I will lead the City of Portland in developing the type of Police Bureau that will reflect the values of the people of Portland. We are one of the safest cities in the United States, and we can do better. ~ Fred Stewart
Fifty years ago, our grandparents came together to decide how the Portland Police Bureau would change and develop over time. They epitomized civic engagement through their involvement with numerous agencies in our city and their governance. The decisions that they made affect us today because they shaped the attitudes and policies of the Portland Police Bureau and its response to changes in technology, society, and Portland’s cultural landscape. These decisions have helped us make real improvements to our police force, but some of the policies and practices that they developed half a century ago are outdated and simply do not work.
Today we stand in a similar place where our grandparents stood some fifty years ago. We are trying to design a police force of the future and are working to improve the decision-making process that will impact the lives and liberty of our children and our grandchildren. The choice we have before us is between a humane, socially-engaged, and responsive police force that respects citizens as it protects and serves them, and a militarized, high-tech, “Robocop” police force that might protect us, but also threatens some of the liberties we all enjoy.
What will the police force of the 2060s look like in Portland? That is the question we must answer. Our answers to this difficult question and the changes we make as a result will have a serious impact on the lives of our descendants. We owe it to them, to the people who will inherit Portland, and, of course, to ourselves, to make these decisions carefully and in an inclusive, democratic manner. These decisions must live up to the principles of self-government and liberty that were handed down by our Founding Fathers and defended by our grandparents–principles that will preserve a finer way of life for our grandchildren, and for their children as well.
That is why I propose a Police Visioning Committee made up of community leaders, business leaders, and retired police officers to help us answer the important questions that face the Police Bureau. This Police Visioning Committee will brainstorm ideas and methods that will help ensure a police force that respects and protects citizens and upholds the people’s civil rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
Some of the questions that must be answered by this committee include:
- How can we make certain the Police Bureau is diverse and inclusive of allracial and ethnic groups in the city?
- How can the Police Bureau become more sensitive, responsive, and aware ofthe needs of our diverse citizenry, which includes the large number of homeless and mentally ill people currently living in Portland?
- How can police officers be held accountable for their actions, especially anytype of wrongdoing, without infringing on their rights, including their right to union representation?
- Should police officers be armed in all situations, or are there times when anunarmed police presence is more desirable?
- How can we protect our officers from the violence and reduce the effectsof post-traumatic stress on police officers?
- How can we effectively deal with people experiencing mental health crises without treating the mentally ill as a threat or the enemy, while ensuring that law enforcement officers are protected from violence and “suicide by cop” attacks?
- How can we successfully recruit new officers and deal with the policemanpower shortage without recruiting police officers from other cities? How can we avoid getting the “bad apples” that a particular department may wish to transfer out in order to get rid of them?
Deciding how our Police Bureau needs to change and evolve will not be an easy process because there are so many important dynamics to consider. Some police methods are time-honored, highly effective, and should not change, while other police methods and training procedures should be examined with new eyes, in hopes of updating them.
It was not easy, to develop and sustain good leadership for the Portland Police Bureau when it was established in the 1870s, and it was not easy in the 1930s when advances in technology and changes in society required that Portland leaders once again reform the Bureau’s practices. It was not easy when changes were instituted in the tumultuous 1960s, in response to all the political and social unrest and civil rights reforms that transformed our country. The changes that resulted from that formative era shape the Portland Police Bureau of today.
We cannot shirk our responsibility to overhaul the Police Bureau simply because it is not easy. Instead, we must make these decisions together with all citizens who hold a stake in the future of Portland. This is what the Police Visioning Committee needs to address, for the betterment of all Portland citizens, here and in the future.
I urge all Portlanders who genuinely care about our city to support and participate in this process. As we make the decisions and lay the groundwork to provide our descendants with a Police Bureau that is humane, diverse, effective, and committed to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Portland, we need community involvement and engagement to make that actually happen.
Portland needs a Police Bureau that will uphold the ideals of American policing: to protect and serve, while creating and maintaining positive relationships with community members of all races, all classes and from all parts of the city. My goal is that twenty five years from today, all Portlanders will consider the Portland Police Bureau the best police force the city has ever had, and celebrate its engaged, committed, and friendly officers who genuinely care for all Portland’s people.