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PUBLIC SAFETY:
Policing

 



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Portlanders want to develop more trusting and respectful
relations between the police force and the community.

Section Summary

Portlanders hold their police force to a high standard, and they want to ensure that officers are well-trained, respectful and community-minded. They express resentment toward police officers that don't appear to meet these standards; for instance, officers that are seen breaking traffic rules. Many Portlanders in this section express alarm over officer-involved shootings and other instances that end in violence. They fear that police officers will use excessive force against unarmed individuals who pose no immediate danger to the community. People are particularly concerned about racial profiling and how police interact with individuals experiencing altered mental states, including people with mental illnesses. There is unanimous support for increased training, higher standards of behavior and greater accountability and transparency at the Portland Police Bureau.

In general, Portlanders want the Police Bureau to shift towards a collaborative, community-based policing approach. They want a well-trained, ethnically diverse police force that expertly handles difficult situations with a maximum amount of diplomacy and a minimal amount of force. People want Portland to be a city where the police are viewed with respect and appreciation because they are partners in creating a safe, healthy city for all. They envision a future in which the relationship between police and community members is characterized by trust and understanding.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. The current approach to policing is not working and needs to change.
  2. Racial profiling is unacceptable and must be stopped.
  3. Portlanders want a police force they can trust and respect.
  4. Police officers need support and recognition for the good work they do.

MAIN IDEAS

  1. The current approach to policing is not working and needs to change.
  • The majority of respondents believe that the current approach to policing not working. They cite the following as evidence of this:
    • Widespread fear of the police, even among “law-abiding” residents who report feeling “terrified” of a possible encounter with law enforcement;
    • The perception that despite aggressive policing, crime is actually on the rise;
    • High-profile incidents of fatal police shootings, especially of people suffering from mental illness and drug addiction;
    • Distrust of the police, especially among minority communities; and
    • Some view the police as “too militaristic.”
  • Many community members complain about what they perceive as a “shoot first, ask questions later,” approach by the police.
  • People overwhelmingly want a shift towards a collaborative approach that builds trust between police and the community.
  • Portlanders believe that fatal police shootings of unarmed minority community members, teenagers on drugs and people with mental health problems speaks to systemic concerns within the Police Bureau, including:
    • Insufficient training on how to deal with mental illness;
    • Deep-rooted biases against people of color;
    • Over-reliance on the use of force, including tasers and guns; and
    • A police force that does not partner with the community as much as it should.
"[I would like to see] a more thoughtful, intelligent, well-trained police department who use diplomacy skills to diffuse rather than incite difficult confrontations.”

"Our police department needs to be reigned in. Just because the police ‘went by the book’ and it resulted in someone dying is not acceptable. Did it ever occur to the Mayor and police department that the ‘book’ needs to be changed? I think it’s unacceptable for the police department to be killing so many people. It makes me afraid to call them if I should ever need help.”

“…The drug dealing on the bus mall needs to stop—it’s really not safe for bystanders. However, we need to do it without police that are feared like a death squad. Police…should be trustworthy to not kill/maim citizens based on race or mental illness.”

“[In the future], kids see the police as someone that can help them.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Teach the younger cops to be more people-oriented and friendly.”
  2. Require a thorough investigation and appropriate consequences whenever an officer kills someone, especially if that person was not hurting anyone.
  3. Institute higher standards for police officers to ensure candidates are well-qualified for their jobs.
  4. Provide police with realistic, simulated training to recognize mental illness and respond in non-violent ways to the mentally ill.
  5. Police officers should undergo regular mental health assessments to check for attitudes that lead to abuse of power.
  6. Create an independent, community board to provide oversight and hold the police accountable for their actions.

  1. Racial profiling is unacceptable and must be stopped.
  • There is a strong perception, especially by community members living on the East side, that the Portland Police routinely use racial profiling when making traffic stops, and in other circumstances.
  • Many Portlanders believe that racism is the underlying cause for racial profiling in Portland. Portlanders worry about:
    • Institutional racism within the Police Bureau and other public agencies; and
    • Individual officers, who may consciously or unconsciously harbor racist feelings or beliefs;
  • Portlanders overwhelmingly agree that people of color should feel safe living in Portland and should not have to fear police harassment, mistreatment, or violence.
  • Some respondents believe that if people feel that their government trusts and respects them, they will be less likely to engage in harmful or criminal behavior.
  • The vast majority of respondents agree that the police, as public servants, should be prohibited from inappropriate reliance on race as a factor in deciding to stop and/or search an individual.
"[I would like to see] more police accountability, especially on racial profiling and unnecessary violence.”

“Police have to do a better job in the black community, treating them with respect.”

"Racial profiling—police force needs help. Where there are more people of color there are more cops…that is a reality that needs to change. If I were a person of color I wouldn’t feel safe.”

“[In the future]…effective community policing fosters stable neighborhoods where the citizens work collaboratively within their community and with the police to create a positive place to live/work/play without the stressors of ethnic profiling…”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Investigate racist police and fire them.”
  2. Racism needs to be discussed openly in Portland. Only then can it start to be addressed.
  3. Police candidates should be carefully screened for racist beliefs as part of the hiring process.
  4. “We can speed the dismantling of racism by giving police better, regular cultural awareness and diversity training…continuing education of police and citizens and by a more bi-lingual and culturally diverse police force.”
  5. Community members from different races should interact more and work creatively and cooperatively on shared neighborhood concerns.

  1. Community members want a police force they can trust and respect.
  • Portlanders want a police force that works hand-in-hand with the community to halt crime at its sources.
  • They want patient, well-trained, diplomatic police who are equipped to handle difficult situations with minimal violence.
  • Sweeping changes need to be made in order to regain the public’s trust and maximize the effectiveness of the police. These include:

    Training:

  • As we grow more diverse there must be constant training in cultural competence. Training should include:
    • Peaceful, non-violent de-escalation of conflict;
    • Effective mediation practices;
    • Awareness of cultural differences; and
    • Hands-on practice in dealing effectively with mental illness as well as those suffering from altered mental states (such as drug addicts).

    Accountability:

  • A large number of Portlanders share the belief that currently, police officers often are not held accountable for their actions.
  • Community members express frustration with officers who ignore traffic rules and do not lead by example. They want officers to:
    • Respect traffic lights and stop signs;
    • Obey speed limits when they are not pursuing suspects or responding to an emergency call; and
    • Drive less recklessly in general.
  • Respondents want police held accountable when they use unnecessary, excessive force and when they shoot unarmed community members.
  • Many respondents call for independent citizen oversight of the police bureau as a way to improve accountability and gain back the public’s confidence.

    Community Relations:

  • Portlanders want the police to cultivate relationships in the community, getting to know neighborhood residents and building trust one person at a time.
  • Portlanders are strong advocates of community policing, believing that the police are most effective when they view community members as partners in preventing crime (for more, see Public Safety: Community Policing).
  • Respondents want to see the police working more with children, teenagers and young adults to create positive bonds of mutual trust and respect.
  • Police need to do much more to cultivate mutual trust and understanding within minority communities.
"[In 20 years] our police force is a model for improving community/police relations (we have had no taser or other deaths resulting from excessive force or police brutality).”

“[I would like to see] an improved police force that can maintain public safety and be a role model for the community.”

“[In 20 years] Portland will be a city where the police are viewed with respect and appreciation because they are partners in creating a healthy, strong city where illegal drug use and crime are not tolerated.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Have officers live in the areas they patrol and know the inhabitants by name.”
  2. More minorities within the Police Bureau and better training on minority cultures would help bridge the divide between police and Portland’s minority communities.
  3. “Police should be respectful of ‘weird culture’ and be more honest/honor the community we share. This is Portland!”
  4. “More peaceful dialogue on creating openness between the police department and citizens.”

  1. Police officers need support and recognition for the good work they do.
  • A smaller number of respondents point to the good work police officers do. These respondents emphasized the following:
    • Portland’s police are “ok” compared to other cities;
    • Portland has a female police chief and the police force is improving; and
    • Police officers work hard and deserve more respect and better pay;
  • A larger number of people speak positively about the mounted police and the police on bikes. These police seem accessible, friendly and more integrated into the community than police who stay in their cars.
"[What I value is] they have domestic violence services and shelters all over town so when you need them they are available. Police services are pretty good.”

“Police need to learn patience and diplomacy. Hold the police accountable but don’t criticize them until all the facts are known.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Use lottery money to fund additional police.
  2. Treat the police with respect and let them do their jobs.
  3. Showcase the good work that our police and fire departments do through effective public relations.

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