FGPD, community discuss intersection of policing, race
Cops and community members met Wed. Nov. 17. at Pacific University to watch dramatic monologues about policing and race.
The three-hour event and discussion, led by Portland-based nonprofit Red Door Project, brought together around 50 local residents and members of the Forest Grove Police Department.
"Our goal is for the officers to understand the carbon footprint we leave people when we have an encounter," Forest Grove Police Chief Henry Reimann said at the start of the event. "We're working on reimagining policing and how we do interactions with our community members."
Participants watched four monologues. The first was a black police officer who recounted about how she was racially profiled while off duty. In another, a police officer described the types of gun-related calls she responds to, and how they require different training. In a third, a white male police officer described bias on everyday calls, and in a fourth, a Black man described how he was unjustly targeted by police, both while riding public transit, and while driving.
After the monologues, participants were split into small groups to talk about how they related and reacted to the different perspectives.
"It was a good event, but here in Forest Grove we need a part two and three," said Anthony Washington, an African-Americna who moved to Forest Grove from Portland to raise his kids nine years ago. "It wasn't enough time to tackle some of these heavy issues, but I think it's a good start. I believe cops need more training. Being a police officer is a special position. You deal with all walks of life. It's difficult. That's why I think they need a lot more training and more schooling to help weed out the bad cops."
The event comes after a turbulent year for the Forest Grove Police Department.
Reimann was appointed chief of police in Jan. 2020, following the ouster of Chief Janie Schutz, who claims she was pushed out for trying to hold officers accountable for misconduct, among other claims. In Aug. 2020, the Forest Grove City Council established a 13-member Community Police Advisory Commission to give the broader community more input and interaction with the police department.
In Nov. 2020, Forest Grove resident James Marshall died while having what family members describe as a mental health crisis after being tased by a Forest Grove police officer. The Washington County District Attorney's Office did not charge the officer, Steven Teets, who is due to appear in Washington County Circuit Court Friday for a separate incident. A few weeks after the tasing, Teets allegedly stormed a residence flying a Black Lives Matter flag and violently tried to break down the door. He is charged with criminal mischief as well as disorderly conduct.
"I do honestly feel like [Chief Henry Reimann] is making a diligent effort to bring some positive reforms to forest grove police department," Carlos Covarrubias, a Forest Grove resident and member of the advisory commission said after the event. "I wouldn't say that is the case with a lot of police departments around the country. Here I see a more positive attitude with the younger officers, and a willingness to engage in conversation."
In July, the Forest Grove School Board voted against a new contract with Forest Grove Police Department for a school resource officer.
Both Forest Grove Police Department Public Information Officer Andrew Colasurdo and participants said they hoped to organize similar events in the future.
"This format was an example of a doorway for people to walk through. I know this is something we can replicate," City Councilor Kristy Kottkey said. "I do feel like most people are tired of the yelling and bickering and need somewhere to be a safe space for to people come back and talk about their experiences."
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