On the Plan for Portland Commission on Community-Engaged Policing

Testimony to Portland City Council – August 3, 2017
From the Mental Health Association of Portland
On the Plan for Portland Commission on Community-Engaged Policing – ITEM #872

The proposal to make changes to the settlement agreement reopens the agreement, but doesn’t include the community in those change decisions, and doesn’t go far enough to fulfill the goal of the settlement – to rebuild trust with the police around harm to people with mental illness.

My suggestion is to repair – not repeal and replace.

The COAB failed because of city-led management, not because of its inherent structure. There were problems with the structure – but those were not what caused the COAB to be criticized or fail. Poor management led to mistrust within the COAB, which led to mistrust by community members. Police brutality is a hot issue. Don’t think people should be calm and reasonable. That’s not a smart management approach.

Four distinct problems with the proposal.

One – private meetings doing public business. That’s a non-starter. I can’t endorse private meetings doing public business.

Two – The proposed plan knocks off independent assessment of the agreement. No good. Others will speak about this.

Three – Too few people involved. It’s fair to say 5 – 9 people don’t represent Portland so there will be discontent about representation. Review what you’re asking volunteers to do. Even with new management, we’re going to be back here in a year asking why items have been ignored. It’s too much work and volunteers will end up relying on staff. That’s not community oversight.

Four – exclusive mayoral control gets the council off the hook. The council needs to stay on engaged – not as monitors but as legislators. Why? Because the DOJ won’t be here forever and this council needs to learn how police oversight works. You need to each stay thoroughly woke.

Please understand – harm to people with mental illness is not a Portland problem. Though most persons killed by Portland police for the past decade have been people in a mental health crisis, the same fact is true for all the police departments of Multnomah County, Washington County, Clackamas, and Clark County.

SEE – list of all persons killed by law enforcement in Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah and Washington counties – 2010-2017

This is not exclusively a Portland problem. It’s not exclusively a police problem. It’s a multi-government multi-system problem where the state, counties, sheriffs and police chiefs and DAs, parole and probation, community mental and addiction health providers, as well as community members need to be part of the solution.

The sooner this council comes to understand this is a systemic problem, the sooner your people will stop killing my people.

testimony provided by
Jason Renaud – Board Secretary