Community ControlOne 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.
Which is Not To Say All is BadDespite 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 email@example.com for a report on our August 12 meeting with the Chief.
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