Strengthen the relationship between community & Portland police

By: Jan Friedman, Attorney, Disability Rights Oregon. Jan is a member of the Portland Police Bureau Behavioral Health Unit Advisory Committee. 

Disability Rights Oregon has long advocated for members of the community to have a voice at the table in helping develop policies that improve relations between the Portland Police Bureau (P.P.B.) and the community.

A Bridge between the Community & the Police

One goal of the the U.S. Department of Justice (D.O.J.) Settlement Agreement with the Portland Police Bureau (P.P.B.) was to ensure meaningful community engagement in policing. To accomplish this goal, the agreement created the Community Oversight Advisory Board (C.O.A.B.).

In the Fall of 2016, D.O.J. found that the C.O.A.B. wasn’t meeting the requirement for community engagement, and the C.O.A.B. eventually dissolved.

This month, Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed creating a new commission called the Portland Commission on Community-Engaged Policing. The proposed commission would be responsible for recommending strategies for enhanced community engagement and function as a bridge between the community and P.P.B.

The mayor would choose its five to nine members who would meet twice a month out of the public eye and hold quarterly town hall public meetings.

Public’s Reaction

At an August 3rd Portland City Council hearing, attendees discussed the Mayor’s idea, and all five hours of public testimony were against his proposal.

Many people expressed concern that the Mayor’s proposal will water down efforts to provide critical community oversight of Portland police. They argued that the Mayor’s proposal would run counter to the Settlement Agreement’s requirement for meaningful community engagement.

The majority of people at the hearing stressed the importance of community involvement and cautioned that it should not be rushed.

The City Council did not vote on the ordinances at that meeting.

ACTION: Contact your City Commissioners

The City Council did not vote on the new ordinances and, therefore, your input may make a difference. Contact the Mayor and Commissioners at the City of Portland website.

As a member of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform  as well as on its own behalf as the state’s Protection and Advocacy agency for people with disabilities, Disability Rights Oregon urges you to contact the Mayor and your city commissioners before 1pm, Wednesday, August 9.

Tell them that there needs to be a real and adequate mechanism for developing community engagement and trust between the police and the community.

Key Messages:

  • The Mayor and City Commissioners should scrap the current proposal and re-work it, ensuring that they allow adequate community input in developing a replacement to the C.O.A.B. for community engagement
  • Any new community engagement board should not meet behind closed doors; both they and the community will benefit from open meetings with public input each time.
  • The new board needs to have the authority to review and make recommendations about the implementation of the Settlement Agreement, including after the D.O.J. has declared.
  • Portland to be in compliance with reforms. This way the community can ensure the Bureau is moving forward, not backward.
  • The community needs to be involved in the initial screening of applicants to the new board.

Council contact information:

Mayor Ted Wheeler


Commissioner Chloe Eudaly


City Council Member Nick Fish


Commissioner Amanda Fritz


Commissioner Dan Saltzman


ACTION: New 48-Hour Rule

Also tell Mayor Wheeler and your city commissioners that the City must institute the Mayor’s alternate plan for compelling officers to testify within 24 hours after a deadly force incident.

Key Messages:

  • The current plan to wait until after the Grand Jury is over gives officers too long to get their stories straight.
  • The District Attorney’s legal concerns are based on a case that has nothing to do with compelling testimony for an employee review.
  • We’ve spent years trying to get rid of the 48-hour rule, we cannot trust the Bureau having a “ten times 48 hour rule.”

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