LWVPDX Board adopts new position on Portland Police Bureau Oversight
A Call for Change to The Culture of The Portland Police Bureau
Changing the culture of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) must be a key goal of bureau leadership, according to the new LWVPDX advocacy position. After conducting a year-long study of Portland police oversight and accountability, the League’s membership concluded that, “PPB must end practices that systematically place police in opposition to or in domination of the public, or that treat community members as enemies.”
The LWVPDX position statement, “Portland Police Bureau: Oversight and Accountability,” begins by calling on the PPB to meet the following goals:
Accountability for police officers who violate community standards and PPB policies and directives.
Reduction in the use of force.
Fair, equitable, and respectful treatment of community members.
Reduction of bias-based policing with a goal of eliminating it.
The new position is based on the results of a careful nonpartisan study of the PPB.
An all-volunteer 22-member study committee began its work shortly before George Floyd was killed. Committee members reviewed 55 documents on PPB history and policies. They also interviewed 22 key stakeholders, including police leadership, city council members, state legislators and community advocates. See more about the resulting study report on this website here.
MEmber discussion and Consensus were Key to writing the position statement
The study then went to the LWVPDX membership for review. Portland League members participated in discussion groups, answering questions about the issues the study covered. A “consensus committee” wrote the new advocacy position using the points upon which members reached consensus during their discussions.
In addition to calling for reduction in bias-based policing and fair and equitable treatment of community members, the new position statement on PPB Oversight and Accountability calls for reduction in use of force through de-escalation and for alternatives to armed police, such as using unarmed, appropriately trained civilian employees to respond to certain calls. It also calls for improved transparency in the scope and timeliness of releasing police records, as well as for strengthening civilian oversight and community involvement. It supports giving authority to oversight groups to conduct independent investigations of police misconduct and to recommend discipline.
We are excited and proud to present our new study of thePortland Police Bureau: Oversight and Accountability. For decades, Portlanders have responded to police violence by demanding reforms and better oversight. This study describes both the problems encountered and the progress made. A major section lists the “Opportunities for Change” that will improve safety and fairness for both Portland civilians and the police officers who serve them. As the study’s conclusion states:
Portland’s police and City officials have work ahead to improve police accountability structures and authentic community engagement. The relationship between the public and the police is necessarily a two-way street, demanding mutual participation and investment, to build mutual respect and trust. The League stands ready to continue upholding our part in advancing a public safety environment that is fair, healthy, and just for all.
This study is the product of nine months of work by a 22-member volunteer study committee. Committee members reviewed 55 documents and also interviewed 22 key stakeholders, including police leadership, elected officials, and advocates for change.
An important addition to the study report is the Online Appendix, which you can read here. This not only has links to key source documents, but also brief summaries of each. It offers information that truly enhances the data in the study.
And a Panel Discussion of the Issues!
We also produced a panel discussion about Portland Police Oversight and Accountability. You’ll find the recording above this post. The panelists are:
Representative Janelle Bynum, who serves in the Oregon Legislature representing the 51st District, which includes East Portland and cities in east Multnomah County. Rep. Bynum serves as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee on Equitable Policing. Her legislative proposals in the 2021 session include bills for a database on police use of force, prompt medical assessment for arrested persons, and limits on the use of arbitration to reverse police agency findings of police misconduct.
Shawn Campbell, Chair of the Training Advisory Council (TAC) for the Portland Police Bureau. The TAC is a group of civilians who advise the PPB Training Division and Chief of Police. The TAC has outlined how changes in accountability, officer wellness, public safety specialization, procedural justice, and restorative justice could improve public safety.
Carol Johnson, JD, MA, an attorney who has spent her career working on civil rights. In 2019, she was appointed to Portland Police Citizen’s Review Committee, which advises the Bureau’s Independent Police Review (IPR). Johnson worked with the Portland League and The Links, Inc. on our newly published study, Portland Police Bureau: Oversight and Accountability.
MetroEast Community Media records our panel discussions and our candidate interviews and forums.
On July 1, 2020, The Oregonian published an “IN OUR OPINION” piece by LWV of Portland Action Chair, Debbie Aiona, and founding member of Portland Copwatch, Dan Handelman. The Portland League and Portland Copwatch have been working to improve police oversight for decades. In their Opinion article, they recommended changes to make the system more effective. These would give more power to Portland’s Independent Police Review (IPR) office and its Citizens Review Committee (CRC).
Ensure that in addition to being able to subpoena civilians and documents, IPR has the power to compel officers to testify or face discipline if they refuse. The office also should be given the authority to access all relevant police files.
Empower IPR to investigate incidents in which police officers use deadly force, and give survivors or their family members the right to appeal their cases to the IPR’s Citizen Review Committee.
Empower the CRC to review cases based on whether the majority of the evidence supports a given finding, rather than having to defer to police bureau decisions.
On October 2, 2019, LWVPDX Action Chair Debbie Aiona testified to the Portland City Council and Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw. She suggested ways to improve the Police Bureau’s Community Engagement Plan. She urged the PPB to be proactive in its attempts to engage the public. In addition, she offered ideas for improving the Bureau’s outreach to citizens. You can read all of her suggestions here.