[Foxworth's Foxhole Graphic]

Foxworth's Foxhole:
Portland's Chief Takes Control in More Ways than One

Community Control

One resonant demand of the police accountability movement is for community control of the police. After all, the military are controlled by civilians on a national level, as the police are locally.

But what happens when it works the other way? Chief Derrick Foxworth, now settling into his position after being thrust in the spotlight when Chief Kroeker resigned last August, is a proponent of community policing. He met with Portland Copwatch (see PPR #32), he has made several positive changes (more, below), yet he seems to have one major shortcoming: he wants to remain in control, not in partnership.

  • Efforts by the Alliance for Police and Community Accountability to hold a public forum with the Training Division in late May were vetoed by Foxworth, who feared that the public might make the Bureau look bad. Stating that he did not want a repeat of what happened at the Kendra James forum in July, 2003 (when a minister interrupted the police after over an hour and, to the audience's delight, said "I think the community has heard enough, I think the community wants to speak"--see PPR #30), Foxworth laid out his plans for the forum to happen. His idea is to make a presentation for ninety minutes with no interruptions, then allow a pre-selected panel to ask questions for a half an hour.

  • The Hispanic Police Advisory Committee (HPAC) suspended their meetings after Chief Kroeker gave medals to the officers involved in shooting José Mejía Poot in 2002 (see PPR #28). They demanded the medals be rescinded and Kroeker be fired. Late last year, they met with Foxworth, as Kroeker was gone and they were ready to meet again. Foxworth informed them that they would be invited to join in a new Advisory Committee that he would call together with people of his choosing. Foxworth called a meeting to form a new group on August 11, rebuking the previously established leadership.

  • On May 11, Foxworth was making a presentation to City Council on changes made as recommended by the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC--see p.2). Commissioner Randy Leonard raised questions about the Bureau's Taser policy (see p.1) and whether police management was doing enough to meet with the unions. According to the May 19 Willamette Week, Foxworth, the appointed Chief, later told Leonard, an elected Council member, "I don't appreciate you doing that to me in public."
  • Which is Not To Say All is Bad

    Despite this behavior, which has political ramifications, Foxworth has made some positive changes around Portland.

    For one thing, he lifted Kroeker's ban on short sleeves, and reportedly was lifting restrictions on long hair, jewelry and facial hair (Oregonian, April 20).

    Foxworth has also re-instituted the Citizens Police Academy, which allows people to undergo 33 hours of police training to better understand the cops. We appreciate this gesture, but as Copwatch member Dan Handelman told Oregon Public Broadcasting radio on July 15, "I think it's good for citizens to be exposed to what police do on a daily basis. But my impression is that when citizens are encouraged to go on ride- alongs or go through this citizens academy, the express purpose of it is to ... understand police culture from within, as opposed to doing a ride along with a homeless person to see what it's like to be hassled by police for a day."

    Foxworth also re-started a bike patrol in North Portland which had been dormant since 1997. This allows officers to be in better touch with citizens than when they ride around in their cars. Willamette Week reporter Nick Budnick may have become a bit too excited about riding along with the cops, stating in his June 9 piece that "Seven hours later...we've cited a half-dozen abandoned cars, issued open-container tickets to two well-known drunks, handed out at least a hundred [badge-shaped "Junior Crime Fighter"] stickers and had friendly chats with more than a dozen adult residents of various ethnicities." Did you catch the tearing down of the wall between the government and the media, the supposed watch-dog of the government? Embedded reporter Budnick said "we" issued tickets--apparently he was deputized for the afternoon.

    Another change is that Foxworth is actively recruiting more people of color. The July 21 Willamette Week shows the Police near the bottom of the City's Bureaus in terms of diversity, but explains that Foxworth is trying to recruit in the Portland area where Kroeker reached out to other cities. The article notes that Foxworth appears to be fair when considering race within the Bureau, proposing to fire African American officer Edgar Mitchell for an off-duty drunk driving accident, and passing over (the infamous) Sgt. Harry Jackson to promote a white sergeant to lieutenant. None of this is to say that merely diversifying the police will change the culture of the Bureau, but it certainly is better for the city to have a police force that looks like the citizenry (23 percent people of color) than it does now (11.6 percent of officers).

    Finally, one huge change, which again does not go far enough, is the new requirement that officers file a report every time they point a gun. The original proposal, from PARC, was that officers document every time they pull their weapon from its holster. The rank-and-file officers on the Community Police Organizational Review Team (CPORT) forced Foxworth to compromise, claiming that officers will hesitate to draw their guns if it means more paperwork. The rule supposedly went into effect July 1, along with a whole new form on Use of Force.

    For more information, call the Chief's office at 503-823-0000. Write to us at copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org for a report on our August 12 meeting with the Chief.


    People's Police Report #33 Table of Contents
    People's Police Report Index Page
    Return to Copwatch home page