Gresham police reform must engage entire community
In August 2017, violence broke out at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. President Trump declared there were fine people on "both sides."
Former Mayor Bemis staked out the high ground for Gresham, declaring that hate is not a Gresham value.
In Gresham, we stand against violence in every form: violence of looting and burning and fighting in the streets; violence of unjustified police shooting and excessive force; violence of extremists and opportunists; using the threat of weapons to intimidate.
Violence begets more, and our community must choose tolerance, and strive for love.
Showing solidarity, in June of this year, the Gresham City Council unanimously decided to raise the Black Lives Matter flag. Some disagree with that decision. They can march, wave signs and vote.
Although flags are important symbols, I urge those who value Black lives and want change to shift the focus in Gresham. The place to start is a review of our policing practices. Thankfully, Gresham was not the community where seven bullets were shot into the back of Jacob Blake. A knee was not put onto the neck of George Floyd in Gresham. And a Gresham neighborhood was not home where Breonna Taylor was killed in her own apartment.
However, those incidents in other American cities are wake-up calls for us to proactively invest in improving the public safety culture and practices of our own city.
In Gresham we can go about police reform in a reflective, wise and charitable way. We can start with an agreement that there is no line dividing the Gresham Police Department from community members.
We value the public servants who we ask to provide public safety services. We need to adequately fund those services. We can start from the premise that we all want to set the sworn personnel of the Gresham Police Department up for success in their difficult work.
We can also be informed by the already-difficult financial circumstances of policing in Gresham. In the 23 years since anti-tax Measure 50 was passed in 1997, Gresham has been disproportionately impacted by a dysfunctional state property tax system.
That has resulted in service cuts to police, fire and parks year after year. Today our police budget scrapes by only with outside funding, including state funding that is at-risk unless the city embraces reforms.
Those challenging financial circumstances need to inform our thinking about police reform.
One useful model for the process of police reform is the Obama Foundation's Mayor's Pledge; Former Mayor Shane Bemis signed this pledge before leaving office. I have proposed a resolution that would set up an independent committee to follow that model of reform.
The committee would review Gresham police policies, engage the community including those with lived experiences related to the criminal justice system, report the findings, and recommend specific changes to policies. Policies would be examined in the areas of use of force, complaints reporting and disciplinary record tracking, protections related to racial profiling, and culture change to favor a guardian mentality over militarization.
I urge the Gresham City Council to initiate and carry forward this hard work of community-driven police reform.
Dave Dyk is a candidate for Gresham City Council Position No. 5. The police reform proposal referenced can be found at davedyk.com/policereform.html.
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