After fourteen months of delay Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has re-opened the application process for the police reform oversight committee required in the settlement of US DOJ v. City of Portland.
It’s important people with the same experience as those harmed by police use-of-force be included on the committee, and their voices be protected and supported by all participants. The credibility of the decisions of the committee – and Portland’s police reform efforts – is at stake. But it’s hard to tell if that protection and support will be available from the limited information provided by the City. So on April 26 we asked a set of questions about the new Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing – the PCCEP. So far (May 5), no response.
The questions are basically same questions we asked in 2015 with the formation of the COAB. City hall employees, contractors and police were unwilling to answer the questions, or give assurance that voices of people with mental illness would be protected and supported. The result was those voices were pushed aside, diminished and derided, and finally ignored by both the COAB and the COCL. The result was new voices pushed forward, strident and disruptive voices, which a member of the COCL – Amy Watson – scolded and condemned in an op ed in the The Oregonian in 2016.
Watson finally resigned from the COCL last week.
We can’t recommend anyone participate on the PCCEP without an firm and defined assurance of support and protection – especially after the failure to support and protect voices in the past.
Here are our questions, sent on April 26. Answers were sent May 16. A couple of answers were later modified and they are in BOLD type.
Q: If there are police officers included as members of meetings or speaking at meetings, will those officers be in uniform and carrying guns? As you know these are both triggers to people who have experienced trauma.
A: Police officers are not eligible to sit on the PCCEP as City employees. The policy on whether they are in uniform or carrying a firearm has currently not yet been contemplated. (But good question)
Q: Is a visit to the police training center and a ride-around required?
A: An update on the community academy and ride-alongs. Though the preference is for for participation, we are willing to make accommodations as needed so that participants feel safe. Accommodations could be observing the community academy as opposed to participating and/or having a one-on-one with someone in PPB command.
Q: Are any experiential trips required for participants to learn about the experience of being a person with mental illness?
A: Not contemplated, but I’m happy to learn more.
Q: Will participants be required to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement?
A: For what purpose? If simply to serve on the committee, I can’t imagine why this would be necessary.
Q: Will participants be asked to “speak as a committee and not as an individual” about the committee’s work?
A: We’re not looking for unanimity in perspective or opinion. That is why we’re hoping to reach as many people as possible, and have as many people apply as possible – we’re looking to highlight voices that have been overshadowed. “Speaking as a committee” doesn’t accomplish that. So, no.
Q: Will there be a prohibition on speaking to the media or speaking at public events about the work of the committee?
Q: Will there be technical support for participants who are not computer savvy?
A: Technical support comes in the form of staffing for the PCCEP, in additional to relying on services from BTS as needed.
Q: Will the City provide an accommodation for people with mental illness, as defined in our text on public policy discussions?
A: Yes. The City has funds for PCCEP-related ADA accommodations, including funding for peer support. [Mandi Hood] identifies as an experienced, trained staff person as defined in your article — if you count her training as a mental health provider. She does not have peer counseling training.
Q: Will you have at least a draft of the governance of the meetings available to applicants? Will that governance express how conflicts are to be resolved?
A: Bylaws will be drafted by PCCEP members.
Q: Can you tell if meetings will be at night or in the day?
A: The PCCEP will determine its meeting times, but I expect they’ll want to meet weekday evenings.
Q: Will participants be able to take a temporary leave from the committee?
A: I think this depends on the length of time, and is something that I believe PCCEP members should determine.
Q: Will there be stipends for low income participants to cover cost of travel, food, childcare, etc.?
A: No stipends. Reimbursements can be made for city-approved expenses such as travel. Food will be provided (Mandi, correct me if I’m wrong – you are correct) at meetings. I do not believe childcare is reimbursable by the City, but childcare is likely something the PCCEP could provide at its meetings. Yes, the PCCEP can provide childcare at meetings.
A: We have been actively working to secure stipends for participants.
More information about the PCCEP is at Mayor Ted Wheeler’s website – https://www.portlandoregon.gov/wheeler/article/681102
If you have questions regarding the PCCEP or this application, or need accommodations or translations are needed to submit a PCCEP application, please contact Mandi Hood, PCCEP Project Manager, at (503) 319-7736 or email PCCEPinfo@portlandoregon.gov.