Cities nationwide are facing big decisions regarding potential police reform — and Beaverton is no different.
Three weeks removed from George Floyd's death at the hands of an officer in the streets of Minneapolis, people nationwide are protesting and petitioning for sweeping changes to departmental policy regarding their interactions with the public they protect and serve.
At Beaverton's most recent City Council meeting this past Tuesday, June 16, the council addressed those very policies with Police Chief Ronda Groshong and Lt. Keith Welch. Both Groshong and Welch went through the individual policies of the #8CantWait campaign designed to bring immediate change to police departments, and spoke to how and why each either is or isn't currently part of their procedural policy.
"Our current policies dovetail into those #8CantWait policies," Groshong said at the onset. "But we're always evaluating and trying to better ourselves as a police department."
The #8CantWait policies are as following:
• Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
• Require de-escalation
• Require warning before shooting
• Require police to exhaust all alternatives before shooting
• Duty to intervene
• Ban shooting at moving vehicles
• Require use of force continuum
• Require comprehensive reporting
Responding to each, Groshong and Welch said currently the department doesn't train chokeholds, but they are not explicitly prohibited; they always try to end conflicts peacefully through de-escalation; they already require a duty to intervene and/or report misconduct; and they require comprehensive reporting, including investigations from either internal affairs or an outside entity when necessary. But they left wiggle room in the other areas, citing time and circumstances.
The council decided not to take up the policy issues Tuesday, but councilors agreed they want to discuss them in more detail in the very near future. To a person, the council expressed respect for the work that Beaverton police do, but at the same time, they seemed to believe there is still room for improvement.
"I hold you in high regard, but we're going to have to have a conversation about policy," Councilor Mark Fagin told police officials. "We need to look at other communities' creative and innovative policies, and this is going to take a series of meetings. But we need to get started with these discussions."
The meeting started with the council fielding a number of calls from concerned citizens who passionately — and sometimes angrily — voiced their concerns regarding current policy and funding issues. Councilor Marc San Soucie seemed to take those concerns to heart, communicating his support for those voices and speaking to his own concerns.
"What worries me is that there does seem to be a disconnect between the BPD and the sentiment as to some people's experience," he said. "There has to be some veracity behind them."
San Soucie said he wants to get to the bottom of accusations of bias and excess in the Beaverton Police Department's interactions with the public and better understand the disconnect between the department and public's perception of them.
But all of that will take time, San Soucie noted.
"I appreciate the complexities of your job," San Soucie said to the police. "But I think one thing that would be useful for the police would be to consider over the next few days, that this is a very powerful reminder that people are aware of bias and how it can affect reaction. Think about your biases and work on them."
The city won't let the debate around policing fall off the radar, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle vowed.
"We will have these conversations, and we'll do so as quickly as possible," he said. "We can't hide anymore."
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