Background on Efforts to Reform Policing in Portland

Background on Efforts to Reform Policing in Portland

Various organizations, including the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, have been advocating for over a decade for concrete changes to the Portland Police Bureau contract. The current police contract expires in July 2020, with no replacement in place due to slow negotiations and delays from Covid-19. As recently as June 2, Commissioner Hardesty has lamented the ongoing failure to implement reforms, and has called the City Council to funding for so-called “special units” that have been shown to be ineffective in the long term, target low-income and people of color communities for over-policing, and are part of the school to prison pipeline. Hardesty believes these programs misuse  tax-payer money and promote racial profiling. She also called the City Council to seek more training for the Portland Police Bureau. On June 6, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced that resource officers will be withdrawn for all Portland Public Schools, and he will increase investment in culturally specific supports for students.

Questions posed by the AMA in August 2019 were asked regarding Portland Police Officer misconduct, but remain unanswered:

  • Why is it so difficult to fire officers? 
  • Why aren’t officers drug tested after deadly force incidents? 
  • Why does Portland’s civilian oversight body not have the ability to investigate use of deadly force or to compel officer testimony?

The Demands:

Since 2016, community members have been shut out of City Council conversations regarding the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). They have issued a letter with the following demands for the new contract, and at the invitation of Commissioner Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty Black Lives Matter and Campaign Zero representatives presented the following to the City Council in the Fall of 2019: :

  • Improve Portland’s Ineffective System of Civilian Oversight:
    • Deadly force: An independent civilian agency must have explicit jurisdiction in deadly force cases.
    • Meaningful power: An independent civilian agency needs the ability to compel testimony and recommend discipline.
    • Equal treatment: In misconduct investigations, the officer being investigated should not have special privileges the public does not have.
  • Hold Officers Accountable for Excessive Force and Bias-Based Policing:  The City must be able to fire officers who have used excessive force or exhibited racism or other oppression against targeted communities. Provisions in the current contract severely limit the scope of misconduct investigations and narrowly restrict how discipline is handled.
  • Institute Comprehensive Mandatory Drug Testing: Require mandatory drug testing, including steroids, after officers use force on the public.
  • Fix the Public Complaint Process: The public should be able to make complaints without the offending officer having access to their name and information.

Here are some graphics explaining why these demands are important.

Ongoing Dialogue

Inter-faith Peace & Action Collaborative (IPAC) meets regularly with the police. Recently, members were asked “If you were the key adviser to the Mayor and Police Chief what are the top three to five things you would suggest the PPB does to help heal the past between the Bureau and the Community?”  These were the responses:

  1. Create a Truth and Reconciliation committee.
  2. Audit the Bureau advisory groups.
  3. Embrace radical transparency philosophy when it comes to data.
  4. Review the discipline matrix from a lens of racial equity.
  5. Work more with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office (DA):
    1. Establish a community-justice model for youth and young adult offenses.
    2. Have officer-involved shootings investigated by an independent prosecutor.
  6. Codify the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing (PCCP) and increase its powers to compel officer testimony and make recommendations.

Please support the work already in process by contacting city leadership directly and through their Policy Directors.

If you would like to let us know that you are acting to stop systematic racial violence, please fill in the form on our statement.