For several months, I have been working with the Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Saltzman and Chief Sizer to propose improvements in police policies and community assistance for people in crisis. I know Commissioner Saltzman is fully aware of the importance and urgency of the need to make changes. I will continue to work with him, Chief Sizer, and Maria Lisa Johnson and her staff at the Office of Human Relations partnering with the Human Rights Commission, to ensure that improvements are made as soon as possible, which result in true community policing that works for all communities.
Some of the work done and in progress in my office, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI), and the Office of Human Relations (OHR):
- Conversations on Community Mental Health Care - Over the past few months, Commissioner Saltzman, Chief Sizer and I have met five times with community mental health clients, providers and advocates, to hear concerns and seek advice on how to improve services and safety in the community.
- The February 15th Restorative Listening Project session focused on the impact to the Black community when lives are lost during police interactions. 60+ people attended the meeting where community members spoke to the issues and what they thought was important to address to shift the relationship with the police.
- OHR's Intergroup Dialogue Project - Inter-group dialogues are self-reflective conversations between community members of two or more social identity groups that have a history of conflict or potential conflict with one another. Our project is based on the premise that sustained and meaningful intergroup contact, dialogue, and education are necessary to address conflict, further reconciliation and promote the creation of a just society. This year we will host 4 dialogues focused on race. One of these dialogues will bring together members of African and African American communities and Police.
- ONI's Crime Prevention and the Effective Engagment Solutions program are working with Sisters of the Road and the Portland Police Department, along with other stakeholders, on a Good Neighbor Agreement, part of which addresses the interactions and relationship between social services, people experiencing homelessness and the Portland Police.
- OHR's Education and Peace Building program - information and discussion opportunities helping communities in Portland understand issues and each other.
- Summer Parkways - Working to engage newcomer communities in the civic life of Portland and assist them in overcoming their fear of law enforcement, the Office of Human Relations Newcomer Program partnered with Portland Police to provide 3 teen volunteer traffic control and bike safety trainings over the summer. The project trained 75 youth who then provided 4800 volunteer hours to summer parks events.
- OK to Call - Community members new to Portland often bring from their home countries very negative and often tragic experiences with law enforcement. The Portland Police Bureau recognizes these barriers to building community relations. Over the Summer of 2009, the Office of Human Relations Newcomer Program partnered with East Precinct to deliver parent/police training on how to more effectively reach out to newcomer communities to further community safety. Trainings involved roll plays where community members acted out crises and were coached to run to police for assistance with the encouragement that “It’s OK to call.” 50 parents participated in these trainings and contributed a total of 150 volunteer hours.
Participants in these last two projects were largely Karen families of Burma.
Here is a brief summary of what the Office of Human Relations and the Human Rights Commission's Community and Police Relations Committee have been doing on Community and Police Relations:
Community and Police Relations Committee (CPRC) Mission:
To bring together members of Portland’s diverse communities and its police officers to improve community and police relations, further an authentic community policing culture, and promote dignity, understanding, and respect in police and community interactions.
Members: 4 Human Rights Commissioners, 4 Community at Large members, 4 Police Officers plus one alternate for Assistant Chief (AC) Martinek.
Committee was fully seated on July 15, 2009
Community and Police Relations Committee Work so far:
- CPRC provided input to Directive 312.50 Identification (Business Card Policy) before it was presented to City Council
- CPRC received copies of Policy Directive 810.10 which details the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)’s directive in relation to immigration and customs enforcement. The discussion emerged from community concerns regarding the interplay between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. PPB helped broker a meeting with the Multnomah County Sheriff to gather information. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) will hold a public hearing on this topic.
Training Overview and Input
- In October 2009 Chief Sizer discussed changes implemented in the Use of Force Policy and Crisis Intervention Training since the death of James Chasse. CPRC members learned that the PPB now employs an experienced mental health professional providing CIT training to all officers. She also assists in triaging cases involving individuals who are in crisis.
- The Chief also announced that Portland would participate in a study sponsored by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law along with 4 other cities. The goal of this study is to reduce encounters between people who suffer from mental illness and police and to actively engage mental health service providers in protecting vulnerable individuals.
- In December 2009, PPB leadership developed a Training Inventory to analyze how the bureau’s vision, policy, training and practice were aligning. AC Martinek has brought aspects of this training for discussion and input to the CPRC.
- In January 2010, CPRC received information and provided input on the Changing Perspectives In-Service Training. This training includes the following topics:
- Discussion and examples of best practices in conducting effective searches
- Reducing unintended impact of police practice
- The importance of communicating with bystanders about what is transpiring during a police / community interface (i.e. a stop/search)
- History of community perceptions of police
- History of the African American community and police
- CPRC focused on the importance of police officers developing relationships with community members. There was a lengthy discussion on community policing with numerous successful examples.
- On Feb 17, 2010 CPRC will review and recommend next steps for the PPB’s RFP process to select a Race Relations trainer that will provide training to police over 3 years.
- In March we plan to view the in-service video on Senate Bill 111 and discuss the impact of officer involved shootings on community members and police. .
Community Policing and Community Partnerships
- Summer 2009 - HRC members helped facilitate two public forums to gather input on the PPB’s Plan to Address Racial Profiling.
- The Portland Police Bureau sponsors 28 community initiatives/committees with a variety of stakeholders. There hasn’t been an evaluation internally of how effective these initiatives are in furthering community policing and community relations. In December 2009, PPB requested that the CPRC evaluate these initiatives for their effectiveness and impact. PPB is also requesting an analysis of where the gaps are in its outreach to communities. A subcommittee of the CPRC is meeting on February 24th to carry out an initial review.
- In August 2009 CPRC heard from community members and police who participated in the Living Room Conversations. Lt. Robert King, former President of the Portland Police Association union, and OHR Director Maria Lisa Johnson participated in a short video production to highlight this strategy as a best practice in engaging community members who are fearful of police. This pilot project informed the Inter-Group Dialogue Project of the Office of Human Relations which will sponsor 4 dialogues on race this year, including one between Black communities and Police.
Greater Coordination between IPR/CRC and Community and Police Relations
- CPRC is working towards greater coordination and information sharing with the Auditor’s Independent Police Review and the Citizen’s Review Committee. Prior efforts (Racial Profiling Committee) had little interaction with IPR. Portland Copwatch highlighted the lack of coordination among City efforts focused on police matters. This is a concern that that is now being addressed.
- March: Report on Bias Based Policing will be presented to CPRC.
In my office, we are in the initial stages of developing an Action List to address historic inequities within our community. Building on the Urban League's State of Black Oregon report, the Native American Youth and Family Services' annual reports, and other studies and data, and in collaboration with stakeholder community partners, we plan to define responsibilty and strategies for making practical changes in the way Portland works, and doesn't. The project aims to result in measurable improvements correcting disparate opportunities and successes for people of color whose ancestors have lived in Portland for centuries or longer.
We will also continue to fund and nurture the Diversity and Civic Leadership program in the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the strategies of the Immigrant and Refugee program in the Office of Human Relations, and multiple other projects to help Portlanders share our community in harmony. I know there is much more work to be done, and I invite your participation.