Beaverton's Beaty isn't backing away from police reform
We hear you.
We take this seriously.
That's what City Councilor Lacey Beaty wanted to make clear to the people of Beaverton when asked about the "very serious" police policy changes many of her constituents are demanding.
The second-term council member and current mayoral candidate is all in on police reform, and she feels the council needs to do better and work faster to address the way the city has and is policing the community.
"We can't keep kicking the can down the road," Beaty said. "I need my fellow council members to step up. We heard overwhelmingly last week from our community via email and in person, that they want us to address these issues quickly.
"If we need more meetings or longer meetings to address them, then we have to do it. Our community is demanding it."
The Beaverton City Council meeting June 16 seriously addressed a number of issues, but it offered few answers for community members wondering whether there will be substantial changes to policing in the city. In the past week, many of those same citizens have voiced their concerns with the perceived lack of urgency. Beaty said she understands and appreciates where their frustration is coming from.
"The amount of messages I'm getting through social media and emails from my City Council email address asking for changes, tells me this should be the focal point of our City Council right now," Beaty said.
Denny Doyle, Beaverton's three-term mayor who is also running in this year's election, said at the June 16 meeting that the city will continue to discuss policing and take a look at what needs to change.
The Times reached out to Doyle seeking comment for this story, but multiple calls were not returned this week.
Beaty said the #8CantWait policy changes are part of a "bare minimum" that needs to happen as part of an evolution the Iraq War veteran says all police departments should undergo.
"We need to look at our police department through a 2020 lens," Beaty said. "Things that police officers did 20 years ago should not necessarily be the same things they're doing today. We need adaptability from our officers."
That isn't to say she doesn't appreciate the police, or the complexities of their job. In fact, she applauded their decision to put the #8CantWait policies on their website and equally appreciated their willingness to address them at the June 16 meeting.
"This is an inherently risky job," Beaty said. "We understand that as a community, and so do police officers. But we're at a point in our history where we need to look at policing differently."
In particular, she takes exception to the police department allowing procedures in which their officers receive no training. In the June 16 council meeting, Beaty pushed back on the police's use-of-force policies, specifically a lack of willingness to ban chokeholds and the ability to fire on a moving vehicle.
"When I asked the police chief how many hours training officers get on shooting at a moving vehicle or on performing chokeholds, they answered 'zero,'" Beaty said. "So when we have policies like that, that allow those kind of actions to take place with no training standard, that is worrisome to me."
That's not to say law enforcement no longer has a place in Beaverton, but more that the manner in which it serves may need to look a bit different going forward. People both in Beaverton and beyond have suggested abolition of the police as a viable option, but Beaty wasn't prepared to go to that extreme. She and her fellow council members acknowledged this month that there is a tangible disconnect between many citizens' experience with the police and how the police feel they are perceived. But while modern policing may be in need of an overhaul, it remains a necessary service for the community it serves and protects, Beaty said.
"There are very real reasons why we need police officers, but they don't have to be everyone's everything," Beaty said. "I always tell people, imagine that you still call 9-1-1, but imagine who responds might look differently."
She referenced Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue as an example of an agency that studied its call data and adjusted its protocols accordingly. Instead to sending a fire engine to every call, she said, TVF&R officials realized that the majority of calls to a centralized station were only medical, therefore only requiring medical personnel, along with a smaller and more flexible vehicle.
"We need to look at our police department the same way," she said. "If someone's having a mental health crisis, maybe police officers don't have to be the ones to respond. We have to have those community conversations."
And when should these conversations take place? Now, according to Beaty — something she said isn't really happening.
"Last week, (Mayor) Denny Doyle said we're going to address this as fast as possible, but there's nothing on the agenda this week, and we don't meet next week, so there's a minimum of a 21-day gap from when we talked about that last to the next earliest time it will be on our agenda," Beaty said. "How long do the community members have to wait for that? We should be holding special meetings every week addressing these issues. This is what the council does, is set policy."
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