are inappropriately aimed at poor and houseless people. PCW asked about reinstating the oversight committee where data on enforcement of the Sit/Lie ordinance got shared with the community until 2012. We briefly discussed the history and current status of the oversight system, including its limitations on those who have been subjected to deadly force and their survivors.
PCW sent a follow-up email to the Chief which included accepting her offer to meet with PCW on a quarterly basis. We will inform the community if we hear back.
--Out and About, Outlaw Does Outreach
Although she officially took the reins of the Police Bureau in October, Chief Outlaw chose to hold her formal swearing-in ceremony at the Oregon Historical Society in January, using the backdrop of a Civil Rights exhibit to highlight the challenges of her new city. "Here in Portland, the history of racial inequality and displacement still lurks in the undercurrent of a very progressive city," she told the crowd of about 150 (Portland Observer, January 24).
At the January meeting of the Training Advisory Council, the Chief talked about her background working on training for the Oakland police, and asked the Council members to let her know if something isn't working right. The Chief made it clear she sees herself as a "CEO" who doesn't have to focus on the "weeds" of daily operations, leaving that instead to the Deputy Chief ("COO") she asked for as a condition of her hiring. (Note: On April 16, Outlaw named Training Captain Bob Day as her Deputy.) Outlaw also presented information along with other city officials at a town hall regarding the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Agreement in late February. At that meeting she spoke about the importance of officers getting out in the community and being seen as fellow human beings. (Perhaps a police-student dance party at Sabin K-8 school was a bit much in this department-- see "Rapping Back.")
An officer can't always be a community member. In response to the second shooting since Outlaw took office (see this issue's article PBB Kills Man in Homelss Center), where the suspect supposedly fired back after officers struck her with bullets, the Bureau's official news release quotes the Chief saying "I am grateful no officers were injured during this morning's dangerous encounter. Officers responded and worked together to ensure the safety of the community." There is no expression of the reluctance to use force, the wounds suffered by the suspect, or how officer involved shootings cause concern among community members. Notably, Chief Outlaw is taking up the Police Association's rhetoric, asking for 93 new officers at a cost of $10 million in order to get more "community policing officers" out of their cars, to stop "going from call to call to call [with no] discretionary time" (Oregonian, March 21). As noted elsewhere in this newsletter, there are over 100 officers who are about to get off probation and become full time cops. Hiring more officers will just put more into that probationary timeline before seeing the effect of the current batch being added to the force.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.